Organizational culture and the Spiritan Associates Program: A tolerance for ambiguity

James Patrick McCloskey, Fordham University


This case study discussed and analyzed the relationship between the Spiritan Associates Program and its sponsor, the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, United States Province East. The lens through which this relationship was examined was that of organizational culture and the significant growth of lay associate programs within Roman Catholic religious congregations over the past 20 years. The study focused on the meaning of association from the perspective of the associates as well as the perspective of the vowed and permanent members. The discussion of meaning was approached from both an institutional as well as a personal perspective. A key question raised for this study was the possibility of a changed interpretive scheme, or meaning system, for the permanent members of the Congregation as a result of the presence of laypersons, religious women, and diocesan priests involved in the life and ministry of the Congregation. The study employed a qualitative methodology through the analysis of various forms of data including in-depth interviews, observation, participant observation, focus groups, and documentation review. Themes that emerged from the data analysis included the experiences of group inclusion and exclusion, organizational and personal revitalization as consequence of association, boundary ambiguity between lay and religious/clerical collaborators, resistance to change, and the mutual socialization of associates and vowed religious. The findings in the study suggest that the cultural impact of the Associates Program upon its sponsor has been minimal. The program served as a source of further cultural division and tension in an already fractured parent culture. The meaning of association was varied and unclear for both associates and vowed members. It also suggests that the voices of laypersons as distinct from religious and clerics were muted in the interchange between the two groups. It is recommended that a precise definition of association and the role of associates in the larger interpretive scheme of the Congregation would serve to enhance the success of this program and like programs in other religious congregations.

Subject Area

School administration|Religion

Recommended Citation

McCloskey, James Patrick, "Organizational culture and the Spiritan Associates Program: A tolerance for ambiguity" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3056147.