About the Department

collage of student faces

Mission Statement

We are a multidisciplinary academic faculty within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and rooted in a Roman Catholic, Augustinian heritage. We investigate Christian and non-Christian religious practices, beliefs, and traditions as we explore faith, reason, and culture in their many, textured relationships. Moreover, we emphasize the study of Catholicism in dialogue with other Christian traditions and world religions. With this endeavor, the Department serves as a resource for the University community, the extended local community, the national and global communities, and the Church.

We are committed to the Augustinian vision of “understanding what we believe” (On Free Choice of the Will 1.4). Just as Augustine engaged the cultural, intellectual, and religious traditions of his time to elucidate the nature of faith, we seek “the wisdom of truth” (veritas) in dialogue with learners different from ourselves (unitas) and with care for the world and its peoples (caritas). In so doing, we pursue a distinctively Augustinian way of knowing and loving God and neighbor that is holistic, integrative, and transformational.

We involve students of every religion, culture, and worldview in examining the enduring quest of faith seeking understanding. This quest is Christianity’s gift to a liberal arts education and a cornerstone of the Villanova experience. Furthermore, we regard religious, theological, and cultural literacy as the mark of a person educated in the Augustinian tradition and an indispensable resource for transforming global society into one enlightened by compassion, justice, and peace.

April 02, 2014

Graduate Vision Statement

“If love finds a place within you, the fullness of knowledge will follow”

Augstine, Commentary on the Psalms, 80,2


Doing theology within the Augustinian tradition

Studying theology within the Augustinian tradition is a crucial component of doing theology at Villanova. The Augustinian tradition draws upon the legacy of St. Augustine’s passionate pursuit of truth[1], an intentional endeavor[2] that summons the union of mind and heart[3], correlates faith with reason[4], builds unity in the midst of diversity[5], and proceeds in the conviction that all authentic human wisdom is ultimately in harmony with divine wisdom[6].

In fidelity to St. Augustine’s theological reasoning in interaction with the religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions of his time, Christian theology in the Augustinian tradition is a living, enduring way of understanding that continues to be refined, developed, and extended as it engages the contemporary world.

In other words, enriched by the tradition of St. Augustine, whose theology powerfully related faith and culture, theology is the study of Christianity as lived experience, and theological studies within the Augustinian tradition aims to relate faith and culture for our time as Augustine did for his. Theology within the Augustinian tradition thus seeks wisdom and truth[7]

  • in light of Christian religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions,
  • in unity with Philosophy, Liberal Studies, and the Sciences[8],
  • in the service of the Church[9],

probing rigorously, with its own canons of inquiry and verification, broader questions of relevance to Christian belief and practice, the unity and prophetic mission of the body of Christ, life as a whole, and the discovery of God[10].

As Augustine put it, theological knowing is "understanding what we believe," that is, as a critical, systematic reflection on the life of faith[11]. However, in the Augustinian tradition, it is both speculative and practical and distinctive in its emphasis on the union of mind and heart[12].

Faith engaging culture

"Faith engaging culture" meets the Augustinian vision. It informs those seeking to fulfill the human vocation to be co-creators[1] with the Origin of Divine Wisdom. It understands theology to be part of culture[2] and energetically[3] accepts the challenge to render faith[4] intelligible and meaningful in our contemporary cultural contexts[5], shaped by the latest advances in modern science, natural history, and critical theory[6].

Our teaching/learning paradigm

From the Augustinian tradition arises a distinct teaching/learning paradigm. Learning is understood as nurturing a way of knowing (mind) that is infused with care and love (heart). The way of knowing[1] within the Augustinian tradition

  • is consonant with biblical (and, therefore, incarnational) imaging of personal involvement[2] and mutuality reflecting the quality of truth[3] that draws us into community[4]: 
  • is holistic[5] and humanistic[6]; 
  • unites heart and mind[7], love and knowledge[8], practice and theory[9]; 
  • authenticates inner- and inter-personal experiences[10]; 
  • responds to human restlessness[11]; 
  • fosters moral reasoning[12]; 
  • invites cultivating one’s self[13]; 
  • develops the desire to search out the unknown[14]; 
  • seeks unity[15] in humility[16]; and 
  • is a transforming experience[17].

In summary: the way of knowing is a journey seeking truth (veritas) and discovering understanding; a dialogue with learners different from ourselves (unitas) leading to understanding; and a transformational wholeheartedness (caritas) opening the doors of understanding.[18]

Sources and Resources

The graduate vision was developed from observations by members of the University community and other sources.

Undergraduate Vision Statement

“There is no better way to pursue the truth than by questioning and answering”

Augustine, Soliloquies, II.7.14


Understanding what we believe

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies is committed to the time-honored definition of its task as "understanding what we believe" (Augustine) or, as Anselm of Canterbury later reformulates, “faith seeking understanding”.

This task draws upon the rich legacy of St. Augustine’s passionate pursuit of truth, a purposeful endeavor that evokes the union of mind and heart, links faith with rational reflection and, in dialogue with culture, builds unity in the midst of diversity. Thus, the department accepts “faith seeking understanding” as a process that takes place in specific cultural contexts that also must be analyzed.

Understanding ourselves in relationship to others

Villanova University exists within a world of profound religious, theological, racial, economic, and cultural diversity, some of which can be seen on campus. Globalization and information technologies effectively collapse walls and barriers that once defined the boundaries and borders of our lives and of the disciplines within which we have learned to study. We, therefore, have an opportunity to open windows for understanding ourselves in relationship to others, the social order, and the social divisiveness and violent confrontations rooted in deep economic, political, ethnic, and theological/religious worldviews (cf. Gaudium et Spes 37). Christianity itself is changing in the midst of these forces that bring faith into question. It is crucial that students recognize that what they believe has implications in relation to the lives of others in our own society and across the globe (particularly poor and marginalized people), the planet, and diverse religious traditions and cultures.

Theological and religious literacy is not only the mark of a liberally educated person but also an indispensable resource helping us to understand ourselves in order to empathize with one another and contribute to shaping a more just, compassionate, inclusive, and peaceful global society. Students and teachers thus have a triple task: to be steeped in the rich tradition of Christianity and the faith-claims that it makes; to understand how the Christian construal of reality interacts with and has a continuing impact on the global society today and for the future; and to engage in a thoughtful and practical inculturation of religion/theology.

Rendering faith(s)/religion(s) meaningful and relevant

Theology and Religious Studies courses acquire their unique significance in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Core Curriculum because of their inner need to make the dialogue between faith(s)/religion(s) and culture(s) authentic. Understanding the substantial relationship of faith(s)/religion(s) and culture(s), instructors accept the challenge to render faith(s)/religion(s) intelligible, meaningful, and relevant in diverse contemporary cultural contexts – both local and global.

With their own canons of inquiry and verification and with increasing degrees of methodological complexity, theological and religious studies disciplines probe rigorously broader questions of relevance to Christian belief and practice, the prophetic mission of the body of Christ, the union of mind and heart, life as a whole, and the discovery of God who is at the center of it all. This emphasis is characteristic of the University itself: “Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, the University is grounded in the wisdom of the Catholic intellectual tradition and advances a deeper understanding of the relationship between faith and reason.” (Villanova Mission Statement)

Statement rev. 05/05/2017

Statement on Diversity & Inclusion

“The Truth is neither mine nor yours, so that it can be yours and mine”

St. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms, 103

Motivated by love for God, for human beings created in God’s image, and for all creation, the members of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies honor and preserve practices of diversity and inclusion in their manifold forms. We understand diversity to be the kaleidoscope of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, veteran status, disability, socioeconomic status, or political views. We understand inclusion to promote the vision of diversity by respecting the inherent dignity of all people—their talents, values, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living—and by empowering and uniting them.

We believe that diversity and inclusion practices are unique and central tasks of theology and the study of religion at their best. They protect differences while simultaneously bridging them. Thus, we recognize them as integral components of our mission and as essential elements of the ongoing intellectual, social, and spiritual development, in community, of every one of our members, consonant with the vision of an inclusive church.

This vision of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accountability applies to all faculty, staff, administrators, and students as well as to all departmental programs, curricula, and events. Accordingly, we aspire to create vibrant communities that foster respect and appreciation for the spectrum of human diversity and, free from harassment of any nature, a genuine understanding of the many differences that enrich them. Likewise, we aspire to integrate diversity and inclusion practices into all levels of instructional life. In particular, in our courses and events, we cultivate sensitivity to the variety of human experiences present on campus and in global society, nourish receptivity to knowledge generated through intercultural connections, and promote growth in love and commitment for the creation of a sustainable world wherein all creation will flourish.



Program Learning Goals

Foundation Course (THL1000) Learning Goals

Goal 1

Articulate how theological concepts and religious practices and beliefs reciprocally interact with diverse cultural contexts, local and global.

Goal 2

Correlate theological/religious and cultural responses to existential life experiences such as friendship and loss, beauty and suffering, love and injustice.

Goal 3

Evaluate the significance of Christian practices, beliefs, and traditions for personal, communal, societal, and global living.


Revised 05/05/2017


Undergraduate Program (Major) Learning Goals

Goal 1

Gain an understanding of the purposes, central issues, and methods of inquiry standard in theological and religious studies as applied to faith engaging culture.

Objective A

Analyze fundamental issues that frame theological and religious inquiry using appropriate scholarly methods, with attention to diversity and inclusion within the issues.

Objective B

Use critical methods to read, analyze, and interpret diverse religious and theological texts (e.g., women, minorities, non-western) and related genres or media, art, and artifacts (e.g., prayer, mystical writings, autobiographies, film, music).

Goal 2

Engage Christianity, with attention to Roman Catholicism, as a living tradition of practices and beliefs that continues to be refined, developed, and extended through time in diverse cultural contexts.

Objective A

Demonstrate understanding of the unique vocabulary, foundational sources, theological beliefs, historical developments, and diverse thinkers in the Christian tradition, with attention to those that reflect on the experiences of power, privilege, and marginalization.

Objective B

Articulate how Christian practices and beliefs reciprocally interact with diverse cultural contexts, local and global.

Goal 3

Render theological concepts and religious practices and beliefs intelligible, meaningful, and relevant in contemporary cultural contexts as a basis for transformative action in the world, in dialogue with others.

Objective A

Recognize the complexity and diversity of religious practices and beliefs and seek to understand people whose values and senses of the sacred differ from their own.

Objective B

Evaluate the relevance of theology/religion for personal, communal, societal, and global living.

Revised 05/05/2017

Master's Degree Programs (M.A./M.T.S.) Learning Goals

Goal 1

Engaging Faith and Culture

Objective A

Engage theology informed by the breadth of theological and cultural traditions.

Objective B

Contextualize faith meaningfully within an analysis of contemporary culture, relating faith and culture for our time as Augustine did for his.

Goal 2

Integrating Knowledge

Objective A

Bring theological perspectives (and their methods of analysis) in dialogue with each other: biblical, historical and Augustinian, fundamental/systematic theological, cultural, ethical, spiritual, and ministerial.

Objective B

Integrate theological knowledge and experience in course work.

Goal 3

Learning in the Augustinian Tradition

Objective A

Nurture a way of knowing that is in­fused with care and love or, to use an Augustinian metaphor, knowing with the heart and the mind.

Objective B

Integrate faith into the social and cultural environment beyond the classroom.

Master of Arts in Ministry and Theology Program Learning Goals

Goal 1

Theological and ministerial knowledge in the Augustinian tradition.

Objective A

Explain theological arguments and their significance for lay ministry.

Objective B

Describe biblical, historical, ecclesial, and theological perspectives on Christian ministry (with a primary but not exclusive focus on the Roman Catholic tradition).

Objective C

Evaluate 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.

Objective D

Examine academic practices of inquiry and discovery for professional ecclesial lay ministry.

Goal 2

Spiritual growth and development.

Objective A

Discriminate Augustine’s call to the restless search for wisdom by actualizing relationships with God, the world, and its people.

Objective B

Engage one’s mind and deepen one’s Christian life by integrating the speculative (mind) and practical (heart) in one’s theological and ministerial studies and practices.

Objective C

Deliberate and form judgments about the implications of Christian moral principles for building a more just, sustainable and peaceful world.

Goal 3

Effectiveness in pastoral ministry and leadership.

Objective A

Evaluate pastoral practices that clarify the gospel for contemporary culture and promote the care of persons in the Church.

Objective B

Apply systematic theological reflection on ministerial practice and experience to systematic and critical reflection on one’s pastoral presence, skills, and gifts in ministerial service.

Objective C

Analyze 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.

Objective D

Assume positions as productive, ethical, intellectual, and socially responsible citizens, leaders, teachers, and ministers.

Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Theology Program Goals

Goal 1

Analyze culture(s) and the dimensions of faith and lived experience from interdisciplinary and integrative perspectives and develop new possibilities for Christian experience and knowledge.

Goal 2

Integrate theological knowing and cultural expressions of that knowledge. 

Goal 3

Evaluate theological knowing in the Augustinian tradition as both speculative and practical, and distinctive in its emphasis on the union of mind and heart.

Goal 4

Assume the role of a productive, ethical, intellectual, and socially responsible leader, scholar, and teacher.


Undergraduate Courses

The Foundation Course

As an integral part of the Arts and Sciences Core Curriculum, the foundation course THL1000 (Faith, Reason, and Culture) introduces students  to the rich living tradition of Christianity: the sources, traditions, practices, and major thinkers that have  shaped Christianity’s responses to the fundamental human questions that underlie all religions and shape  the human search for meaning. 

With a particular focus on Roman Catholicism, students engage Christianity as a living tradition of beliefs and practices that have developed over time in local and global cultural and religious contexts and that, loyal to the living God to which they point, are ready to be transformed again. Students engage Christian truth‐claims, themes, values, and witness as resources for analyzing and critically evaluating contemporary cultural challenges. In this course, students are equipped to appreciate the ongoing quest of Christian faith seeking understanding as it enters into conversation with all human knowledge and experience, including other faith/religious traditions.

Course Descriptions

Upper Division Courses

Course Descriptions

Independent Study Course

Students who would like to study material not offered in a regular course, design more specialized courses in which they can work individually with a faculty mentor, or seek to become involved in research with faculty members may pursue an Independent Study Course (THL 6400).

Before registering for this course, students must complete a form which details the content and the evaluation methodology of the independent study. Forms are available in the TRS Department main office.

Note: Only primary and secondary TRS majors may pursue an Independent Study course.

Capstone Courses

To enhance the academic experience in TRS programs we offer distinctive capstone courses. They differ in significant ways from other courses in that they lead students to reflect on the various components of their major/secondary major curricula and to achieve synthesis in significant culminating experiences.

Capstone Course I: Research Seminar, THL 6300

Students normally take the research seminar in the junior year. The seminar focuses on individual or group research projects that participants design with the help of a faculty facilitator. It emphasizes your active role in the learning process, which implies limited reliance on lectures and extra weight given to you using the methods of THL/RST disciplines to explore fields and topics of interest to you on your own. Rather than repeating others’ work, your will independently (individually or in groups) wrestle with the unknown, discover knowledge, develop expertise in confined fields of research, and present your research progress and product to your peers.

Capstone Course II: Advanced Seminar, THL 6500

Taken in the senior year the advanced seminar stands as the culminating experience of your studies in the major and secondary major. Using higher-order learning, in the seminar, you consolidate and synthesize knowledge by bringing THL/RST fields together or putting elements of theory and/or practice together in an original form. The seminar is organized around student-lead conversations informed by the central theme studied and advanced in all programs offered by the THL/RST department: Faith seeking understanding, engaging culture. Students wrestle with the relationships between faith, religion, theology, and culture as experienced and studied throughout their undergraduate career at Villanova. With the help of a faculty facilitator students choose the seminar topics and teach them to their peers, simultaneously learning to organize and facilitate discussions. Thus, the seminar involves students communicating their explorations or discoveries. In other words, this communication includes a final product, and its precise form will vary by topic, encompassing the possibility of artistic expression as well as customary forms of scholarly communication.

Graduate Courses

Course Descriptions

Course Schedules

Doctoral Seminars

Course Descriptions

Course Schedules

Statement of Effectiveness

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies offers comprehensive programming in undergraduate and graduate studies. Villanova’s Augustinian heritage is reflected in a “faith engaging culture” approach integrating the mind and heart in service of the church and world. We are in the process of employing a portfolio review system to assess each of our programs in light of their distinct learning goals. Theology and Religious Studies undergraduate majors pursue a wide array of careers including ministry, education, medicine, law, and graduate studies.

Master’s students find placements in ministry, education, and doctoral studies. The PhD in Theology program was launched in Fall 2016. The integral Heart of Teaching Program will prepare doctoral students for roles of educational leadership within the academy and beyond.