Catholic Activism Today: Released!

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

Catholic Activism Today: Instructor’s Guide

Catholic Activism TodayFor those of you who teach courses on Catholicism, religion and public life, social change, small groups or other topics, your job just got easier. The instructor’s guide for Catholic Activism Today is now published on the NYU website, filled with chapter summaries, discussion questions and lesson plans. Hopefully it makes your adoption of this book all the more seamless. The book will be out in June 2020.

USCCB Campus Ministry Report is Out

1 As promised in the last post, you can now read the final version of the national qualitative study of Catholic campus ministers. This study emerged from conversations around the 2017 survey (that report can be found here); we had lots of questions come up at the Notre Dame symposium. Thanks to the research team (I took the role of PI, Dr. Linda Kawentel is co-author and co-PI, and Dr. Brian Starks was also on the team) and the 45 campus ministers we interviewed, we were able to discern some answers as well as suggest some better practices. Our deep thanks to these ministers as well as the USCCB and the Religious Research Association for providing the funding that made this work possible.

The four sections of the report are: 1) Work: Vocation, Joys, and Challenges; 2) Campus Ministry Cultures: Ministering to Students, Relationship with Jesus, Evangelization, and Outreach; 3) Insights for Campuses Using Both Professional and Missionary Campus Ministers; and 4) Preparing Students for Parish Life After Graduation.

Fourth Sunday of Advent Reflection

The University of San Diego graciously invited me to contribute to their annual Advent Calendar and Reflection Series. It has been a personal joy to enter into these reflections for the liturgical season. I will paste my Fourth Sunday reflection below:

For those in the northern hemisphere, yesterday marked the darkest day of the year. And today we enter the fourth Sunday of Advent, when our wreath shines at its brightest.

Light changes things. It allows us to see things we were not able to previously, giving us a fuller picture of our reality.

Looking briefly at our previous Sunday readings, in the first week, we are exhorted to realize the immediacy of Christ’s coming. In the second Sunday, we hear themes of repentance, right relationship and social justice. Last Sunday focused on signs, reversal, and the restoration of what is broken. These are big.

Today’s Gospel presents a bit of a contrast. For nothing is too small for God.

Instead of great social reforms, healing miracles and anticipations of signs, we have a humbler situation. Joseph – like all of us – trying to do the right thing in a complicated situation.

And with – like all of us – incomplete information.

Based upon what he knew, the good, right and merciful thing to do was to quietly divorce Mary. But that evening, under the darkness of night, Joseph’s world was illuminated. In a beautiful contrast to other Sundays’ miraculous healings and great signs, Joseph’s reality did not change. The world he woke up to was exactly the same as the one he went to bed with. Instead, he saw the fullness of his situation, changing the way he understood reality and his place in it.

Which invites us to contemplate in these last days of Advent: What of God’s love, glory and goodness am I failing to see? Where does God already dwell in my world? I am the last to tell you that God is not in the shiny ribbons, family traditions and favorite recipes you might be scrambling to ready. In fact, in the generosity, kindness, love and belonging you’re extending, I know God is there. Let’s take the time to see God’s active presence in all things so that we, like Joseph, might understand our reality in a whole new way.

The Franciscan Tradition and Young Adults

The latest edition of The Way of St. Francis has arrived. And not only does the cover feature one of the fantastic research assistants from my project on Latinx Catholic stewardship (thank you, Tony Luevano!), but it also comes with an article I wrote on the overlap between today’s young adults and the Franciscan tradition, “Shaping Young Adults… and Vice Versa.”

I offer three main insights. The first is on “being,” that both Franciscans and young adults are characterized by “expressive authenticity that seeks belonging.” The second is on “doing,” specifically that both of these groups realize the importance of storytelling as a meaning-making activity. Finally, the heart of young adult ministry should not be guided by a commitment to minister “to” or even “with,” but to joyfully encounter.

You can read more on this 
here.

 

Preview of Catholic Activism Today!

Catholic Activism TodayExcited to give you a sneak peek of my forthcoming book, Catholic Activism Today: Individual Transformation and the Struggle for Social Justice. This book, like all books, is the fruit of many years of research, analysis and writing. and provides the reader with a clear sense of what animates Catholic civic engagement today.

In brief, I argue that American Catholic engagement was previously done through Catholic groups or organizations typically organized at the parish level. Today, Catholics who seek to be civically engaged as Catholics do so through what I call “discipleship groups,” in which they are gathered for spiritual formation and then engage a wide variety of issues as individuals. There are five core values that animate discipleship groups: transformation, Christ-centeredness, community, outreach, and compassion. You can learn more about it on the NYU website.

Hope you find it a fun read in June 2020!

Book Review on Young Adult American Catholics

1American Catholic Studies just published a favorable review of Young Adult American Catholics thoughtfully written by Dr. Patricia Wittberg, a Research Associate at CARA and a Sister of Charity. Her praise and critique were greatly appreciated. Here is a pull quote:

I would strongly recommend this book to be read, studied, and discussed in every parish and every college campus ministry program in the country.

Thank you, Patricia, for this enthusiastic endorsement!

Summer Plans

With great gratitude for the semester (congratulations to all our graduates!) and grades in, I’m now looking ahead to my summer research agenda.

Currently, the research team for the American Abortion Attitudes project–based at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society–is knee-deep in interviews. The team includes the principal investigator in Tennessee, myself here in north San Diego county, and three other researchers in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Indiana. They’re a great team and I’m really excited to be a part of this project.

In less than two weeks I’ll be taking off to Villanova University’s Center for Church Management to join the eleven other fellows and twelve senior scholars for our final meeting. I’ll be presenting on Latino Catholic financial stewardship. I’m really excited to hear the findings from everyone’s projects. I’ll also start teaching my five-week online summer course–Theology of Marriage–at Santa Clara University, which always combines an interesting topic with dedicated students.

In July I’ll be heading to Wabash for the first of three sessions of professional development for early-career theology faculty. It will be fun to be on the learners’ side of the desk for a bit and find ways to improve and better integrate my teaching, research and service. I’ll also be working on my paper comparing the ways Chinese and American Catholics each navigate their respective social contexts as a conclusion to my China immersion experience in January.

In August I’ll head out to Washington, DC to spend the first of three weeks with the social scientists at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. My background is qualitative research so I’m really excited to join these experts in quantitative studies of Catholics and learn from them. From there, I’ll take the train to NYC where I’ll be leading a session on Catholicism and Status as well as another on studying the ways groups and organizations foster emotions and character traits.

Lots of great projects to be thankful for!

Good Friday Reflection

I was invited by my alma mater, the Jesuit School of Theology, to provide a reflection on today’s readings for their daily Lenten email series, A Heart Renewed, which reaches over 4,000 subscribers. I’ll provide the readings and text here:

— 19 April 2019 —

Good Friday

IS 52:13-53:12; PS 31: 2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25; HEB 4:14-16, 5:7-9; JN 18:1-19:42

I’ll apply an important lesson from my preaching class to this reflection: Your sermon should always provide good news to your listeners.

However, today’s Gospel reading is dark: betrayal, denial, interrogation, intrigue, blame, torture, hubris and the execution of Jesus… good news is not obvious. But, we can see the dimmest of stars on the darkest of nights. After reading the texts several times, I finally saw it, and it appears only in John’s account, “The slave’s name was Malchus.”

When we first hear about the band who came to seize Jesus, we’re told of soldiers and guards. Peter, passionate and impulsive, reminds us that anger often follows the path of least resistance. He draws a sword and attacks, but not a soldier, not someone of power. Peter attacks Malchus, a slave. Likely, Malchus was not there of his own accord and had no personal interest in the situation. He had done nothing. He was innocent. And still, Malchus becomes the target of Peter’s anger.

With all the events that needed to be written down for Good Friday, this Gospel writer could have easily omitted Malchus’ name. True, his name doesn’t add to the plot… but, it does add to the story. The author of this Gospel may have recorded the name of this vulnerable, powerless slave to remind us that Jesus cared about those who were vulnerable and powerless. Malchus will never be “forgotten like the unremembered dead.” Malchus is forever a part of the story. He was marginalized and brutalized, but then lifted up and remembered. Including his name reminds us that there are possibilities for hope where there is despair, for solidarity amid fracture, and for tenderness, compassion and recognition in times of great violence.

“The slave’s name was Malchus.”

Flourish clipart

Good and merciful God, help me to see when I am being like Peter, finding scapegoats for my anger and frustration. Give me the courage to oppose real sources of personal and social ill, and to discern the good, rather than the easy. Open my eyes and heart to those who, like Malchus, are oppressed. Lead me to bring justice and hope to our world. Amen.

—–

Maureen K. Day, M.A. ’05, GTU/JST Ph.D. ’15
Assistant Professor of Religion and Society at the Franciscan School of Theology

A Good Friday, blessed Triduum and joyful Easter to everyone!

Women’s History Month

To celebrate women’s history month, I want to share an article I published in the Journal of Media and Religion, “From Consensus to Division: Tracing the Ideological Divide Among American Catholic Women 1950-1980.” The abstract follows:

This article examines the changing images of womanhood within two American Catholic publications: Catholic Mind and Catholic Digest. In the early 1950s, the periodicals had similar constructions of women, with a divergence in thought in the 1960s. Catholic Mind wrote very little on women for the majority of the decade. Catholic Digest in the 1960s featured women who worked in traditionally male roles while they also maintained that women’s primary sphere was in the home. The difference between the two publications becomes stark in the 1970s. Catholic Digest leaned conservative to mainstream and focused on women’s roles in home and secular society without asking ecclesial questions. Catholic Mind’s articles on women primarily examined ecclesial roles (e.g., women’s ordination) and demanded equality in the secular world. This fissure in female identity among American Catholics coincides with the political divide in the United States more generally.

I hope thinking about the three decades featured here can get us all thinking about our current notions of womanhood a bit more, too.