Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Noah Kasraie


Sharon Herbers


Jessica Kimmel


Dorothy Ettling


Research Focus. This qualitative study explored the expectations and the experiences of recently ordained Roman Catholic priests as leaders in their parish communities. Leadership preparation of Roman Catholic priests is an important issue. Roman Catholic priests, by following the example of Jesus Christ, and as described in Apostolic Letters, Decrees and Apostolic Exhortations from the Vatican, would appear to be expected to be the personification of a good leader. Thus, the question is posed as to what newly ordained priests thought the leadership expectations would be, and what their experience has been.

Research Methods. This basic interpretive qualitative study explored perceptions of leadership, both expected and experienced by 10 newly ordained Roman Catholic priests within a Catholic Archdiocese in the Southwestern United States. Semi-structured open-ended questions were used. The data was collected from interviews, transcribed, themes identified, documents analyzed and a domain analysis conducted. Spradley’s Developmental Research sequence was implemented to conduct a domain analysis that was in-depth, allowing an opportunity to reveal the complexity of a given culture.

Research Results/Findings. Leadership by example, presence, servant-leader, and pastoral leadership were the most frequent terms mentioned in the interviews to describe leadership approaches. In each parish community and in each diocese, as in the post-Vatican II Catholic Church, more participative management is encouraged. As a result, for a new pastor, leadership has become more challenging. The evidence indicates that leadership preparation in the traditional secular sense is not a deliberate aim of the seminary. However, pastoral leadership is an essential part of priestly formation. In every interview, participants suggested or implied that additional leadership preparation would have been very useful. Even priests with past business experience suggested that so many of the leadership requirements are unique to the position of parish pastor that additional preparation is essential.

Conclusions from Research. The best place to develop needed leadership skills is during internship. Carefully selecting pastors who are willing and able to provide training in those skills is essential. Not every pastor is so inclined or able to provide training. Providing each intern with a superior experience in a parish community and with a pastor who is excited about teaching the intern is an investment in the quality of future priestly ministry, not a luxury.