The charismatic core of lay leaders

Lorraine Pasadino Amendolara, Fordham University


This study was designed to study leadership from the perspective of lay people who hold high-level positions of leadership on the diocesan level in the Roman Catholic Church. This investigation was an effort to peel back the layers of leadership in order to understand and interpret the perceptions, the beliefs, and the actions of the lay leaders in the study. The study revolved around several key questions: (a) What is the charismatic core of these lay leaders? (b) How does that charismatic core influence their leadership? (c) How is their leadership expressed in the institutional structures of the Roman Catholic Church? A cluster of theories provided the theoretical backdrop and framework for this investigation. They were: (a) theories related to Max Weber's theory of charisma and institution building; (b) substantive theories of leadership; and (c) theories related to a spirituality of leadership. The study employed qualitative methodology using indepth interviews as the primary data gathering technique. Twenty-four persons (12 women and 12 men) from a dozen dioceses in 10 states around the country participated in the study. They were engaged in a total of nine different ministries. The data analysis surfaced four major themes: the charismatic core, power/empowerment, leadership, and the creative/constrictive tensions in institutional church life. The charismatic core became the pivoted theme around which the other themes revolved. For these lay leaders, the charismatic core is a profound and personal relationship with God. It has both mystical and communal dimensions. The charismatic core provides them with a certain stance towards life. It impels, infuses, informs, and sustains their leadership. Based on the study's theoretical frameworks and the themes distilled from the interviews, a theological reflection of a spirituality of leadership was developed. Most importantly, this study raised the question whether religious leadership might provide the prime analogate of the richest, fullest expression of 200 charismatic leadership against which other models may be compared and contrasted.

Subject Area

School administration|Religious education|Theology

Recommended Citation

Amendolara, Lorraine Pasadino, "The charismatic core of lay leaders" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9328405.