I am the Assistant Professor of Religion and Society at the Franciscan School of Theology. I am also a Research Fellow at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Especially drawn to young adult ministry, I am a member of the Alliance for Campus Ministry, an advisory group to the USCCB’s Secretariat on Catholic Education. My previous appointments include Research Fellow at the Center for Church Management at Villanova University as well as the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame. My writings on American Catholic life appear in both Catholic and academic publications, including a forthcoming book, Catholic Activism Today: Individual Transformation and the Struggle for Social Justice (NYU Press 2020), as well as my edited collection, Young Adult American Catholics: Explaining Vocation in Their Own Words (Paulist Press 2018).
My thanks go out to Dr. Gladys Ganiel, a sociologist at Queen’s University Belfast, for her positive review of Catholic Activism Today in Catholic Books Review. I know scholars are much busier in this pandemic time, so I’m all the more appreciative of us carving out time to alert academics and the public of the new books hitting the market. I’ll share the final paragraph of the review here:
Day’s analysis of Catholic activism is valuable in and of itself. But she also points us beyond her case study, asking to what extent the characteristics she has identified in discipleship style Catholicism reflect wider trends in the American religious landscape. Readers familiar with scholarship in the sociology of religion will recognize the traits of discipleship Catholics in other contemporary groups, from liberal Protestants to the Emerging Church Movement and beyond. As such, Day reminds us that discipleship Catholics are by no means unique actors within American religion. But they shed light on how religious actors can have unique impacts on their own local contexts.
My article, “Latinx Catholic Financial Giving and Clergy Responses: Understanding Stewardship Frames,” has been published in American Catholic Studies. The findings reveal reasons why Hispanic Catholics tend to give less than their non-Hispanic counterparts as well as the motivations behind those who give more. It also explores the strategies–both successful and less so–pastors of Hispanic parishes employ to solicit donations from their parishioners. A huge thank you to Villanova University’s Center for Church Management for their generous funding of this project. Here is the abstract:
Scholars have demonstrated that Latinx Catholics give less money to their parishes than their non-Latinx counterparts. However, we do not know why this gap exists, and so Catholic clergy are left unsure as to how to respond. There are several pastoral concerns that emerge because of this gap; these have significance now and especially in the future, as U.S. Catholicism is becoming increasingly Latinx. Using interviews with pastors, high-giving Latinx, and low-giving Latinx, this paper explores the cultural understandings of stewardship among Latinx Catholics and examines the strategies pastors of predominantly Latinx parishes use to encourage giving. The results indicate that pastors and parishioners have significant overlap in their stewardship frames; both use “Receive then Give” frames. However, there is also dissonance in other aspects of their frames. Pastors place more emphasis on financial obstacles to giving while lay Catholics indicate that historical factors as well as poor perception of their parish’s financial needs are the biggest obstacles. This paper concludes by discussing the implications of the findings, including recommended practices to increase Latinx giving.
Please email me if you would like a copy of the proofs!
I would like to invite you to the virtual launch of Catholic Activism Today: Individual Transformation and the Struggle for Social Justice (NYU Press 2020). The launch is sponsored by the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture at the University of San Diego and will be held over Zoom on Tuesday, October 6th, at 2pm Pacific Time. You can get more information, including how to register, on this flyer.
My review of Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America since Vatican II (OUP 2019) just came out in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Stephen Bullivant’s book is an excellent study of the ways wider Catholic social worlds in the United States and Britain changed over the 1900s. By demonstrating the various ways Catholics’ social ties and identity weakened, Bullivant paints a far richer picture of Catholic disaffiliation over the last generations than more reductionist schemas have proposed. It is relevant to several audiences, as I note in my review:
This book would prove useful to multiple audiences. Most obviously, it would appeal to historians, sociologists, and pastoral theologians of Catholicism. It also provides contributions to theories of disaffiliation as well as that of community and social networks. Insofar as religious disaffiliation is not unique to Catholicism, this book likewise provides insights for those who study exiting in other denominations or even in institutions more broadly. The book could likewise be very illuminating to Catholic leaders seeking to foster a greater sense of Catholic imagination in their parish or diocese.
I just got word that I was awarded a fellowship from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. The title of my project is “Integrating Teaching and Research to Foster Student Engagement: A Case in Ethics and Sociology.” I will be using the academic year to focus on bringing insights from social theory and ethics together for the Fundamental Moral Theology course I teach each Spring. I’m very excited to be revamping this core course! Thank you, Wabash, for all the support you offer faculty!
I’m very happy to share this article on the similarities and differences between professional campus ministers and missionaries (if you are unfamiliar with these terms, they are defined below). This is based on the data gathered from the 2019 national study of Catholic campus ministers, co-funded by the USCCB and the Religious Research Association. Our research team–Dr. Linda Kawentel, Dr. Brian Starks, and I–got to talk in-depth with 45 campus ministers across the country and my co-author, Dr. Kawentel, and I found some really interesting insights there for literature on framing. Thank you to Linda, the funders, Dr. Omar McRoberts (who gave feedback to an earlier draft of the paper), and the 45 ministers for all the work they do with young adults. Here is the abstract:
Scholars have explained many of the differences within the American Catholic population in terms of political division or polarization. Although Catholics are becoming increasingly politically bifurcated, to focus only on the political misses the specifically religious differences that also distinguish Catholics from one another. There have been substantial changes in the staffing of Catholic campus ministry in the last 20 years. To better understand these shifts and their implications for ministry, the Catholic bishops commissioned a survey of Catholic campus ministers in the United States. The survey answered some questions but raised others. A qualitative study that more deeply explored these questions was recommended. Using three “windows”—vocation, prayer and spirituality, and mission—this article explores the overlap and differences in frames of Catholicity among two types of Catholic campus ministers. Forty-five campus ministers from three geographic regions of the country were interviewed. Ten of these forty-five interviewees are “missionaries,” meaning they are recent college graduates who have obtained a several-week training from their missionary organization and are contracted to serve as a campus missionary for two years. Thirty-one of these are “professional ministers,” meaning they have a graduate degree in ministry and intend to have a long-term career in this field. Missionaries’ understandings of vocation, prayer and spirituality, and mission reveal that missionary-formed campus ministers operate out of a frame that emphasizes an individualist Catholicism. The professional ministers employ a frame that amplifies the communal aspects of Catholicism. These findings contribute theoretically to ideas in the framing literature, specifically in the fields of politics, emotions and identity. The way these frames might have an impact on ministry offerings and student formation are also discussed.
As I posted previously, I was on the research team for a national study of American abortion attitudes, along with Dr. Tricia Bruce (PI), Dr. Kendra Hutchens, Bridget Ritz, and Dr. Patricia Tevington. Funded my the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, the final report, How Americans Understand Abortion, authored by Bruce, has just been released. The report offers a thoughtful analysis of over 200 interviewees’ thoughts on the topic and helps us understand the ways people make moral sense of their personal and social worlds. To offer you a sneak peek, below are the seven major findings:
Today marks the official release of my first authored book, Catholic Activism Today: Individual Transformation and the Struggle for Social Justice (NYU 2020). It is a book about the various forces that have shaped Catholic civic engagement today into “discipleship groups,” and the assets and liabilities of these small groups in producing social change. These discipleship groups are very personalist and are characterized by five distinctive features: transformation, Christ-centeredness, community, outreach, and compassion. It is a good read for sociologists of religion or social change, theologians who are concerned with Catholicism and public life or social ethics, as well as the “typical” American who wants to know what faith might have to do with civic life. I’ll share the back cover blurbs here:
“With empathic sensitivity to the twists and turns in individuals’ lives and their spiritual journeys, Maureen Day illuminates the centrality of Catholic faith and purposeful community in cultivating impactful civic engagement notwithstanding the structural forces that foster economic and social inequality. Using thoughtful interview and observation data, her gentle, yet rigorous, narrative persuades us that individuals’ everyday decisions and actions have a ripple effect in the crafting of a better, more morally authoritative, society.”
~Michele Dillon, Dean, College of Liberal Arts, University of New Hampshire
“Masterfully captures the contemporary relocation of Catholic activism from institution-building to personal transformation. Catholic Activism Today offers vital lessons for modern religious practice, the public role of Catholicism, and the dilemmas of individualism for enacting justice.”
~Tricia C. Bruce, author of Parish and Place: Making Room for Diversity in the American Catholic Church
“The hope among the leadership at JustFaith Ministries is that the caring and activism learned therein will ’ripple outward’ amid the everyday lives of its participants. Interestingly, it is just this sort of rippling that is so abundantly evident in Maureen Day’s thoughtful and engaging study. Flowing from her analysis of this discipleship-style organization come ever-widening insights regarding contemporary American Catholicism, the strategies and dilemmas associated with grassroots activism, and, undulating still further, the prospects of living meaningful, generative lives at a time when possibilities for doing so seem to be constricting. I hope this important book will find a readership proportionate to the impressively broad scope of its concerns.”
~Jerome P. Baggett, author of Sense of the Faithful: How American Catholics Live Their Faith
This has been the season of book reviews! Closing out this season America has just published my review of an excellent book that examines the recent history of American Catholic activism. Sharon Erickson Nepstad continues to “do it again,” with books that bring readers insights on religion and activism. Catholic Social Activism: Progressive Movements in the United States (NYU 2019) brings the readers into the changes and efforts made by the laity and hierarchy on issues of gender, the environment, the Central American peace movement and more. The whole book examines the interplay between the laity and hierarchy on each of these topics; sometimes they work together, sometimes their efforts are more parallel and at times they are at loggerheads. Nepstad closes the book by connecting these efforts to broader ideas on understanding Catholic social change. The book is one of those that is great for classroom or a parish book group, and I note the multiple-audience appeal in my review:
The rigor and breadth of Nepstad’s research and analysis makes this an excellent book for academic courses. Yet the page-turning readability also makes it valuable for everyday Catholics who look to deepen their understanding of Catholic social teaching and how our church has enacted it.
Identity and Internationalization in Catholic Universities is indispensable not only for those in leadership in Catholic higher education, but also for those leading Catholic schools, hospitals, nonprofits, networks, Bishops conferences, and other organizations that seek to make a distinctly Catholic impact in an increasingly global and pluralist world.