Date of Graduation

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department/Program

Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Gini Shimabukuro

Second Advisor

Dan McPherson

Third Advisor

Steve Katsouros

Abstract

Catholic identity is considered to be the single most important issue facing Catholic higher education in the United States. Scholars (Burtchaell, 1998; Gallin, 1999; Gleason, 1995; Heft, 2003; Marsden, 1994; O'Brien, 1994) have suggested that sustaining Catholic identity and preventing secularization depends on the integration of the Catholic intellectual tradition with the sponsoring religious congregation. The Catholic identity often has been discussed in terms of the decreasing presence of various signs and symbols of Catholicity. Additionally, the number of Catholics among the student body, the number of required theology courses, and the role of the curriculum and faculty, have been employed as measures of Catholic identity.

This qualitative study utilized virtual research methodology to explore the De La Salle Christian Brothers' personal experiences of Catholic identity in higher education in the United States as the sponsoring congregation on their campuses. The researcher interviewed 20 Brothers from four institutions of higher education regarding their definitions of Catholic identity, their experiences of Catholic identity from an historical and current-day perspective, as well as their visions of Catholic identity in higher education in the future.

The study's findings revealed that the Brothers experienced themselves as the animators of Catholic identity at the institutions of higher education where they were assigned; that there is a need and desire for education and formation programs in the Catholic and Lasallian traditions; that, where Catholic identity is strong, the rituals and practices of the Catholic faith are also a vital part of the religious life of the campus; that presidential leadership is critical to the Catholic identity of the institution; and, that aspects of the operations of the institution reflect a connection to Catholicism, including the Catholic composition of the student body and faculty in terms of religious affiliation, the integration of the curriculum within the Catholic intellectual tradition, and programs that support the Catholic faith tradition.

This study provided research on Catholic identity from the personal voices of the sponsoring religious congregation of institutions of higher education in the United States. With decreasing vocations in religious life and, therefore, less religious present in colleges and universities, an important segment of higher education, the voices of the sponsoring religious congregation, may be lost forever.

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