Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Arthur Hernandez


Audra Skukauskaite


Osman Ozturgut


Thomas Dymowski


This interpretive qualitative study explored pastoral leadership experiences of 8 Catholic priests serving in the Central Texas area of the United States. The purpose was to understand what their pastoral experiences meant for them as religious leaders and how their various perspectives would portray pastoral leadership in the 21st century Church. Participants were Catholic priests with 5 to 25 years’ experience in the ministry serving as fulltime pastors in parishes. Data collection was through open-ended interviews conducted in conducive locations. One general question was asked that enabled participants to tell their stories about their pastoral experiences since ordination. These were followed up with questions that explored important issues in the stories. This measure provided clarifications that enriched research outcomes in terms of thick description. The data was analyzed using the management (description), abstraction (reduction), and interpretation model (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Merriam et al., 2002; Spencer, Ritchie, Ormston, O’Connor, Barnard, 2014). Credibility was safeguarded through member check and triangulation of data. Analysis of the data resulted in identification of 4 themes. These themes showed that participants understood and embraced the priesthood as a vocation as opposed to profession. Similarly, they understood and undertook pastoral leadership as a ministry of service and commitment, a ministry of complex realities, and a ministry with diverse challenges. The level of commonality among participants in their experiences was 6 out of 8. By examining the themes vis-à-vis views in the literature and leadership theories, it was evident that participants’ pastoral activities positively reflected views in the literature about pastoral leadership in the 21st century. Likewise, their styles exemplified the 4 characteristics of transformational leadership. The research findings have provided a platform for understanding the state of affairs in the Church’s pastoral ministry, albeit, participants’ faith communities. Participants’ description of their pastoral experiences revealed an understanding of Church leadership as a response to God’s call to service. The outcome of this perception was a people-centered engagement that operated on the basis of Christlike qualities. Despite the challenges and setbacks that participants described in their stories, the visionary, creative, motivational, resilient, and collaborative qualities they exhibited resulted in tangible outcomes, namely, organizational growth and wellbeing of members in their parishes.