Thursday, February 4, 2016

Spirituality as a Transformative Experience in the Lives of Black Catholic Women

Claudine Pannell-Goodlett, School of Human and Organizational Development

Black Catholic women's spiritual experiences are potent resources for empowerment, and social and personal transformation. This study explores several bodies of literature in order to appreciate and understand the political, social, cultural, psychological, moral, and historical context of the spirituality of Black Catholic women. The purpose of this dissertation is to encourage further research and expand the base of scholarly literature and practice by highlighting transformative experiences in the daily lives, beliefs, and spiritual practices of a group of Black Catholic women. A mixed methods research design consisting of specific questions, a Standardized Assessment Instrument (DSES©), and semi-structured individual interviews was used to capture and examine the lived experiences of 24 participants self-identified as Black, Catholic, and a woman at least 18 years old.

Study results reveal Prayer, Eucharist, and Scripture form the cornerstone of the spirituality of these women. Connections with other Black Catholic women and feelings of gratitude cement their relationship with God. Responses to specific questions revealed explicit activities that deflate and nourish their spiritual energy. Results of the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES©) indicate that participants feel "very close to God" and "ask for God's help in the midst of daily activities, many times a day." The individual interviews produced compelling descriptions of their spirituality and the spiritual impact of discrimination, Church controversies, and transformative experiences. Participants individually voice their wisdom and hopes for the future.

Study results clearly show that transformative experiences lead to deeper levels of spirituality. Participants also pinpoint healing the effects of discrimination, obtaining relevant spiritual direction and support as necessary to deal with life-altering events. Race, gender equity, sexuality, and the future of Black people within the American Catholic Church, appear as dynamic forces in participants' spiritual lives. This synergy is a sentinel call for further academic and practical study that connects culture, transformative learning, and the spirituality of Black Catholic women.

KEY WORDS: Black Catholic women, Spirituality, Feminism, Womanism, Transformative Learning theory, Women and religion, Spiritual assessments, DSES©.

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