About maureenkday

I am the Associate 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 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).

Collaborating with USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture

I’m more than a little excited to be partnering with the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture! This center does some amazing work examining the intersection of religion, civic engagement, social change, personal and institutional thriving and more. I’ll be working with them on a variety of projects that connect to Catholicism, from Catholic sisters to formation to climate change. It’s an exciting collaboration that will include a trip to London and Oxford at the end of the month to meet with similar organizations and scholars and explore international collaborative opportunities. This will be my first trip to the UK and I’m thrilled to help make this important work happen.

Article on the Franciscan Social Justice Tradition

Spring is here and along with the blossoms comes the Spring issue of The Way. Here you’ll find my latest contribution, “Franciscan Roots of American Catholic Social Justice Ministry.” It shows the way American social ministry was informed–wittingly or not–by key elements from the Franciscan Tradition: transformation, Christ, community, mercy, compassion, and gift. I hope it gives you some thoughts and inspiration for bringing some healing to our world!

Happy Easter!

Research Fellowship on Priestly Wellbeing

I just got word that I will be one of a dozen or so researchers who will continue to analyze the data from the National Study of Catholic Priests, housed at The Catholic Project at the Catholic University of America! My project, tentatively titled “The Impact of Relationships with Bishops and Priests on Priestly Satisfaction: A Qualitative Analysis,” will explore the relationship between priests’ priestly satisfaction and their sense of connection to their bishop (or religious superior) as well as their fellow priests (or religious community). It is a fantastic dataset and I’m looking forward to discovering ways we might better support priests and, by extension, the whole Church. In addition to all this good stuff, I’m also excited that this research fellowship has collaborative components… looking forward to connecting, exchanging ideas, and laughing together!

I’ll let you know what I find!

Fellowship with Villanova University’s Center for Church Management

Today was the day for myself and the eleven other fellows to submit our cases to the awesome folks at VU’s Center for Church Management.

The twelve case studies are meant to help alleviate financial pressures that hinder pastors’ ability to effectively lead their congregations. One of the ways the Center for Church Management chose to contribute here is to compile twelve different case studies (and supplemental teaching material) that will be used in their program as well as in other seminaries and business schools. For now these will be “in house” but if these become published as a text, I’ll let you know!

Thank you to the Center for Church Management for their consistently collaborative and professional approach and to the Lilly Endowment’s National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders for funding this important work!

Research Featured in The CARA Report

Some of my research on Catholics and political commitment was featured in the Winter 2023 issue of The CARA Report. “Nuances in Support of Catholic Causes” highlights that the polarization gap closes–and for some issues, disappears altogether–as commitment to Catholicism increases.

I broke our sample of 1500 Catholics into those who identified as Democrat or Republican, and then also broke those folks down by whether they were high commitment, medium commitment or low commitment Catholics (“commitment” is a composite variable based on Mass attendance, likelihood of leaving the Catholic Church and how personally important the Catholic Church is to them). I found that, when asked about government funded health insurance, supporting migrating families, and opposing the death penalty–all “Democrat-friendly” issues–both Democrats and Republicans became increasingly supportive of the Catholic position as their Catholic commitment increases (this is less noticeable for Democrats on the health insurance and migration issues, where we’re approaching saturation with the support). On the death penalty issue, the high commitment Catholic support among Republicans was so strong that they actually surpassed the low commitment Democrats! At least more than half of high commitment Catholic Republicans defected from their party and selected the Catholic position for these three issues.

These data show that while the majority of Catholics tend to vote through the thinking of their party, the high commitment Catholics will also consider their faith, so much so that they will break with the party lines. The polarization narrative is not as cut and dry as we often make it out to be (thank goodness!).

All this and more will be featured in a book that Jim Cavendish, Paul Perl and Michele Dillon and I are writing up right now, so stay tuned. Thank you, CARA, for helping our research find its way into the hands of ministers and Catholic leaders who will apply this to their ministries.

New International Commission

This month a new commission I am a part of–The Commission for Affective Maturity, Order of Friars Minor–had our first meeting. It is a very international and interdisciplinary group, with five people across four continents. Needless to say, it was impossible to find a convenient time for everyone to meet (it was 6am my time!). But, time zone challenges aside, we are excited to be taking on some very important work.

The Order of Friars Minor has commissioned us to write a document on affective maturity. It will be roughly a two year process, and will result in a valuable and practical document. The final document (as we envision it at this stage) will assess socio-emotional maturity as well as provide guidance to help people further mature. I am very pleased to join the following practitioners and scholars in this endeavor:

  • Br. Darko Tepert, a Franciscan and Scripture scholar from Rome (chair)
  • Ms. Ann Yeong, an expert in spiritual formation from Singapore
  • Br. Daniel Alejandro Fleitas Zeni, a Franciscan and psychologist from Argentina
  • Br. Alessandro Ciamei, a Franciscan and therapist from Rome

It is still early in our project, but in our multilingual and multicultural context, we are generating some good ideas… even at 6am!

First Christmas Post (Hopefully a New Tradition!)

So the point of this website is to keep all of my work in one organized space. Before this post, I have limited this website to that. This morning I woke up and was very happy to find an email from my alma mater; it contained a Christmas reflection from one of my favorite bishops. I thought to myself, “Should I share this… breaking with the tradition of maureenkday.com?” I realized that I could reframe this not as breaking tradition, but instead starting a new one! So, to begin the first of our twelve days of Christmas, I’ll share some items for you to reflect on and perhaps incorporate into your twelve days of celebrating the in-breaking of God into our world. Here’s this reflection, plus a few things (both new and old) that have informed my Advent or will be a part of my Christmas:

Christmas Highlights, 2022

Excerpt from Bishop John Stowe’s reflection on today’s gospel (Lk 2:15-20):

The humble site of a stable with a homeless couple and a newborn is quite a contrast from the heavenly spectacle of angels singing in the night sky.  Angel choirs seem appropriate for announcing the coming of the Messiah, but was it a letdown to encounter such an ordinary-looking baby, wrapped in rags and surrounded by beasts?  Did they expect the Messiah to look so much like them?  To be as poor as they were?  Was their encounter a disappointment or did they get a glimpse of the kind of Messiah Jesus is, one who is in solidarity with the lowly and the outcast?  Mary said that the mighty would be toppled from their thrones and the lowly would be exalted.  Here was the depiction of lowliness.

Waiting in Joyful Hope: Daily Advent Prayer from the Jesuit School of Theology (December 25, 2022)


“Jose y Maria” by Everett Patterson

Movie: The Nativity Story (2005)

Children’s Book: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Christmas Song (Spiritual): O Holy Night

Christmas Song (Secular):Twelve Days of Christmas” by Straight No Chaser

Short/Episode: “Santa ’85” in Amazing Stories

Organization: Alderson Hospitality House

Consumable: Trader Joe’s Decaf Candy Cane Green Tea

Merry Christmas!

Article on OLG and a new OFM province

Just wanted to let you know that my new article in The Way, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: What’s in a Name?” is out. It explores the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe and shows what an apt patroness this is for our the new province emerging from six of the current OFM provinces in the United States. The four points of overlap of Our Lady and the Franciscan charism I lift up are: 1) she gathers and includes everyone, 2) she wants a deep encounter with us, 3) she is tender toward the most vulnerable, and 4) she opts for the poor. Happy feast day on the 12th!

Newly-Elected Secretary for ASR

Here I am, booking my flight and room for the upcoming SSSR/RRA conference and I realized that I never posted that I was elected secretary for the Association for the Sociology of Religion! I first became acquainted with ASR in 2014 when it came to San Francisco while I was in grad school and I was one of the student workers at the registration desk. Soon I became involved in the membership committee, too (perfect job for my extroverted tendencies). Come 2022, I got to enjoy my first meeting (this past August) as part of the executive council. Looking forward to continued service!

Catholic Insights: Fostering Ten Pit Bull Puppies

After an intense, beautiful, challenging, amazing experience of fostering a mama dog and her litter, I share my reflections on the experience in “Catholic Tales: Insights from Fostering a Pit Bull and Her 10 Puppies” in the National Catholic Reporter. It focuses on the themes of surrender, happiness, and discernment. “Catholic Tales” comes complete with photos and you have to check out the 23-second video that is linked in the article… the ten puppies charge me and lick like crazy. Let me know if you want to adopt Zod; we still have him!

UPDATE: Zod has gone to his forever home!