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The Training and Development of Adult Religious Educators and Leaders for Canadian Catholic Parishes: A Historiographical Analysis 1983 to 2011 and Future Directions



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The purpose of this study was to investigate what approaches to facilitating the training and development of adult religious educators and leaders for Canadian Catholic parishes were undertaken in the 1983 to 2011 period. Drawing on educational scholarship, especially Lave and Wenger’s (1991) work on communities of practice (CoPs), the objectives of this study were to analyze these past approaches with respect to their key features and processes, and to investigate the manner in which any of these approaches exhibited the characteristics of a CoP. Given a CoP’s three structural elements of domain, community, and practice, and its key features of situated, contextual, and relational learning, an ancillary objective was also to consider the extent to which the CoP framework may be an appropriate approach to train and develop adult religious educators and leaders for different Canadian parish contexts. This qualitative instrumental case study employed historical methodology and was guided by the constructivist paradigm. Documentary research and interviews were the two data collection methods in this study. The principal and major source of data were documents supplemented by interviews. This study had two phases of data collection. In the first phase, data from documentary sources were collected. In the second phase, to elaborate upon the documentary data, interviews were conducted with five research participants who were selected due to their diverse and extensive knowledge and experience relevant to the training and development of adult religious educators and leaders for Canadian Catholic parishes. The findings showed approaches to training included non-formal lay ministry education programs, higher education opportunities, eclectic and fragmented approaches, and community-based strategies. Also, the findings revealed related challenges and concerns. The findings suggested the CoP approach may be one feasible community-based strategy to facilitate the training and development of adult religious educators and leaders. Insights from the CoP framework may offer a mechanism to facilitate this training and development, or from a community development perspective, mobilize existing, or even unidentified talents and gifts already present in the parish community. The CoP approach may be responsive to an individual parish’s unique circumstances and needs, especially in the contemporary Canadian ecclesial and sociocultural context.



Adult religious education, Communities of practice, Training and development, Distributed leadership, Educational historiography, Catholic Church



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Administration


Educational Administration


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