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Spirituality in expatriate experience and coping in mission

Michał Wilczewski (Faculty of Applied Linguistics, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland)
Zbigniew Wróblewski (Faculty of Philosophy, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland)
Mariusz Wołońciej (Department of Psychology, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland)
Arkadiusz Gut (Department of Cognitive Science, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland)
Ewelina Wilczewska (Technical School, The Constitution of 3 May High School Complex, Iława, Poland)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 25 July 2020

Issue publication date: 25 August 2020




The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the role of spirituality, understood as a personal relationship with God, in missionary intercultural experience.


We conducted narrative interviews with eight Polish consecrated missionaries in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay. We used thematic analysis to establish spirituality in missionary experience and narrative analysis to examine sensemaking processes.


Missionary spirituality was defined by a personal relationship with God as a source of consolation, psychological comfort, strength to cope with distressing experiences, and Grace promoting self-improvement. It compensated for the lack of family and psychological support and enhanced psychological adjustment to the environment perceived as dangerous. Spirituality helped missionaries deal with cultural challenges, traumatic and life-threatening events. Traumatic experiences furthered their understanding of the mission and triggered a spiritual transition that entailed a change in their life, attitudes and behavior.

Research limitations/implications

Comparative research into religious vs nonreligious individual spirituality in the experience across various types of expats in various locations could capture the professional and cultural specificity of individual spirituality. Research is also needed to link spirituality with expat failure.

Practical implications

Catholic agencies and institutions that dispatch missionaries to dangerous locations should consider providing professional psychological assistance. Narrative interviewing could be used to enhance missionaries' cultural and professional self-awareness, to better serve the local community. Their stories of intercultural encounters could be incorporated into cross-cultural training and the ethical and spiritual formation of students and future expats.


This study captures a spiritual aspect of intercultural experience of under-researched expats. It offers a model of the involvement of individual spirituality in coping in mission.



The project is funded by the Minister of Science and Higher Education within the program under the name “Regional Initiative of Excellence” in 2019-2022, project number: 028/RID/2018/19, the amount of funding: 11 742 500 PLN.


Wilczewski, M., Wróblewski, Z., Wołońciej, M., Gut, A. and Wilczewska, E. (2020), "Spirituality in expatriate experience and coping in mission", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 229-248.



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