2020 ISRVA Research Grant Announcement (April 2021)

It is with great pleasure that we announce the award of the first $5,000 ISRVA Research Grant.  This grant is for the year 2020, and is awarded to Dr. Anne Masters, Ph.D., FAAIDD, who recently successfully defended her PhD thesis titled “’Who Do You Say That I Am?’ Understanding the Marginalization of Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the US Catholic Church.” In the thesis, SRV theory figures prominently in a discussion of the personal social integration and valued social participation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Roman Catholic Faith Communities.  The grant will allow Dr. Masters the opportunity to pursue her research on SRV and faith communities and includes the possible application of PASSING in establishing principles “to develop [a] manageable pastoral tool for evaluating choices and outcomes in congregational life.” A condition of the grant is that it should lead to the submission of an SRV related article to a peer reviewed journal.

Here are a few excepts from her grant application:

A summary of her thesis: “Investigating the history of ministry with individuals with IDD in the US Catholic Church, I discovered a meta-narrative I named the shadow narrative which is still operative today. Its name refers to its power to eclipse the light of the Gospel, distorting its message. There are five threads to the shadow narrative: holy innocent, perpetual child; object of pity or opportunity for charity; special connection to Jesus and the cross through their suffering with disability, that is both a model and has redemptive value for others; do your best, but don’t worry if it doesn’t work out; and lastly, individuals with disabilities aren’t really like “us,” not really human. I determined the shadow narrative the problem is the overcome, or at least a symptom of it.

“In my thesis I make the case that [Saint] Paul’s intent for his metaphor of the Church as the body of Christ is to indicate that the Spirit is most active within the interactions between members of the body, rather than within any one person. The implications of this are significant and undermine the more individualistic understanding widely embraced that focuses on individual gifts, rather than giftedness of the community which can develop through the call and response between individuals. Such a body is harder to proscript, leaving oneself and the community open to new unforeseen possibilities. I use Tom Reynolds jazz metaphor for the activities of the Spirit that reinforces this, the riffing of one musician off of another, the call and response if you will, that results in something new and beautiful.

“It also highlights the unrealized implications of human dignity proclaimed in the Second Vatican Council and calls out particular cultural shifts that were inserted into the practice of charity throughout history that have co-opted its contemporary practice. This is a major thread of the shadow narrative that is particularly resistant to change.

“My constructive response utilizes SRV as the hermeneutical key to both understand the problem and to suggest an operational framework that gives practical substance to possibilities for Catholic Social Teaching (CST). I also discovered some interesting work of psychologists on the motivational theory of empathy, or compassion, which moves people to action to enhance another person’s well-being. It highlights and reinforces SRV principles regarding devaluing and marginalizing groups of people, as well as provides some data suggesting ways of counteracting these processes that are also consistent with SRV.”

Anne’s links to SRV teachers:

“I am grateful to Milt Tyree, Betsy Neuville and Bob Flynn for their interest and support of my work. They have each, in their own ways, invested much time with me as guide and conversation partners, Milt since 2015, Betsy since 2018 and Bob since summer of 2020. Attending the Introduction to SRV at the Keystone Institute provided a deeper understanding. A conversation with Susan Thomas was very helpful to get a better understanding of Wolf’s work, intentions and relationships with the Catholic Church. I have been struck by the generous spirit of all the people I have met in the SRV community and am grateful for their interest and support.”

Research Objectives:

  1. “Robustly engage the principles of CST with SRV and highlight the synergy between the two. My thesis provides more of a summary discussion of CST. This will go much deeper, using statements and documents by Pope Francis to illustrate his growing awareness of full implications of respecting human dignity and the experiences of individuals with disabilities. He had a dramatic shift in perspectives between 2016 encyclical on the family and 2017 when he addressed conference attendees on catechesis and persons with disabilities in the ordinary life of the Church. Francis now includes individuals with disabilities in general social documents positively and challenges the Church in ways consistent with my thesis.
  2. “Investigate helpful groups and conversation partners within general theology community to increase awareness and advance issues. This will include attending conferences and gatherings to network and converse as well as identifying best opportunities for presenting and publishing research.”

Anne is Director of the Office for Pastoral Ministry with Persons with Disabilities in the Archdiocese of Newark. I’m sure she will welcome inquiries, and invitations to discuss her work.  She can be reached at:

Anne M. Masters, Ph.D., FAAIDD

Director, Office for Pastoral Ministry with Persons with Disabilities


171 Clifton Ave., Newark, NJ 07104

(973) tel # (973)497-4309 |

www.rcan.org/disabilities |Anne.Masters@rcan.org

Congratulations to Anne for her PhD, and for this award.  We look forward to more of her work and involvement in SRV dissemination.

We are planning on a ISRVA Research Grant for 2021. Guidelines will be posted in the next few weeks.

ISRVA Leadership Group

(Jo Massarelli, Betsy Neuville, Mary Kealy, Joe Osburn, Guy Caruso, and Raymond Lemay).



Wolf Wolfensberger - In honor of a Man & His Life's Work
SRV Journal - A helpful addition to the International SRV Training Culture