Certificate in Pastoral Ministry

The program is:

  • Jointly administered by the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and the Center for Pastoral Ministry Education.
  • Advances theological and ministerial studies within our Augustinian tradition and prepares you to become a responsible lay minister, educator, and leader.
  • Requires you to develop a concentration in Lay Ministry and take courses that fulfill the specific needs and professional objectives of this concentration.
  • Independent of the MA in Theology degree program. You may be enrolled in the Certificate program only or pursue the Certificate in combination with our MA in Theology Program or also our Campus Ministry Graduate Internship Program.
  • Modeled after the inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary nature of our MA in Theology program.
  • Combines academic studies in Theology and Pastoral Ministry with practical training in ministerial contexts.

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

Contemporary ecclesial ministry is the continuation of Jesus’ ministry in the world. As confirmed in the Church’s history, new ministries and new ministers are called to serve the evolving needs of faith communities. Ecclesial ministry is “the Church in the heart of the world and bring[s] the world into the heart of the Church” (quoted from Co-Workers in the Vineyard) as ministers serve the needs of the world today. Ministers working in and for the Church require support, education, and encouragement in this special role in the Church.

Our lay ministry programs responds to the growing need to serve the Church by educating the people of God and training leaders through rigorous theological and ministerial education. We offer an education in the Augustinian Tradition that advances Lay Ministerial Education in the U.S.A. and serves the Church.

Augustinian Tradition

As Augustine put it, theological knowing is “understanding what we believe,” that is, as a critical, systematic reflection on the life of faith. However, in our Augustinian tradition, knowing is both speculative and practical and distinctive in its emphasis on the union of mind and heart (or knowledge and love, theory and practice). Because, as Blaise Pascal says, “the heart has its reasons that reason does not know,” learners in our lay ministry programs engage their minds and deepen their lives by integrating the speculative (mind) and practical (heart) in their studies. Learning in the Augustinian tradition “strives to arrive at action through reflection on experience taking into account accumulated wisdom” (McCloskey, Cracked Pots). In light of Augustine’s emphasis on the will, “authentic Augustinian pedagogy demands that disposition and learning are put into action through practice. This practice reflects Augustine’s own arrival at effective learning” (McCloskey, Cracked Pots).

Practicing the Augustinian ideal of unity (unitas), truth (veritas), and compassion (caritas), the proposed program nurtures a way of learning and knowing (mind) that is infused with care and love (heart) or, to use an Augustinian metaphor, knowing with the heart and the mind. This particular way of knowing is holistic and humanistic; unites and transforms heart and mind, love and knowledge, practice and theory; authenticates inner- and inter-personal experiences; fosters moral reasoning; invites cultivating one’s self; and develops the desire to search out the unknown.

In other words, students in lay ministry programs pursue the Augustinian way of knowing, which is (1) a journey seeking truth (veritas); (2) a dialogue with learners different from ourselves (unitas); and (3) a transformational wholeheartedness (caritas) that serves (ministers to) others.

Meeting the needs of Lay Ministerial Education in the U.S.A.

Preparing students to become competent, knowledgeable leaders in ministry, the proposed program is highly competitive in the market of north-American ministerial education. Yet, the program is distinctive in that it formulates and advances ministry within the Augustinian tradition, and does so in unique ways of structuring ministerial education. Flowing from the Augustinian vision of reasoning and learning, the program is

  • inclusive of all dimensions of faith, worship, and human experience, that is, of theory and praxis, or learning and service; and
  • interdisciplinary and integrative.

With the integration of theological and ministerial ways of knowing as objectives, the program introduces a new and distinctive way of "doing theology" on campus, which is, in essence, an ancient Augustinian concept. In particular, the program studies the relations between theological knowing and ministerial expressions of that knowledge from three perspectives by promoting competency in theology, lay ministry, and counseling.

Meeting the needs of the Church

The program meets ecclesial needs in innovative ways. It

  • reflects on Christian faith and practice and develops new possibilities for Christian experience;
  • emphasizes the ministerial contextualization of “faith seeking understanding;”
  • places ministry in dialogue with theology and theology in dialogue with ministry;
  • enriches Christian service and enhances discipleship; and
  • it encourages students to pursue a career in ministry by preparing them to become knowledgeable leaders in the Church who competently make use of their theological education in professional ministry as they serve the evolving needs of faith communities.

The program offers support, education, and engagement in lay ministry. It introduces you to theological and ministerial knowledge and practice in the Augustinian tradition, which emphasizes the union of the mind and heart.

You will engage in these tasks with faculty dedicated to providing a Christian intellectual and moral environment; integrating contemporary thought, experience, and method in course work and ministerial practica; and teaching skills informed by the Augustinian tradition and rooted in Roman Catholic lay ecclesial ministry.

In this learning environment, students in our lay ministry programs pursue academic learning objectives similar to students in the master's program.

Our students:

  1. understand theological arguments and their significance for lay ministry;
  2. investigate the resources of the Christian ecclesiological and ministerial traditions in light of the questions raised by contemporary culture and the continuing challenges of human life;
  3. develop knowledge of biblical, historical, ecclesial, and theological perspectives on Christian ministry (with a primary but not exclusive focus on the Roman Catholic tradition);
  4. trace the continuity and changes in Christian ministry from biblical roots, through historical developments, to contemporary forms of practice;
  5. comprehend the Church’s teachings on the universal call to holiness, including the concept of baptismal vocation, and discern their pastoral application and relationship to the role of ministers as leaders in faith communities;
  6. demonstrate familiarity with academic practices of inquiry and discovery for professional ecclesial lay ministry;
  7. participate in systematic theological reflection on ministerial practice and experience and in systematic and critical reflection on one’s pastoral presence, skills, and gifts in ministerial service;
  8. engage their mind and deepen their Christian lives by integrating the speculative (mind) and practical (heart) in their theological and ministerial studies and practices;
  9. develop knowledge and skills in ecclesial ministry and value the Roman Catholic Augustinian tradition; advance academic ways of understanding Christian belief and practice by doing theology as “faith seeking understanding”, that is, as a critical, systematic reflection on the life of faith;
  10. recognize Christian theology as a living, enduring way of understanding that continues to be refined, developed, and extended as it engages the contemporary world;
  11. respond to Augustine’s call to the restless search for wisdom by responding to a relationship offered from beyond the boundaries of human existence;
  12. deliberate and form judgments about the implications of Christian moral principles for building a more just, sustainable and peaceful world;
  13. value pastoral practices that clarify the gospel for contemporary culture and promote the care of persons in the Church; and
  14. assume positions as productive, ethical, intellectual, and socially responsible citizens, leaders, teachers, and ministers.

The program combines academic studies in Theology, Counseling, Education, and Lay Ministry with practical training in campus ministry. Please see the Program Requirements Checklist for specifics.


  • 2 courses (6 credit hours) in Theology.
  • 4 courses (12 credit hours) in Lay Ministry, Counseling, and Education.


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 ministerial setting approved by the course instructor.

Like the courses in Pastoral Ministry and Counseling Practice, the practicum 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 Coordinator of the Campus Ministry Graduate Internship Program.

Study Full-time and Part-time

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.

Other Requirements

You are also required to attend a Research Proseminar in the fall semester of your first year of studies, and pass a Comprehensive Examination.

One Required Course (3 credit hours):

  • Foundation in Theology (THL 8000; offered every fall semester)

One Elective Course (3 credit hours):

  • Christian Spirituality or Pastoral Care of the Sick or US Catholicism

Four Required Courses in Lay Ministry and Counseling Practice (the equivalent of 6 credit hours):

  • Pastoral Ministry and Counseling Practice I-IV

One required Courses in Pastoral Counseling (3 credit hours):

  • Sacraments

One required Courses in Religious Education (3 credit hours):

  • Education and Ministry

Courses in Lay Ministry and Counseling Practice

We offer one course (1.5 credit hours) in Pastoral Ministry and Counseling Practice per semester. You take the four courses sequentially. Thus, classroom instruction in Lay Ministry spans four semesters. 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 courses in Pastoral Ministry and Counseling Practice 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.


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

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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
  4. 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 the MA in Theology 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 the MA 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 combined MA in Theology and Pastoral Ministry program. Students may transfer all courses taken in fulfillment of the requirements for the Certificate to the combined program.
  • Students enrolled in the MA 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.

1  Review 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. Feel free to contact us and request additional information about our program.

Of course, we heartily invite you to contact our Director of Graduate Admission for program specific information or members of our Graduate Theology Student Committee. And you are most 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.

2  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.

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

3  Contact the Director of Admissions and CMI Coordinator

In our department, the Director of Graduate Admissions guides all applicants through the program admission process. We recommend that you contact the director in person, by email or telephone to discuss your unique situation, qualifications, and goals.

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, to inquire about the Certificate and discuss your situation, qualifications, and goals.

4  Apply for Admission

Please complete the online application before you submit additional application materials. We need a completed application to accurately record and match your supplemental material. Thus, without completed online application we will not be able to keep you informed about the status of your application material.

5  Submit Your Application Material

What's Needed
Online Application yes
Application Fee (non-refundable) $50
Resume optional
Writing Sample optional
Letters of Recommendation 2
Interview yes
Transcripts yes
GRE (or equivalent) no
Statement of Objectives (500-700 words) yes
Evidence of 5 years working experience in the fields of Theology or Religion (e.g., ministry, teaching, administration, education). if applicable

We do not require that you submit all application materials together. However, we consider applications only when all materials have been received. Application materials that cannot be submitted online must be sent (mail, email or fax) to:

Office of Graduate Studies
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Villanova University
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085
Fax: (610) 519-7096
Email Documents to: gradinformation@villanova.edu

The items listed above are all we need to review your application. Please do not send unnecessary supporting documents. If you would like us to know about relevant experience or activities, feel free to include that information in your personal statement.

6  What Happens Next?

Upon receiving all your application material, our Graduate Program Committee reviews your application and submits a recommendation concerning acceptance and matriculation status 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.

Caveat: To ensure the high quality of our joint program, we admit a limited number of applicants. In the case that we are unable to accommodate all applicants, we will create a waitlist. We will notify you of our acceptance decision by the end of the fourth week following the posted application deadline.

7  Enroll in Your Classes

As soon as the Office of Graduate Studies admits you to the program you are free to enroll in your classes.