Franciscan Spirituality Center
920 Market Street
La Crosse, WI 54601
Steve Spilde: Today I am excited to introduce Sam Rahberg. Sam is a presenter in our Spiritual Direction Preparation Program. He presents a weekend about “Introduction to Spirituality.” Sam is also a longtime supervisor in the program, helping our participants with their work. I know Sam to be an incredibly gifted presenter, and also a deep spiritual individual. It’s my pleasure to welcome Sam Rahberg.
Sam Rahberg: I’m glad to be here. It feels a little bit like people get to be a fly on the wall in great conversations you and I have had in the past. I’m looking forward to it.
Steve: As I usually begin these conversations, I invite people to explain their own spiritual tradition. As you were young, describe the spiritual atmosphere in which you grew up.
Sam: I was a church-working kid. I grew up moving tables and chairs with my dad at the end of every church function. We were part of a Lutheran church, and he was the Director of Christian Education. I like to joke that I had an 18-year-long internship with him about what it means to be a professional in the church, to be working in ministry. I grew up in that environment knowing not much different than the formal structures of the church. I was always hungry when we would talk about discipleship. Or when I’d hear about spirituality, I’d quickly chase down those types of texts and learning opportunities once I was an adult and able to recognize something was stirring. I followed on that trajectory. I still think of myself being involved in a ministry of sorts, although for the last many years I haven’t served professionally in a parish. My spirituality and my understanding of vocation and calling has shifted, with no less appreciation for parish work. I still admire most professors I had who would say, “You know I love you guys. I love what we’re talking about, but I would rather be with the people in the parish. I’d rather be serving in those intimate relationships than in an academic sort of setting.” They’re just different birds. I have a great deal of respect, and I had the good fortune of being able to support people in ministry – pastors and priests and deacons and lay leaders in congregations through spiritual direction or retreat formats, and [also] working one-on-one with people in supervision fields like equipping people for ministry.
Steve: You really grew up with a desire to be involved in that ministry. How old were you when that first desire came to your awareness?
Sam: Actually, in high school I had anything but that desire. I had a stretch where I was wanting to go to the Air Force Academy. I wanted to be a computer programmer. I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. One of my high school teachers said, “Sam, you ought to consider becoming a teacher.” I said, “Well, maybe.” And then I realized, you know what I know how to do? I know how to do churchwork. It’s already who I am, [and] it’s already what comes naturally, so I bit on that and I did go [and] become trained as a Director of Christian Education. Part of what I loved about that was that I was being trained and equipped to do the things that were feeding my own personal spiritual hunger, [and] that were giving me a way to integrate my study of scripture, my spiritual reading, [and] my deep conversations with people into the work that I was doing. And to this day, I’m grateful for that privilege, [and] that I continue to be called into conversations that reflect some of the things that are most important to my inner journey. I’m grateful for that. I haven’t always been appreciative when days are busy or projects are hard, but when I can remember those moments, I do appreciate it.
Steve: How long did you work in a parish setting?
Sam: I had a yearlong internship, and then I was in a parish for five years before I went to the Benedictines and started working in Retreat Ministry there.