Certificate in Pastoral Ministry

First Impressions

graduate CMI interns. group photo. male and female students

The certificate program is jointly administered by the Graduate Program in Theology and the Center for Pastoral Ministry Education.

It is independent of the M.A. in Theology degree program and combines academic studies in theology and pastoral ministry with practical training in ministerial contexts.

You may be enrolled in the Certificate program only or pursue it in combination with our M.A. in Theology Program or also our Campus Ministry Graduate Internship Program.

Courses are taught by faculty members of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies.

The program combines studies in Theology, Counseling, Education, and Pastoral Ministry with practical training in campus ministry.


  • 2 courses (6 credit hours) in Pastoral Ministry and Counseling Practice.
  • 4 courses (12 credit hours) in Religious/Theological Education, Interfaith Studies, and Systematic/Fundamental Theology.

»Program Requirements Fact Sheet

»Course Distribution Worksheet


In order to prepare you for ministry in parishes, schools and other settings, each of the four Pastoral Ministry and Counseling Practice courses includes a supervised Ministerial Field Practicum in a setting approved by the course instructor.

Like the courses in Pastoral Ministry and Counseling Practice, the practicum normally spans 4 semesters. You are responsible for obtaining your placement and must complete a Practicum Contract. Villanova offers unique, but limited opportunities for completing the Practicum in Campus Ministry.

For more information, please contact the Director of the Center for Pastoral Ministry Education.

We design our courses as small seminars, with a maximum enrollment of fifteen students. The small size creates an atmosphere in which students and faculty work and learn together. It also allows everyone to network easily with peers and faculty.

For course distribution requirements, please also consult the Course Distribution Worksheet.

Courses in Pastoral Ministry

We offer four courses (1.5 credit hours each) in Pastoral Ministry and Counseling Practice. You take the four courses sequentially. To facilitate learning across diverse depths of knowledge and levels of experience, each course has 1st and 2nd year students enrolled. We organize the courses according to content units rotating on a four-semester basis; each ministry course offers distinct content.


Our pastoral ministry courses prepare you to

  • acquire advanced understanding of the nature of lay ministry and the relationship and interplay between theology and ministry, tradition and practice;
  • learn about contemporary practices of lay ministry;
  • develop competencies in pastoral analysis, ministry skills, and theological reflection on the practice of lay ministry;
  • articulate a theory and a method of lay ministry;
  • develop ministry strategies in light of contemporary cultural and ecclesial needs;
  • articulate and reflect upon ones emerging sense of a personal call to lay ministry.


Pastoral ministry courses present an integrated approach to the academic, human, theological, and spiritual dimensions of Christian ministry. You will explore

  • the contemporary theology of ecclesial ministry, its scriptural and historical roots, and give special attention to the origin, evolution, and function of ministry within the Christian Church;
  • the Church’s teachings on baptismal vocation and the universal call to holiness in relationship to the role of ministers as leaders within a faith community;
  • theological, spiritual, and ministerial formation that takes into account the whole person and considers all aspects of life: spirit, mind, heart, emotions, and body; and
  • theological trends in the 20th and 21st century leading to, and originating from, the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) and the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world (Gaudium et Spes) and their place in the development of contemporary ecclesiological understanding.

Other topics include the ministry of Jesus; the Church and her ministry in the world; the role of laity in ecclesial ministry; stages of faith development; prayer and spirituality; Catholic social teaching; professional skills and ethical practices in pastoral ministry; pastoral practices - typical and emergent in the Roman Catholic tradition; leadership models of ministry; and theological reflection on ministerial experience.

  • Students in the Certificate in Pastoral Ministry program may apply for acceptance to a master's degree program. Acceptance is dependent upon good academic standing in the Certificate program.
  • Students who have completed the requirements for the Certificate in Pastoral Ministry program and maintained a 3.0 GPA will, upon request, be accepted into a master's program. Students may transfer the four theology courses taken in fulfillment of the requirements for the Certificate to the Master’s degree program.
  • Students who have completed the requirements for the Certificate in Pastoral Ministry program and maintained a 3.0 GPA will, upon request, be accepted into the Joint Master of Arts in Theology w/ Certificate in Pastoral Ministry program. Students may transfer all courses taken in fulfillment of the requirements for the Certificate to the combined program.
  • Students enrolled in a master's program who do not wish to complete the degree program but have completed the requirements for the Certificate, will receive the Certificate.
  • Students with Special Student status wishing to continue in a Certificate program must petition our Director of Graduate Admission for a reevaluation of their status.

You may enroll as a full-time student and complete the program in two years. If you plan to study part-time you may enroll in as little as 1 course per semester and take up to 6 years to complete all degree requirements. To permit part-time students to work during the day, most courses meet in the evening.

Review Our Program Information

Please look around our web-site to find out as much as possible about us and our students, our program, and Villanova's and our department's services for our students. It is important to us that you consider Villanova a good fit for your academic journey.

Review your Academic Qualification

All applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by one of the regional accrediting agencies. In addition, we ordinarily require

(1)  eighteen credits in Theology, Religion, or the equivalent; or evidence of 5 years working experience in the fields of Theology or Religion (e.g., ministry, teaching, administration, education); and

(2)  a 3.0 (or higher) GPA.

Please review all admission requirements and contact us if you do not meet some of them.

Also, all applicants must have a personal interview with the Coordinator of the Campus Ministry Graduate Internship Program (CMI) who supervises the practicum.

Contact the Director of Graduate Admission and the CMI Coordinator

We heartily invite you to contact our Director of Graduate Admission discuss your unique situation, qualifications, and goals. Also, you are welcome to visit us in person if you live nearby or plan on stopping by in Philadelphia. If you cannot visit in person, you can find detailed information on Villanova's campus and community, as well as the surrounding Philadelphia-area by taking a virtual tour.

Because the program is jointly administered with Villanova's Center for Pastoral Ministry Education, we encourage you to also contact the Campus Ministry Internship Coordinator, who supervises the practicum.

1    Review Admission Requirements and Deadlines

2    Complete the Online Application

3    What Happens Next?

Upon receiving all your application material we will review your application and submit a recommendation concerning acceptance to the Office of Graduate Studies. We aim to notify you of our acceptance decision by email and regular mail within one week of receiving your complete application.

Parallel to our review in the department, your application also will be reviewed by the Director of the Center for Pastoral Ministry Education who supervises the practicum. The Director will schedule an interview with you.