A love of learning and a desire to share knowledge motivated Regina Ryan to re-enter the hallowed halls of academia. A strong faith, coupled with a desire to understand humanity, motivated her to undertake a PhD in anthropology.
A USQ Postgraduate Research Scholarship
recipient, Regina is examining the impact of the priest shortage on the Catholic Church.
In achieving this objective, Regina is undertaking ethnographic field work at six parishes in Southern Queensland.
“Under cannon law each parish has several options for dealing with the priest shortage, including one priest covering two or three parishes, a team of priests covering several parishes or having lay, or non-ordained person, undertake duties in the Church.
“I am actually a Catholic in this Diocese and when I came across this concept of lay people running a parish I was fascinated. I wanted to find out what this experience is like for people.
“A lot of people are examining the theological side of things, but what is it like for people on the ground - what is it like for people living in Dirranbandi to not have a Catholic Priest?”
Regina said her thesis is not trying to find solutions to the priest shortage. Rather, it will address how people are experiencing things now.
“People are responding in two ways to the loss of a parish priest – some are fearful for the future and other are really feeling empowered by it.
"But it's not my goal to produce recommendations or anything like that, but I do hope to be able to present something of use to the diocese."
A former teacher, Regina hopes completion of her PhD will launch a career in academia.
“I would really like to become a university lecturer. Learning has been a part of my life for a long time. I was primary school teacher and a tutor for 16 years. I like learning and explaining things for people and continuing scholarly work also appeals to me.”
Having completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at USQ, Regina is very familiar with the University.
“What I enjoy most about USQ is the personal relationships you can get with your lecturers - they know your face and your name. I can walk down a corridor and a lecturer who taught me history ten years ago will say ‘Hi Regina’.
“USQ also works very hard to include postgrad students in the collegial program and professional development, like access to courses on how to get published in a journal etc.”
Regina says prospective research students should be prepared to work hard.
“However hard you have worked up to now, it will be harder still. It requires even greater effort, but that shouldn’t prevent you from coming along, because there is a great deal of support for you and your project.
“But try to remember to have some balance – it’s only three years, but the work/life balance is hard to maintain.”