The evolution of the leadership of religious sisters in Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Denver (1940–2001)

Virginia Chiambalero, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to see how 3 communities, the Sisters of Loretto, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, Missouri, and the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas, chose leadership for their schools. These 3 communities have ministered in the Archdiocese of Denver from almost the beginning of their school system (1861). The history of the Archdiocese was researched so that the research could show how the school system came into existence and how these 3 communities found their way to Denver. The position of Principal was also explored as it evolved and developed within the history of the diocese. Documents from the Archives in Denver as well as the annals of the 3 communities were explored as well as National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) documents so that a rich thick description is presented. The method of research was an in-depth interview that centered on the Sisters' early life and schooling. Three Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, 3 Sisters of St. Joseph, and 4 Sisters of Loretto were interviewed by the researcher. How they came to join their communities and how they were chosen for leadership were explored. Each Sister was asked if the procedure for choosing school leadership has changed, and if so, what brought about that change. What the procedure is now for choosing school leadership was also examined. The researcher found that procedures for choosing leadership had changed from Sisters being assigned as principals to their requesting to be educational leaders. The in-depth questioning also involved a discussion of the qualifications these Sisters needed when they were chosen for leadership. What qualifications are needed by those who assume positions of educational leadership in the schools of today was also explored. Principalship was also discussed and how that position has changed since the Sister took office. These changes were examined in the light of how they impact upon this position and their schools. The Sisters interviewed felt the position of Principal has become much more complex. The increase in paper work has made it more difficult to be the educational leader in the school. These Sisters were chosen simply because they are members of the 3 communities being studied. They had also assumed leadership in schools and they were willing to open their lives for discussion. The study concluded with further reflections on the data as well as recommendations for further study.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Chiambalero, Virginia, "The evolution of the leadership of religious sisters in Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Denver (1940–2001)" (2003). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3084906.