The following are among my prior or current research projects:
My book Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful is Changing the Church (Oxford University Press, 2011) examines a lay Catholic movement (Voice of the Faithful) that emerged in the wake of child sexual abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church. My analysis engages questions about social movements operating inside institutional spaces (here, the Catholic Church), as well as discussing the complexity of Catholic identity among those seeking to both reform and remain within the church.
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My current research explores non-territorial or “personal” parishes in the U.S. Catholic Church. Contrary to the more common territorial model of parishes serving Catholics who live in the surrounding area, personal parishes are constructed around shared identities such as nationality, liturgical preference, language, style of worship, or mission. I conducted a national survey of U.S. dioceses and am currently completing field research and interviews with key diocesan and parish leaders around the U.S., mapping this underexplored phenomenon.
My extended case study of a Catholic parish effectively engaging 18-29 year-olds was part of a national project funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., to better understand the religiosity of emerging adults. An article summarizing findings from my case study can be found through the Changing Spirituality of Emerging Adults. A resulting book profiling this and other case studies is forthcoming.
I have also researched how nonprofits navigate the use of religion in non-religious service arenas. Findings from my ethnography of Catholic Charities’ Immigration and Refugee Services in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles were published in American Behavioral Scientist (2006), vol 49, no. 11.
Religious nonprofits operate within a complex organizational environment, responding to the demands of multiple and competing constituencies. Typologies gauging the degree of religiosity of a particular organization must, therefore, be preceded by an examination of discursive adaptations made by organizational actors responding to conflicting priorities. Such a need prompted this ethnographic exploration of one agency’s (the Los Angeles Catholic Charities’ Immigration and Refugee Services) attempt to preserve the integrity of the religious act while remaining true to legal standards and a pluralistic context of service. Interviews and participant observation suggest that discourses of service are ambiguous, contested, and variable along organizational levels. Findings demonstrate how competing authorities compel organizations to develop an adaptive discourse satisfying both religious and secular demands, exemplary of contested accommodation on the meso level. This draws attention to the need for a new language to comprehend the organizational dynamics of religious nonprofits working within nonreligious functional domains.
During my time as a Research Assistant Professor with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, I conducted numerous studies about Catholic life and practice. This national study on Catholics and marriage is one of the many reports that resulted from this work.