This report presents the findings from the second part of a comprehensive study of the spiritual formation of lay ecclesial ministers that was designed and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University for the Subcommittee on Lay Ministry of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women, and Youth. The first part of the study, completed in November 2000, was based on a consultation process with selected experts in various aspects of lay ministry and ministry formation. These experts met for a day of guided discussion on the topic of the spiritual formation of lay ecclesial ministers that was designed and facilitated by CARA in October 2000. CARA delivered a report of the consultation process to the Subcommittee in November 2000.
For the second part of the study, CARA designed and conducted a survey of lay ministry formation programs. The questionnaire for this part of the study, which drew on the findings from the consultation process, was designed to measure goals and practices in the spiritual formation of lay ecclesial ministers. The questionnaire was approved by the Subcommittee in November 2000 and was mailed to directors of all 323 lay ministry formation programs in the CARA database in December 2000. CARA then conducted a lengthy follow-up process to assure that as many questionnaires as possible were collected for analysis. The last follow-up was conducted in February 2001, and the last questionnaires were received in March 2001. A total of 207 questionnaires were completed and returned to CARA for a response rate of 64 percent.
The percentages reported here are best understood as representing the attitudes and opinions of all programs of lay ministry formation. Because such a large portion of the entire population has been surveyed, statistical inference has limited meaning in the present context. Statistical significance is based on the premise that a relatively small proportion of cases from a population has been randomly sampled. For all practical purposes, the results presented in this report can be interpreted as representing all programs, not a sample of those programs.
The questionnaire consisted of a total of 115 close-ended questions and two open-ended questions. A copy of the original questionnaire with the percentage that chose each response appears at the end of this report, followed by a complete transcription of the written comments provided in response to the two open-ended questions.
Assessing Important Differences
Most of the questions in this study provide four point response scales ("not at all," "only a little," "somewhat," "very much"). These scales allow half the responses to be interpreted as relatively more "negative" ("not at all" and "only a little") and half as relatively more "positive" ("somewhat" and "very much").
Tables summarizing responses to these questions usually include two columns. For each question, the first column lists the percentage of those who marked either of the more positive response categories. These percentages can be interpreted as representing the proportion of respondents expressing generally positive attitudes. However, sometimes examining the most positive response distinguishes important contrasts in level of support. Thus, the second column lists only the percentage of respondents giving the most positive response.
In addition, readers may also wish to compare the difference between the two extreme responses. These comparisons and others may be drawn by referring to the complete percentage responses for each question, listed on the copy of the questionnaire at the end of the report.