The Master of Divinity is a three-year academic and professional degree that meets the needs for both academic training and pastoral experience of those preparing for pastoral ministry in the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. To accomplish this purpose, the Jesuit School of Theology provides courses of instruction in theology and related disciplines, introduces students to the use of source materials and the practice of scholarly work and investigation, and provides opportunities for supervised experience in pastoral ministry. The M.Div. degree is the ordinary course of theological education and training for those preparing for ordination to presbyteral ministry.
The Jesuit School's Master of Divinity degree program is designed to enable graduates to:
- gain a broad theological foundation and hone it in light of assuming leadership roles within the church,
- develop a critical fidelity to the Roman Catholic tradition, in service of the faith that does justice,
- recognize the interplay between faith and culture in addressing theological and/or pastoral issues that emerge in diverse cultural contexts,
- develop a professional ministerial identity, which values collaborative leadership and shows commitment to ministerial ethics,
- grow and deepen in their relationship with God and in community, cultivating a spirituality that will sustain them in professional ministry.
The Jesuit School welcomes the application of all qualified persons who wish to pursue the Master of Divinity program.
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- The Bachelor of Arts degree or its academic equivalent.
- Nine semester hours or 12 quarter hours of philosophy. Typically, this prerequisite is satisfied by courses in the areas of history of philosophy, ethics, and systematic philosophy. Students preparing for ordination are required to have completed 24 semester units or 36 quarter hours of philosophy.
- The applicant should possess the personal maturity and faith commitment commensurate with preparation for full-time ministry. To this end, preference is given to applicants who have at least one year of post-college work experience, and at least part-time, ministerial experience.
The Master of Divinity degree requires the completion of 81 semester units of course work, including nine units of Field Education. No more than one-third of the course work may be taken on a pass-fail basis.
A student may expect to complete the Master of Divinity degree in three academic years, but must complete the program within six calendar years from the date of initial registration in the program. The normal full-time course load is 9-12 units per semester; in addition, up to 3 units may be taken each year during the January intersession.
The Jesuit School provides a spectrum of course offerings that enable the student to develop a solid theological foundation for future ministry. The academic advisor assists the student in the selection of courses. Together, they develop an academic plan that addresses the student’s specific needs and provides the diverse knowledge and awareness necessary for ministry in today’s Church.
The Master of Divinity curriculum is constructed around three theological syntheses. The first is comprised of foundations in Scripture, the history of Christianity, systematic theology and Christian ethics. The second emphasizes the application of theories and methods of theology for ministry. The third involves the integration of this material such that the student is able to articulate theologically informed and pastorally appropriate responses to varied ministerial situations.
Eighty-one hours of credit must be completed according to the following course distribution. M.Div. students also participate in a three-year cycle of integration seminars, which incorporates their ministerial formation into their academic program of study (this three-year cycle is outlined below, in the Ministerial Formation section).
Introductory Courses (24 units total)
- Bible (6)
- Society and Christian Ethics (6)
- Systematics (6)
- History (6)
Ministry Seminar and Ignatian Intercultural Pilgrimage (3 units)
During the intersession of the first year, students are required to participate in an Ignatian Intercultural Pilgrimage.
Years Two and Three:
Distribution Courses and Electives
(30 units total, including at least 6 units of praxis courses designed to assist students in honing pastoral skills and in reflecting on their experiences as ministers in a multicultural church. Students will be required to directly observe and/or draw upon various social contexts as part of their coursework):
- Bible (9)
- Systematics (9)
- Religion and Society (3)
- Electives (9)
Candidates for ordination will be required to take:
- Canon Law (3)
- Preaching (3)
- Celebrational Style (3)
- Confessional Counseling (3)
Other students will be required to take:
- Canon Law (3)
- Preaching or Lay Presiding (3)
- Pastoral Counseling or Spiritual Direction (3)
- A pastoral elective (3)
- The field education program is designed to help students develop competence in the practice of Christian Ministry.
Inter-Religious Dialogue or Ecumenism (3 units)
Third Year Integration Seminar
- This is a requirement in the third year of the program, and is coordinated by the Director of the M.Div. program. The principal focus of the Integration Seminar is to integrate students’ theological, pastoral and spiritual learning.
This component of the Master of Divinity program is comprised of two elements: The first consists of sessions that focus on the development of ministerial skills and perspectives. These sessions complement students’ academic formation with opportunities for input, reflection and group discussion on such topics as ministerial ethics, collaborative ministry, youth ministry, addiction and substance abuse, counseling skills, family dynamics, the multi-cultural parish, and conflict resolution. The second element of the ministerial formation component is the student’s participation in the formation opportunities at the Jesuit School and/or the student’s religious community, which should include spiritual direction, regular faith-sharing in a small group, days of prayer, participation in liturgy and an annual retreat.
Students will be evaluated on ministerial competence. This evaluation will be done for students in religious communities by the appropriate formation authority in the community (e.g. Superior, Rector, Formation Director). For lay students the evaluation will be done by the Ministerial Evaluation Team at the School. Continuation in the M.Div. program is contingent upon successful completion of this evaluation.
- YEAR ONE (Ministerial Identity): focus on each student's ministerial identity and the development of individually tailored formation plans.
- YEAR TWO (Ministerial Praxis): focus on pastoral praxis, supervision, and mentoring.
- YEAR THREE (Ministerial Integration): focus on the integration of theology with ministerial and pastoral experiences.
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a multitude of cultures and pastoral needs, and students are invited to seek opportunities in which they can hone their skills and stretch their interests and experiences. In addition to the above formation obtained through coursework and JST community life, the Master of Divinity students learn and benefit from the school’s location in the Bay Area. Students are introduced to ministry sites in their first year Ignatian Intercultural Pilgrimage, and are encouraged to seek out others for their second year field education placement. Examples of these placements include parishes, hospitals, retreat centers, non-profit agencies, and prisons at the local, state, and federal levels. Examples of skills developed include ministerial leadership and presence, spiritual direction, education, parish management, pastoral counseling and outreach to the sick, dying, and homeless; and working with migrants. The Jesuit School is committed to the West Oakland Deanery within the Diocese of Oakland, and has had a long-standing partnership with St. Patrick Parish, in which students, both lay and Jesuit, contribute their energies and expertise to the parish’s vibrant community life.
The Comprehensive Examination
One of the capstone experiences for the M.Div. program, the Comprehensive Exam, is held at the end of the third year and tests both for theological and pastoral competence. At the conclusion of their program, students will be required to successfully complete a comprehensive examination comprised of both written and oral components. It will employ the same case method as developed in the Integration Seminar in that students will be expected to bring their academic and pastoral knowledge to bear in thinking through hypothetical ministerial situations.
Modern Language Study
Academic credit for basic modern language study is not applicable to the Jesuit School degree programs. However, students are encouraged to take advanced, ministerial language courses while they are in the Master of Divinity program. Proficiency in Spanish is recommended for all Master of Divinity students.
A student who has taken graduate courses in theology no longer than six years prior to registration at the Jesuit School may petition the Academic Dean for advanced standing in the Master of Divinity program. This petition may be included with the Application for Admission or it may be submitted at the beginning of the first semester of study. Ordinarily, the maximum amount of advanced standing that is granted is twenty-four semester hours (two semesters of full-time study). Petition forms are available from the Assistant Academic Dean or the Office of Admissions.
The Jesuit School of Theology is one of two theological centers in the United States for the professional theological education and ministerial formation of Jesuit candidates for ordination. Jesuit applicants must follow the general admissions procedures outlined above.
In pursuit of its mission to help candidates prepare for ordained and non-ordained ministry in the Church, it is a goal of the school to facilitate students’ development for building up the Church as a community of faith, worship, justice, and love.
The attainment of this goal means:
- That they be men and women of faith, familiar with the Word of God in Scripture and with the Catholic tradition in interpreting and understanding that Word; contemplative in their personal assimilation of this faith in a life of prayer.
- That they be prepared to exercise leadership in Christian worship, through planning liturgies, preaching, administering sacraments, and presiding at Eucharist and other community liturgical celebrations, according to the gifts each has received.
- That they be prepared to counsel, guide, encourage and instruct in the Christian way of life, with special attention to issues of justice and human dignity, to lead in the formation of the just society and to exercise ministries of reconciliation, according to their gifts.
An important dimension of preparation for pastoral ministry consists of theological reflection upon contemporary human concerns, a contemplative reflection requiring time, disciplined training, communal experience, study, dialogue, and prayer. The Ministerial Formation component of the Master of Divinity program provides opportunities for growth in this process.
The Program for Priestly Formation of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that all candidates for ordained ministry complete four full years of theological study. This normally entails one year of study beyond completion of the Master of Divinity degree. For Jesuits of the United States, the Jesuit Conference stipulates that this fourth year will generally include the completion of eight graduate level semester-long courses in theological study, the completion of an Advanced Master’s degree in theology, or the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.).
Special Examinations for those to be Ordained
Since canonical faculties for preaching and celebration of the sacraments are granted by the ordained’s religious and ecclesiastical superiors, ultimate responsibility for the certification of the individual’s readiness in these areas lies with the relevant superiors. As an aid in this aspect of ministerial preparation, however, regular courses designed to prepare students for the priesthood and for the pastoral administration of the sacraments, are offered both at the Jesuit School and other schools in the Graduate Theological Union. The normal means by which competency is certified in the pastoral administration of the sacraments will be through successful completion of courses which focus on preaching, celebrational style, and confessional counseling. For exceptional circumstances, please see the Protocols for Ordination Examinations.