Current Projects

In addition to the research interests of staff, the Margaret Beaufort Institute is home to a number of associated research projects, including:


Phase One

The Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology has been embarked on research in the area of the vitality of religious life for some years. The first phase of this work has been in collaborative partnership with the Centre for Catholic Studies, Durham University and the Religious Life Institute, Heythrop College, funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The research team considered the sources of vitality for Roman Catholic female religious orders and reports from this first phase can be found by downloading Key findings and Religious Vitality final report.

Phase Two

Since 2016, we have been embarked on a further phase of this project, again funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, with Margaret Beaufort Institute as a distinct partner with the CCS, Durham and with the Religious Life Institute, which is now hosted here at the Margaret Beaufort Institute as well. This second phase of the Religious Life Vitality work will comprise two separate strands of research:

Vitality Africa: an extension of Phase 1 to consider the sources and nature of vitality in women’s religious life in East/Central Africa. This 36 month study will be implemented in partnership with a team of country/regional based partners

A Future Full of Hope – Expectations and Challenges for New Entrants to Religious Life: a 36 month project to shed light on the future character of women’s religious life in the UK and Ireland, through focused consideration of the hopes for and challenges of religious life for entrants, and those who have considered entering,  since 2000

The two strands will build on and develop the methodology and experience of Vitality Part One, and be informed by the findings and outcomes.

Vitality Phase Two will seek to combine the shared expertise of researchers – and targeted new partners/practitioners – from the UK, Ireland, and East Africa, to enrich the theological reflection on the life of women religious and to contribute to a growing global discourse on the nature and future of religious life for women.

The lead researcher at Margaret Beaufort Institute for this project is our Senior Research Fellow, Dr Catherine Sexton, supported by Research Fellow Dr Maria Calderon-Munoz.


This is an emerging project run by Dr Anna Abram, Dr Gillian Paterson and Mrs Jo Jacques, which successfully hosted a symposium exploring ‘The Theological and Spiritual Implications of Current Narratives of Ageing’ in March 2018. The day discussed theological and ethical questions that touch on ways of conceptualising human flourishing and asked what it means to be mortal. Such considerations are increasingly relevant as we come to understand the possibilities of technologies that can enhance human capabilities, increase longevity, and offer the possibility of ‘radical life extension’ and ‘post-human’ futures. In this context, it was asked what constitutes human well-being, and how researchers, government policy makers and public health professionals might pick their way through the possibilities that are on offer. To read more about the day, read our blog-post.


This project examines discernment in the Church, and is led by Dr Anna Abram and Dr Nick Austin SJ. In response to Pope Francis' assessment that ‘Today the Church needs to grow in discernment, in the ability to discern’, the project asks what discernment is and why it is so needed today? The project hosted a symposium with a  group of experts from different disciplines and practical backgrounds to explore what isthe call for a more discerning Church implies in February 2018. To read more about the project and symposium, read our blog-post.