La Salle University has started a doctoral program in theology, the first in the greater Philadelphia area offering a study of Roman Catholic theology, spirituality and ministry. While firmly rooted in the university’s Catholic and Lasallian traditions, the program also seeks to foster an ecumenical spirit with a faculty and student body drawn from a wide variety of Christian communities and faith traditions. Classes will begin in June, 2012.
“We are offering the degree in response to a number of requests for a degree in theology beyond the Master’s,” said Fr. Frank Berna, Director of the Graduate Religion program at La Salle. “The nearest similar programs for Catholic studies are in New York City and Washington, D.C. Both these programs are full-time. But the working professionals and people with families for whom our program is intended are generally unable to re-locate. In addition, the concentrations that we offer will be unique to degree programs in theology in the greater Philadelphia area.”
“The Th.D. program is intended first for working professionals to enhance their credentials,” said Berna. “The degree can lead to advancement within the same profession. For example, an individual working in parish religious education would be well prepared to advance to a diocesan or synod office for religious education. Candidates and graduates would be well-qualified for adjunct teaching in higher education and for full-time employment at some church-related colleges and universities. There are increasing opportunities in offices for mission and identity at church-related colleges, universities, health-care facilities and other institutions.”
Classes will begin this coming summer with an intensive course from June 17-22, 2012. Students need to be in-residence on the Main Campus for the entire week. The first course focuses on research and writing skills for doctoral studies; students use the life and tradition of St. John Baptist de La Salle to hone these skills. There will be preliminary and post-residency online work as well. During the second summer, the intensive course will be “Faith Formation through the Human Lifecycle.” Berna said that the remaining courses will be offered online and as independent study involving in-person and electronic formats.
The program offers four distinct areas of concentration:
Founder’s Studies – a critical understanding of the founding charism of a religious community, its significant individuals, the history of the movement, and its significance in the contemporary world. Examples include Lasallian Studies, Franciscan Studies, Religious Women’s Studies and Quaker Studies.
Catholic Studies – the interdisciplinary study of Catholic history, thought, and culture. With a solid grounding in Catholic philosophy and theology, students study the expression of the Catholic imagination in art, literature, music, film, education, social teaching, and other areas of culture.
Christian Spirituality – studies that move beyond a general survey of various schools of Christian spirituality, to gain an in-depth critical understanding of a particular tradition as well as to explore its current value and expression. The concentration may include consideration of ecumenical and inter-religious approaches to a particular Christian spiritual tradition.
Church Ministry – an in-depth consideration, both theoretical and practical, of specific ministries within a Christian church. The focused study may highlight historical perspectives on a particular ministry; questions regarding the possible future development of a ministry, theories, and programs of faith formation or a similar topic. Some examples include the ministry of the catechist in missionary countries, restoration of the permanent diaconate in the United States, and emerging models of parish-based religious education.
Intended first for working professionals, the new program seeks to help highly motivated, independent learners to meet their educational and professional goals. Individuals completing the degree will be well-qualified for professional careers in the areas of institutional mission and identity, religious education, for supervisory positions in Church offices, adult faith formation, and for any number of positions in higher education in seminary and church-related institutions.
For more information, call 215.951.1346.