The grace of faith, reparation and healing wounds: an autoethnographic inquiry into Academy and faith leadership

PhD Thesis

Mcgowan, L. 2020. The grace of faith, reparation and healing wounds: an autoethnographic inquiry into Academy and faith leadership . PhD Thesis Cantebury Christ Church University School of Humanities and Education Studies
AuthorsMcgowan, L.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctorate of Education

Using autoethnography as both methodology and method, this thesis presents an explorative inquiry into the life of a secondary school Catholic Headteacher serving within the Academies programme in England. Situated within a qualitative paradigm with data presented as interpretive truth narrative and journal extracts alongside fictional text and dialogue, the thesis critically and reflexively examines events in the writer’s professional life as an Academy leader alongside a personal experience of critical illness whilst in post as an Academy Head, over three years from 2014 to 2017.

Through temporal reflection and reflexive introspection of the self through the lens of the Catholic faith and, specifically, through the charism of Ignatian spirituality, key themes of detachment, power, suffering, and loss are revealed and examined. The formation of an early self that, later, becomes professionally situated within the Academies programme, is charted through a series of vignettes. The growth and development of the professional self is examined alongside the growth and development of the Academies programme but is then reduced, through critical illness, to surrender that self, to detach, withdraw, and become inseparably bound to the spiritual self. The strands of professional and personal self detach and emerge from suffering through a transcendent process of reparation and healing, becoming one resurrected and re-formed self; one spiritual self, rooted deeper in faith.

New perspectives are offered on Catholic school leadership as a spiritual lay vocation, and on the mission and purpose of the Catholic school leader as a selfless embodiment of faith. As a redemptive narrative, it concludes that suffering as a leader, detaching from the trappings of power and position, enables re-birth and spiritual growth in leadership humility, and paves the way to reconstitute a new understanding of both leadership and ‘Eldership’ in serving the Catholic school.

KeywordsCatholic faith; Academy and faith leadership
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Publication process dates
Deposited24 Jun 2021
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