Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies


Catholic Educational Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Gini Shimabukuro

Second Advisor

Fr. Stephen Katsouros, SJ

Third Advisor

Dan McPherson


The governance of private Catholic religious-sponsored secondary institutions in the United States is wholly unique, for many different influences distinguish these institutions from not only their public counterparts but also other Catholic schools operated by a diocese or parish. In the face of the changes of the post-Vatican II era, including the diminishing numbers of religious brothers, sisters, and priests available to minister within their respective apostolates, religious congregations have employed one particular governance construct, the board of limited-jurisdiction, originally created within the Catholic university and healthcare realms. Thus, while such boards hold the chief role in directing the progress of an individual institution, they are each in a governance relationship to that religious congregation and remain beholden to both Canon and civil law.

The purpose of this study was to explore existing governance relationships between religious congregations and boards of limited-jurisdiction, specifically addressing the notions of Ownership, Control, Sponsorship, and Trusteeship. This was accomplished through the employment of focus-group methodology. Six focus groups were conducted by the researcher: three comprised of the leadership of different religious congregations and the other three being trustees from limited-jurisdiction boards related to each of the congregations.

The results of this study witnessed that private Catholic religious-sponsored governance has many overlapping realities, which have highly varied definitions and understandings among groups engaged in Catholic governance. Further, the following conclusions were surfaced: civil corporation structures have been created or altered while canonical structures have not changed; Ownership is understood in three ways: ownership of property, of institution, and of mission or charism; the level of control held by the congregation differs within each governance relationship; the terms used to describe governance lack cohesive definitions, particularly true of Sponsorship; trustee formation for both religious and lay trustees while important often fails to provide sufficient coverage of Canon law; trustee turnover is a particular challenge; the role of the religious trustee is perceived to be unique, yet has not been formalized; and, civil law has been given precedence over Canon law. This study addressed a particular gap in the literature regarding the governance of Catholic secondary schools.