Self-Attributed Importance of Spiritual Practices in Catholic Pastoral Workers and their Association with Life Satisfaction


Although much is known about the frequency of the spiritual activities of pastoral workers, less is known related to how important specific spiritual and existential practices are to pastoral workers personally or existentially. This part of the German Pastoral Ministry Study analyzed (1) which forms of spiritual activities were regarded as important, (2) how the perceived importance of religious practices related to frequency of engagement in spiritual practices, and (3) how these practices contributed to the life satisfaction of ordained priests and of non-ordained pastoral workers. Participants included 1826 Catholic pastoral workers, composed of 65% priests and 35% (non-ordained) pastoral assistants and parish expert workers. Prosocial-Humanistic practices scored highest in importance, followed by Gratitude/Awe, Existentialistic practices, and Religious practices; specific forms of Spiritual Mind-Body practices were not relevant. Differences in the frequency and ascribed importance of spiritual practices between ordained and non-ordained pastoral workers were identified, as well as a surprising lack of connection between religious practices and their proclaimed importance, particularly of Prosocial-Humanistic and Gratitude/Awe practices. These findings may stimulate further research into the underlying causes of these differences between priests and other pastoral workers and between the frequency and importance of spiritual practices in all groups, which in the researchers’ opinion indicate challenging inconsistencies with regard to the ideals of religious vocations.

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We are grateful to the supporting team, particularly Andreas Günther, Cécile Loetz and Jakob Müller for their gracious assistance.

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Correspondence to Arndt Büssing.

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Competing Interests

This study was an investigator-initiated trial without any influence of Church authorities. All authors are members of their respective universities; three of the authors are Catholic priests (EF, KB, CJ) who work at universities as researchers. The authors have no financial or other competing interests to disclose.

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Büssing, A., Frick, E., Jacobs, C. et al. Self-Attributed Importance of Spiritual Practices in Catholic Pastoral Workers and their Association with Life Satisfaction. Pastoral Psychol 66, 295–310 (2017).

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  • Spiritual practices
  • Prosocial practices
  • Gratitude
  • Pastoral workers
  • Life satisfaction