In of it, independent of the process

In
order to conduct this research appropriately, I had to adopt an epistemological
position so that I would identity my goal of the research, to be clearer of the
objectives of the research and to have a sense of what kinds of things it is
possible for me to find out (Taylor, Robert, & DeVault, 2016). An epistemological
position is positivism where, “the external world itself determines absolutely
the one and only correct view that can be taken of it, independent of the
process or circumstances of viewing” (Kirk & Miller, 1986). It does not esteem
the understanding, the interpretation and the meaning given by the participants
and also, the researcher. On the other hand, social constructivism places
primary importance on the social meanings people attach to the world around
them. Blumer (1969) stated that in social constructionism, people react toward
things, including other people, according to the meanings these things have for
them. He added that people learn how to see the world from other people and
they develop shared meanings of objects and people in their lives. He also
indicated that social actors attribute meanings to themselves and their
surroundings through a process of interpretation (Blumer, 1969).

My
research is influenced from priests who continuously undergo various
experiences, and although they can be very similar to each other, they give
various interpretation to those experiences. Although the priests administer
their ministry in the same diocese, the meaning and the experience of that
ministry varies from one person to another. This can be a result of various
variables which are discussed throughout this study. Furthermore, I will
discuss what is the meaning, structure, and essence of the lived experience of
the pastoral ministry for the priests. Taking a social constructionist position,
it supports that knowledge is closely tangled with social processes and social
structures, thus, “the ways we have of understanding the world are not
arbitrary, but shaped by power relationships” (M. Breheny & Stephens, 2008).

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Social
constructivism

I
adopt a social constructivist approach, as this draws attention on human experience,
including perception, which is mediated historically, culturally and
linguistically. Particularly, what we observe and undergo must be understood as
a specific reading of these conditions (Willig, 2013). Therefore, when one reflects on what
the priest experiences, one has to take into consideration from where he is
coming from and his background; how he perceives his surrounding and the
interpretations which he gives to his experiences. Hence, an integral part of
our understanding is the individual perspective and personal interpretation of
information (McLeod J. , Counselling research in counselling and psychotherapy (2nd
Ed), 2011).

Social
constructionism originated as an attempt to come to terms with the nature of
reality. This theory perceives knowledge and truth as created and not
discovered by the mind (Andrews, 2012). Steedman (2000) notes that individuals
or groups of individuals define this reality. Most of what is known and most of
the knowing that is done is concerned with trying to make sense of what it is
to be human, as opposed to scientific knowledge (Steedman,
2000).
Hence what is known about the reality of the priests in Malta is through the
priests themselves as they define their own reality and communicate it by
giving it their own sense.

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