Master of Arts in Theology with Certificate in Pastoral Ministry

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This innovative program offers the opportunity to combine our M.A. in The­o­lo­gy with our Cer­ti­fi­cate in Pas­to­ral Mi­nistry. Stu­dents study the­o­lo­gy and its mi­nis­te­rial di­men­sions within Vil­la­nova's Au­gustinian tra­di­tion of learn­ing with the heart and the mind; in­te­grate their faith into a life sup­por­ted by the aca­demic and ministerial en­vi­ron­ment of Vil­la­no­va Uni­versity; and prepare themselves to become responsible lay ministers, educators, and leaders.

Ministry Training at VU

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.

Ministry in the 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 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 a journey seeking truth (veritas); a dialogue with learners different from ourselves (unitas); and 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 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.

Program Learning Goals

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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.

Program Requirements

Full-Time 2 yrs
Part-Time 6 yrs
Credit Requirements 42
Foundation Credits 9-12*
Elective Credits 6-9**
Theory & Practice of Ministry Credits 6
Sacraments & Church Credits 6
Religious/Theological Education Credits 6
Christian Spirituality Credits 3
Interfaith/Intercultural Studies Credits 3
Extra-Departmental Credits ≤ 3
Credit Transfer ≤ 6
Portfolio Yes
Field Practicum or Internship Yes
GPA 3.0

* Students with ≥12 credits in theology or religion on transcript prior to program admission complete 9 foundation credits. Others complete 15 credits.
** Foundation credits are prerequisite for electives.

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Two Tracks

Both program tracks include a supervised Ministerial Field Practicum.

This program enrolls you in the Villanova Campus Ministry Graduate Internship Program and prepares you for lay ministerial leadership with a particular emphasis on campus ministry. Students receive tuition remission, a stipend, and free housing.

If you enroll in the On-Campus Internship track, the practicum requirement is satisfied by performing the duties associated with the Campus Ministry Internship Program (CMI).

For more information about the internship and application information, please contact the CMI Director.

This program enrolls you in a supervised Ministerial Field Practicum off campus approved by the Director of the Campus Ministry Graduate Internship Program (CMI).

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 CMI Director.

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We offer four courses in Theory and Practice of Ministry. Students take the courses sequentially. We organize them according to content units rotating on a four-semester basis; each course offers distinct content.

Courses Learning Goals

Our pastoral ministry courses enable students to explain the nature of lay

  • ministry and the relationship and interplay between theology and ministry, tradition and practice;
  • 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;
  • evaluate contemporary practices of lay ministry.

Courses Content

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

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