Understanding and implementing the Marist Charism from the middle: The experience of middle leaders in a Marist school


Elvery, Jennifer Margaret. (2013). Understanding and implementing the Marist Charism from the middle: The experience of middle leaders in a Marist school [Thesis]. https://doi.org/10.4226/66/5a963365c68b0
AuthorsElvery, Jennifer Margaret
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The decline in the number of Marist Brothers has led to lay staff assuming increased responsibility for continuing the work of the Brothers. In order for this transition to be authentic and effective, schools should continue to be led within Marist charismic tradition. The Principal plays a critical role in this, but so do all leaders. Currently, little is known as to how middle leaders contribute to this process. The purpose of this study is to explore how middle leaders/managers at Champagnat College understand and implement the Marist charism. The context of this research is a College in Queensland, Australia, owned and conducted by the Marist Brothers. These research questions, arising from a review and synthesis of the literature, focused the conduct of the study: How do Champagnat College middle leaders understand the Marist charism? What understanding do Champagnat College middle leaders hold regarding how they implement the Marist charism? Given the focus of this thesis, an interpretive approach was considered appropriate. Within a constructionist epistemology, symbolic interactionism has been employed as a lens to inform the interpretive theoretical perspective of the study. A case study methodology was adopted. Data were gathered from participants (Marist Brothers and middle leaders at Champagnat College) through focus groups and semi-structured interviews. A document analysis and researcher reflective journal contributed additional data. Contributions to new knowledge highlight the way that middle leaders have embraced, and committed themselves to, the Marist charism and how Catholic and Marist identity may be defined. The Marist charism frames middle leader understandings of how they contribute to the College. This research identifies the “deep story” of the Marist charism as a shared construction, which preferences the story of the founder but which may risk losing its gospel connection. The shared meaning is a powerful cultural integrator and creates cohesive links among the middle leaders. The meanings also create ethical reference points for individual middle leaders as they undertake their duties at the College and as they engage in non-work activities. The research proposes a new model of Catholic and Marist identity, which includes “post-critical belief” (Pollefeyt & Bouwens, 2010). The contributions to practice relate to the vocation to spiritual leadership of middle leaders and the need for ongoing formation. Through the recognition of trust and sense-making characteristic of middle leaders, an effective foundation of distributed leadership may be further developed to build a culture where the Marist charism is understood, interpreted and implemented through effective leadership actions. This is assisted through the fostering of a culture of discernment and accountability.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.4226/66/5a963365c68b0
Research GroupSchool of Educational Leadership
Final version
Publication dates01 Aug 2013
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