Parents' perspectives on a Catholic vocation journey
The Paulist students — along with a host of students from other orders and those preparing for diocesan ordination — headed back to school this week. Ever wonder what (and where) they study?
St. Paul’s College is the formation house for the Paulist order and it’s located just a few blocks from Catholic University of America.
CUA is a private university and also a pontifical university. This means that CUA has been approved by the Holy See itself and is authorized to grant degrees following the European system sacred faculties. (More about that in a minute.)
The university mission statement nicely sums out what CUA is all about:
As the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States, founded and sponsored by the bishops of the country with the approval of the Holy See, The Catholic University of America is committed to being a comprehensive Catholic and American institution of higher learning, faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ as handed on by the Church. Dedicated to advancing the dialogue between faith and reason, The Catholic University of America seeks to discover and impart the truth through excellence in teaching and research, all in service to the Church, the nation and the world.
CUA was originally founded in 1887 and is the only higher ed institution founded by the U.S. Bishops. When it began life in 1887 as a graduate research center, it was approved by Pope Leo XIII. In 1904, it began offering undergraduate degrees and has been in continuous operation since then.
Its location — the Brookland neighborhood of DC — is sometimes called “Little Rome” due to the significant number of Catholic institutions located there. (Some students jokingly refers to the area as the Catholic ghetto.)
The University offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Evan and the other students are all working on their Masters degrees — specifically the Master of Divinity. This is the typical path for those discerning the priesthood. When I asked Evan to give me some taste of what he might be studying, he sent a list of some of the typical courses; History and Method of Theology, Pentateuch, Synoptic Gospels, Intro to Christian Moral Life, Theology of Sacraments of Initiation, Preaching, and Basic Supervised Ministry.
(Smart aleck that I am, I expressed the hope that this wasn’t the first time students had experienced “Into to Christian Moral Life.”)
The CUA web page for the M.Div degree gives a somewhat broader picture of the requirements:
The M.Div. degree requires a minimum of 90 credit hours of graduate courses distributed as follows: systematic theology (18), moral theology (12), biblical studies (12), and one course each in canon law, church history, liturgical studies, and spirituality (12), academic electives (12), pastoral ministry (18), and the ministry seminars (6). All students are ordinarily required to take six credits of Basic Supervised Ministry. At least one course must be taken in a non-Catholic ecclesial tradition through the offerings of the Washington Theological Consortium.
All students entering the program must take the following courses in the first fall semester: Proseminar for Masters Students, Introduction to the History and Method of Theology, and Foundations of Christian Moral Life. Of the 500 level courses, only some may be taken by M.Div. students in fulfillment of degree requirements.
This is the usual path for students in discernment. There is, however, another. Because CUA is a pontifical university, it is authorized to offer sacred faculty degrees. Students can opt to pursue an STB degree; otherwise (confusingly) called the Bachelor of Sacred Theology. Despite the name (confusing, right?) this is a masters degree in theology. It offers more depth in theology and prepares students to pursue an STL (Licentiate of Sacred Theology) and an STD (Doctor of Sacred Theology).
CUA offers a combined M.Div and STB program for students who want to pursue a more academic track.
Evan started his classes this week and seems to be enjoying them. It sounds more-or-less like a typical grad school experience. He’s in classes with a wide variety of students; some of them from other orders, some of them pursuing diocesan ordination. It’s a good mix and he’s enjoying the intellectual challenge.
On Thursday they had a school-wide Mass at the Basilica in DC. The students from all of the various orders showed up in the clerical garb appropriate to their order and Archbishop Donald Wuerl celebrated. A significant number of priests con-celebrated and Evan said it was quite the experience.
And…to my mind…it seems like a great way to kick off an M.Div program.