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Title: An inside view of the identity struggles of a member of a religious order in a changing culture from the late 1960's to the post Ryan report era in 21st century Ireland
Author: McEvoy, Carmel
ISNI:       0000 0004 5923 8603
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2015
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This dissertation is an autoethnographic study, where the author, grappling with a sense of identity as a member of a religious order in the aftermath of the Ryan Report (Ryan, 2009), seeks to reconstruct a sense of self as a religious sister in 21st century Ireland. As a member of a group that for centuries were revered as carriers of Ireland's spiritual myths, and providers of education, health care and social services, the author struggles to find her place in a culture where attitudes towards religion, and in particular towards members of religious orders have hardened in the wake of revelations of the mistreatment of children uncovered in the Ryan Report (2009). Gripped by a sense of shock, dismay and embarrassment at the Report's catalogue of instances of abuse and neglect of children while in the care of religious orders between 1936 and 1993, the author is catapulted into a confused sense of self as a member of a religious order. It raises for her issues of identity as a spiritual and religious person. In an effort to re-story her identity as a member of a religious order, the writer sets out on a journey, backwards in time, as she traces her quest for spiritual meaning. The journey takes her to her earliest memory of a spiritual experience as a child of four or five, growing up in Catholic Ireland, to her experiences as a member of a religious congregation after the publication of the Ryan Report. The latter takes place against the backdrop of an Ireland that questions previously unquestioned "truths" as presented by the Catholic hierarchy who spoke with authority on social, political and religious issues. Since narrative or story telling is the primary way in which humans make meaning of their lives (Ricoeur, 1980; Bakhtin, 1981; Bruner, 1986) this study uses autoethnography as a narrative mode of inquiry, where the author accesses personal stories in search of a new understanding of self. This dissertation is not presented in the traditional format of chapters, but begins with an introduction setting out the focus of the research, followed by the main body of the work, which is presented as vignettes. The vignettes, in words and pictures, are used to map key memories and events that have shaped the author's identity as a member of a religious order. Each vignette is followed by a reflection that sometimes includes an engagement with literature and research to enhance the understanding of the cultural context of the particular vignette. This is followed by a narrative analysis and commentary. Progressing from one vignette to the next the author experiences struggle, pain and peace as she connects past and present in an evolving story of self that culminates in an acceptance of her wounded collective identity. In the concluding chapter, the author evaluates the research and reviews the autoethnographic journey, noting her emerging sense of identity within a culture from which she constantly seeks reassurance for the legitimacy of that identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available