Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Sean Kearney

Second Supervisor

Sandra Lynch

Third Supervisor

Gerlese Akerlind


A pilgrimage of Catholic educators from Sydney Catholic Schools served as a phenomenographic case study for an investigation into the impact of pilgrimage upon the faith and faith-based practice of Catholic educators. Forty-five Catholic educators embarked on a pilgrimage for the Canonisation of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in April 2014. The pilgrimage itinerary led the educators through Italy, whereby the pilgrims visited the holy sites of Saints significant in the life of the Church.

Phenomenographic data collection and analysis are used to investigate the range of ways educators’ perceive the impact of pilgrimage on faith. Pilgrimage is explored as a means to greater identification with Christ and His Church; and the influence of pilgrimage and its impact on the educators’ faith-based practice is examined.

The external journey of pilgrimage is interpreted both as an opportunity for an analogous interior journey of growth and for its potential to lead to a transformation in faith. The writings of Turner & Turner (1978) provide a structure to discuss the way in which pilgrimage leads the educator to leave home and all that is familiar, to potentially have a liminal experience leading to transformation or confirmation of faith, and to return home with a newly integrated confidence in his/her role in the school and/or classroom.

This study investigates the experience of pilgrimage for its capacity to provide the educator with an encounter of dynamic Catholic culture. The impact of this experience of Catholic culture on the educators’ perceived potential to influence the culture of the school community is also examined.

The results of the study demonstrated that the impact of pilgrimage upon the faith of the Catholic educator was seen as a transformative process, integrating the experience into everyday life and vibrantly benefiting the community. The themes that emerged from the data and supported the growth in faith of the educator on pilgrimage were: the role of community; 10 the liturgy and prayer; and the places of the Saints. The most inclusive awareness of the impact of pilgrimage upon faith-based practice were expressed by the educators as: an experience of pilgrimage as an ongoing inspiration to share personal meaning of faith, in order to encourage a personal connection with God among students, colleagues and community.

Based upon the findings, recommendations are made to Sydney Catholic Schools pilgrimage program to continue to foster the formation of her educators. Suggestions are given of potential ways to enhance the pilgrimage experience, acknowledging the need to provide further follow-up and on-going opportunities for formation that would extend the graces of pilgrimage into the lives and communities of educators. Recommendations for future research include the replication of this study for a larger sample, extending to multiple pilgrimages.

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