Research on Religious Life for Women in the UK, Ireland and East and Central Africa

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 was in collaborative partnership with the Centre for Catholic Studies, Durham University and the Religious Life Institute, Heythrop College, funded by the Catholic Sisters’ Initiative of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The research team considered the sources of vitality for Roman Catholic female religious orders in the UK and Ireland and reports from this first phase can be found by downloading Key findings and Religious Vitality final report.


Phase Two

In 2016, we 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 at  Durham and with the Religious Life Institute, which is now hosted here at the Margaret Beaufort Institute. This second phase of the Religious Life Vitality comprised two separate strands of research:

Religious Life for women in East and Central Africa: a sustainable future: a research project to consider the sustainability of the apostolic form of religious life for women in five countries of East and Central Africa. This 36 – month study was implemented in partnership with the Leadership Conferences of women religious in each of the five countries. The aim of the project was to combine the shared expertise of researchers, both based in the UK and sisters in each of the five countries, to enrich local theological reflection on the lives of women religious, and to contribute to the growing global discourse on the nature and future of religious life for women.

The research team based at Margaret Beaufort Institute for this project was led by our Senior Research Fellow, Dr Catherine Sexton, working together with Research Fellow Dr Maria Calderon-Munoz. They were supported by a country-based team: Sr. Margaret Sewe IBVM (Kenya); Sr. Scholastica Mwale SCO (Malawi); Sr. Deusdedita Lutego CTH (Tanzania); Sr. Christine Keneema DM (Uganda) and Sr. Helen Mwale LSMI (Zambia).

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 built on and develop the methodology and experience of Vitality Part One, and be informed by the findings and outcomes.