The newest issue of The Way of St. Francis has just come out and in it you can read my reflection on experiencing Lent during a pandemic. I draw upon the scholarship of medieval historian Bert Roest and his analysis of the eremitical tradition and the life of the Order. I use this to consider the ways the our own homes can act as a hermitage in this season of Lent (and our lives more broadly). You can read my piece, “Entering Lent From a Hermitage,” here.
I am so honored to have started my three-year term on the board of the Eugene M. Burke Lectureship on Religion and Society. According to the website, the Lectureship “sponsors public lectures in which scholars, theologians, and religious practitioners address critical issues on the relationship between religion and society and on the religious dimensions of being human.” I’m really excited to help make these important conversations happen!
To share its origin story, as a Paulist priest, Eugene Burke initially came to the University of California, San Diego in his retirement to help with Catholic ministry. Along with leaders in the Lutheran and Episcopal communities, Burke outlined the scope of the lectureship in 1984, just before his passing. Hundreds of donations created the endowment needed to begin the Lectureship in 1985. Now, over thirty years later, they continue to provide some of the most important talks at the intersection of religion and human life.
Co-authored with Barbara McCrabb of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, our new article on successfully integrating professional campus ministers with missionaries is out. The article, Integrating Ministerial Visions: Lessons from Campus Ministry, is available through Religions. It is based on an analysis of a national survey and qualitative study of Catholic campus ministers as well as the work of a task force specially commissioned to offer guidelines and a process for campuses seeking to integrate professional ministers with a missionary team. The article is also forthcoming in a special issue containing some of the most recent and timely studies of Catholic youth and young adult ministry, so be sure to grab the whole issue if that is your area of research or ministry. Here is the abstract for the article:
In recent years, colleges and universities have seen an increase in a relatively new model of Catholic campus ministry: missionary organizations. As these missionaries grow in number, there is also an increase in the number of campuses that simultaneously use missionaries and long-term, professional ministers with graduate degrees. Drawing upon two national studies of Catholic campus ministers and the work of a national task force, this article will illuminate the obstacles these blended teams face in crafting a more holistic engagement with the Catholic tradition. It will also outline the steps to promote a more integrated ministerial vision and to become more pastorally effective. Implications for ministry more broadly are discussed.
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.
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:
- Americans don’t talk much about abortion.
- Survey statistics oversimplify Americans’ abortion attitudes.
- Position labels are imprecise substitutes for actual views toward abortion.
- Abortion talk concerns as much what happens before and after as it does abortion itself.
- Americans ponder a “good life” as much as they do “life.”
- Abortion is not merely political to everyday Americans, but intimately personal.
- Americans don’t “want” abortion.
Read the full report to learn more!