The use of a website designed by a congregation of Catholic women religious
Kathleen Mary Burns, Teachers College, Columbia University, United States
Doctor of Education, Teachers College, Columbia University . Awarded
This dissertation is a descriptive case study of the experience of the Congregation of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Scranton, PA (Sisters of IHM), with their website. In 1995, this group established the first website for an order of Roman Catholic sisters. It was established with four goals in mind: identity, community, sharing resources and outreach.
This study examines the characteristics of the Sisters of IHM as a representative group of American Catholic women religious which made the establishment of the website attractive, their experience in developing the site and the evidence of how those goals are being met. As a group experiencing a diminishment in numbers while at the same time becoming spread more thinly geographically, they recognized that a website held the promise to help them continue their mission in new ways: telling the world about themselves without being filtered by outside sources (identity); strengthening connections among members of the order and with others by supporting communication among them (community); distributing Congregation documents and other resources to the membership and for sharing those with others (sharing resources); and reaching out to other people, many of whom might not come in contact with sisters in face-to-face contacts (outreach).
Evidence regarding the achievement of the goals was gathered through an online survey answered by 215 respondents, eight personal interviews and e-mail received by this dissertation's author who was the original webmaster of the site. Based on this evidence, three of the four goals; identity, sharing resources and outreach; are clearly being met. The evidence for the fourth goal, community, is less clear. While some community-supporting communication has been engendered through the site, it is not something that was experienced by most of the survey respondents, so success in meeting this goal is judged to be more modest.
The specific ways that the site has been identified as meeting each of the goals are identified. Specific suggestions are made as to how the site could be further developed to strengthen and enhance its ability to continue to meet its goal and to further the IHM mission.
Burns, K.M. The use of a website designed by a congregation of Catholic women religious. Doctor of Education thesis, Teachers College, Columbia University.
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