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About the Department

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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


Theology and Ministry Within the Augustinian Tradition

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

In fidelity to St. Augustine’s theological reasoning in interaction with the religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions of his time, Christian theology and ministry in the Augustinian tradition are living, enduring ways of understanding and of practice that continue to be refined, developed, and extended as they 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 and ministerial studies within the Augustinian tradition aim to relate faith and culture for our time as Augustine did for his. Theology and ministry within the Augustinian tradition thus seek wisdom and truth

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

probing rigorously, with their 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.

As Augustine put it, theological knowing is "understanding what we believe," that is, as a critical, systematic reflection on the life of faith. In the Augustinian tradition, theology and ministry are both speculative and practical and distinctive in their emphasis on the union of mind and heart.

Faith Engaging Culture

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

Our Teaching and Learning Paradigm

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

  • is consonant with biblical (and, therefore, incarnational) imaging of personal involvement and mutuality reflecting the quality of truth that draws us into community: 
  • is holistic and humanistic; 
  • unites heart and mind, love and knowledge, practice and theory;
  • authenticates inner- and inter-personal experiences; 
  • responds to human restlessness; 
  • fosters moral reasoning; 
  • invites cultivating one’s self; 
  • develops the desire to search out the unknown;
  • seeks unity in humility; and 
  • is a transforming experience.

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.

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 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.



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 use 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.