Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Religious Education, PhD

First Advisor

David Sedlacek

Second Advisor

Alina Baltazar

Third Advisor

Luana Greulich


This study was initiated with the primary objective of delving deep into the spiritual experiences of individuals living with cognitive impairments. The research was centered on seven young adults with cognitive impairment who were members of the Christian communities of faith and resided in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. The study focused on giving voice to these young people since there were no studies about the spirituality of people with cognitive impairment done in central Europe. The hermeneutic phenomenological approach was chosen as the research method due to its capacity for facilitating personal interactions, thus enabling a comprehensive understanding of the lived experiences of these individuals. The researcher tried to be an objective observer but as in all phenomenological research, the researcher's life journey and worldview were taken into account. The data collection method employed semi-structured and unstructured interviews, which yielded statements that formed the basis of the analysis. Additionally, this study provides detailed participant profiles, offering a contextual backdrop for their narratives within the framework of their individual personalities and life contexts.

As the interviews progressed, certain themes started to emerge. Upon revisiting and reflecting upon the statements of the participants, a deeper understanding emerged regarding the remarkable spiritual capacity exhibited by these individuals. Their narratives delved into profound philosophical questions, encompassing concepts of morality, guilt, and their existential roles within the world. Their quest extended beyond the mere search for God; it was a simultaneous journey of self-discovery guided by divine influence. Remarkably, their endeavor encompassed a dual mission: self-improvement not only for personal growth but also for the enhancement of their relationship with God and their commitment to the welfare of their fellow beings.

The narratives offered a perspective transcending self-centeredness, in stark contrast to the ego's typical self-prioritization. These individuals demonstrated an innate selflessness, readily extending support and assistance to others while acknowledging their own imperfections. Their yearning for a reality beyond the confines of the present world coexisted with a keen awareness of their own limitations. The central finding of this study lies in the profound depth of their cognitive and emotional capacities and in the fact that indeed, in the words of one of the participants, “we are not so different and we are all equal”. -- Their unwavering connection with God, even in the face of adversity, serves as a poignant testament to their steadfast faith. This connection illuminates their resilience in the face of challenges. There are implications for Christian communities, families, and wider society in connection to the unused potential of people with cognitive impairment. This research unequivocally underscores their ability to forge a spiritual connection with God—an active and transformative interaction that enriches not only their own spiritual journeys but also the broader tapestry of the congregational experience.

Subject Area

Cognition disorders; Learning disabilities; Mild cognitive impairment ; Youth--Religious life; Youth--Diseases--Psychological aspects