Middle level catechetical leaders' experience of conflict during a case of major diocesan reorganization





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This qualitative case study explores one case of a large-scale diocesan reorganization from the perspective of catechetical leaders. The focus is on understanding middle level leaders' experiences of conflict that arose during the implementation of the reorganization process. Developing such understanding is an initial step in discerning which educational strategies might be most helpful in training the leaders to respond to related conflict constructively. Primary influences on the methods utilized in comprehending the case include Shields, Bishop, and Mazawi's propositions regarding pathologizing practices in education, Oshry's conception of tops, bottoms and middles in organizational authority, and Borg's finding that the importance of conflicts at the organizational interfaces is magnified by the high importance and high interdependence of relationships inherent in a religious community. Three phases of data gathering inform the case: document analysis of literature and diocesan artifacts, individual interviews with parish catechetical leaders, and survey of a larger sample of catechetical leaders serving as pastors, Catholic school principals and directors of parish religious education. Two major findings emerge as significant for further interpretation, discussion, and recommendations based on the research questions: (a)of the five conflicts commonly experienced by catechetical leaders in the Diocese the most frequently reported was linking parishes of different sizes, and (b) three words or phrases with distinctive Roman Catholic underpinnings emerged as faith influences on catechetical leaders' abilities to respond to conflicts that arose during the diocesan reorganization process, namely Catholic, Church, and Body of Christ. Conflict resolution strategies with a more communal approach to self-perception and the identification of interests align more fully with the faith underpinnings of constructive conflict response described by catechetical leaders in this case. Incorporating education for constructive conflict response into existing modes of training would address several of the factors identified as critical to the Diocese and catechetical leaders.

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