Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Kathleen Boyle; Susan Huber; Barbara Sutton


The development of lay ecclesial ministry in the Catholic Church as a career field began prior to the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) with a burgeoning lay apostolate, but professionalization of various ministries coincided with a decline of ordained (priests) and vowed religious (nuns and monks) beginning in the 1960s. Today 39,000 lay ecclesial ministers (LEMs) provide ministry in U.S. parishes with women serving in 80% of those roles. These women LEMs do more than support ministries or substitute for priests. LEMs create "new ways of ministering, new ways of being a minister, new configurations of the church’s ministerial structures, and new arrangements of its pastoral life” (McCord, 2012, p. 8). This phenomenological study employed both group and individual interviews with 12 women engaged in ministerial leadership in Catholic parishes in Minnesota to explore the following questions about the leadership of women LEMs in Catholic parishes. How do women LEMs working in parishes ascribe meaning to their leadership in the Roman Catholic Church? What experiences, beliefs, and attitudes inform their understanding of ministerial leadership? How does the meaning they give their leadership inform their ministerial practice? The application of social theory and theological principles in analysis of the data suggests that these women LEMs integrate mission, story, and their experiences as women leaders to both convey and create meaning for their leadership. The findings also indicate that these LEMs integrate their experiences as women who lead into their leadership praxis resulting in a complex vocational commitment to leadership in the Church.


lay ecclesial ministry, Catholic Church, leadership, mission, relational leadership, authentic leadership, storied leadership, meaning making, gender bias

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This file may be slow to open due to its size. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Education Commons