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By Rachel Amiri

IFI celebrates the first graduation of spiritual direction students with Fr. Flavio Bravo, SJ, and Fr. Fabian Rodríguez, SJ.

The Instituto de Formación Ignaciana de Puerto Rico (IFI) is a lay Catholic organization that exemplifies the Society of Jesus’ Universal Apostolic Preference to show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment. Established in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to offer Spanish-language resources in Ignatian spirituality and to prepare lay colleagues to assist with the formation of spiritual directors, IFI’s development and mission are deeply tied to the work of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province.

IFI’s co-founders emphasize that their story is one of collaboration among Jesuits and lay women and men over many years. “This has been such a good thing the Lord has done,” says Rebecca Valines Berríos, Ignatian guide and president of IFI.

Interest in Ignatian spirituality and IFI’s activities has spread through word of mouth in Jesuit apostolates in Puerto Rico, and IFI has enjoyed support from the local archdiocese and Pauline sisters. In addition, IFI assists in organizing days of reflection at Parroquia San Ignacio, the Jesuit parish in San Juan, during Lent and Advent.

The beginnings of IFI can be traced back to the experiences of individuals who completed the Spiritual Exercises at Colegio San Ignacio, the Jesuit high school in San Juan. The community, known as the Compañeras de Jesús, included Rebecca Valines Berríos, who, along with her husband Johnny Berríos, Neraida Casares and Nancy Herzig, co-founded the group that would eventually become IFI.

Early on, Fr. Larry Searles, SJ, guided many of them through the Exercises. Later, Fr. Pepe Ruiz, SJ, and Fr. Flavio Bravo, SJ, would play pivotal roles in nurturing the group’s formal establishment as a nonprofit in 2018, as well as in developing their Ignatian formation program. After completing his Master Ignaciana course in Spain, Fr. Ruiz “wanted to give us what he had learned,” said Valines Berríos. He encouraged the development of the two-year spiritual director training course, Curso de Formación en Acompañamiento de Ejercicios Espirituales Ignacianos.

Fr. Pepe Ruiz, SJ, and Johnny Berríos share a fun moment while developing the curriculum for the Curso de Formación en Acompañamiento de Ejercicios Espirituales Ignacianos.

Today, IFI offers fully bilingual experiences of the 19th Annotation of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises (often called the “Retreat in Daily Life”) and a version of the 18th Annotation based on the LIGHTWORKS program by Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ. “Father Tetlow has been such a wonderful teacher and guide,” said Valines Berríos.

Most importantly, IFI supports the ever-present need for Spanish-language Ignatian spiritual directors through the Curso. The comprehensive two-year course by IFI equips participants with the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary to guide others through the Spiritual Exercises. The first year focuses on the theory of the Exercises, while the second year emphasizes practice, culminating in the participants designing their own retreats.

In 2024, the first two acompañantes (companions) in the Exercises successfully completed the program and are now ready to serve their local communities. As they look forward to welcoming a new cohort of candidates in August 2025, the group is reviewing and refining the course, ensuring that the quality and depth of formation remain at the heart of their work.

In that work, the Institute draws on the best of Spanish and English resources in the Ignatian tradition and is uniquely situated to offer a bilingual experience of the Exercises.

“There are as many ways of giving the Exercises in Daily Life as there are Jesuits in the world,” said Valines Berríos. “We are lucky to get the wonderful Ignatian works from the States, in English, the modalities from South America, and the treasure of Spain. It’s the wonderful mixture of materia – the word that Ignacio used – materials that take you to prayer.”

The group hopes to expand its offerings to other Spanish-speaking communities in the province in the future.

For more information about IFI, visit their website,

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