Master of Arts in Pastoral Leadership

The Master of Arts in Pastoral Leadership is a 36-credit degree program that prepares men and women for leadership and service in the Church as lay ecclesial ministers and religious educators. It is intended for teachers and administrators in Catholic education, catechists, directors of religious education, counselors, youth ministers, those involved in ministries of mercy or prayer, or any other lay leader. Our students dedicate their professional and personal lives to be instruments of God’s work so that the Church will flourish.

The degree program’s curricular and co-curricular elements are designed to prepare candidates to demonstrate competence in the criteria included in the National Certification Standards for Lay Ecclesial Ministers. They also incorporate guidelines and directives from the National Directory for Catechesis, The National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, and other ecclesial documents that address Catholic education and lay ecclesial ministry.

The Master of Arts in Pastoral Leadership Program seeks to integrate human, intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral formation. 

  • The goal of human formation is to assist the student’s development of an integrated life and Christ-like character that fosters healthy ministerial leadership and service.
  • The goal of intellectual formation is to prepare students with a unified theological understanding of the Catholic faith, rooted in God's revelation and embodied in the living tradition of the Church, for the purpose of exercising effective and informed pastoral leadership within the Catholic Church.
  • The goal of spiritual formation is to support the student’s development of a personal, ecclesial relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit by promoting the attitudes, personal disposition, and habits of prayer required for Christian discipleship.
  • The goal of pastoral formation is to equip students with the pastoral, pedagogical, administrative, and leadership skills necessary to witness effectively to Christ and to contribute to the mission and ministries of the Church in a manner proper to the laity’s share in Christ’s role as priest, prophet and king.

In addition to the application requirements, these additional items are required for a complete application to the Master of Arts in Pastoral Leadership degree program.

  • A personal statement describing the applicant’s interest in the degree and reasons for pursuing study in this area.
  • Three letters of recommendation from individuals who can assess the applicant’s academic and ministerial abilities.
  • If the applicant is currently involved in ministry in a setting other than their home parish, a fourth letter of recommendation addressing that ministry.
  • Optional academic writing sample.

Required Courses - 24 credits

Elective Courses - 12 credits

Non-credit bearing requirements - Spiritual, Ministerial and Human Formation; Capstone Portfolio and Assessment

Required courses

Theological Anthropology (3 credits, DVDT 503)

This course examines the principles that inform a Catholic understanding of the human person including: the revealed truths of creation, sin, grace, justification, merit and final glory. It also addresses questions regarding the relationship between natural and supernatural ends, and between the human person’s supernatural vocation and role in the world. Special attention is given to how such content informs lay pastoral leadership and effective ministry.

Nature and Mission of the Church (3 credits, DVDT 530)

This course explores the origin, nature and mission of the Church as revealed in Scripture and Tradition. The course examines the Church as mystery, People of God, Body of Christ and sacrament. It also addresses the marks of the Church, ecumenism, the magisterium and the relationship between the laity and the ordained ministry. Special attention is given to the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council with a focus on the conciliar texts. Questions of Church unity and diversity, inculturation and development of doctrine are examined.

God and Revelation (3 credits, DVDT 560)

This course is a general introduction to the Christian theology of God. It examines the claims and limits of natural theology as a foundation for understanding God’s self-revelation in Sacred Scripture, as well as the dogmatic development of the latter which illumines the meaning of both. Specific themes include theology proper, God the creator and the order of creation, trinitarian theology, Christology and soteriology.

Fundamental Moral Theology and Catholic Social Teaching (3 credits, DVMT 602)

This course introduces the fundamental principles of Catholic moral theology and Catholic social teaching. Special attention is given to the sources of morality, moral decision-making, the natural law tradition and conscience formation. These elements form the basis for an overview of the major themes of Catholic social teaching as reflected in Sacred Scripture, papal encyclicals and other church documents. Students will have an opportunity to apply their learning to selected issues that arise in the context of pastoral leadership.

Theology of Pastoral Ministry (3 credits, DVPT 510)

This course examines the Church's teaching on the call to pastoral ministry and the complementary but distinctive roles of priests, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers in the work of the Church. The course focuses on the theological foundations of pastoral ministry and the context for ministry in the contemporary American Church. It also incorporates the development of pastoral and leadership skills necessary for witnessing to and transmitting the faith in a ministerial or educational context.

Canon and Civil Law for Pastoral Ministry (3 credits, DVPT 605)

This course surveys the antecedents and status of law in the Church, norms governing the interpretation of law, the rights and obligations of all members of the Church and legal provisions regarding the teaching, sanctifying and governing ministries of the Church. It presents the Code of Canon Law as a resource for responding to canonical issues and questions arising in pastoral ministry; e.g. annulments and remarriage, encumbrances to the reception of the sacraments, and the roles and functions of parochial structures. The course also addresses some civil law questions related to employment of personnel and protection of children and vulnerable adults.

Theology of Sacred Scripture (3 credits, DVSS 507)

This course introduces the Old and New Testaments, Catholic interpretation of the Bible and Catholic views on the biblical canon and the truth and inspiration of Scripture. It examines passages from the Pentateuch, the Prophets, Wisdom literature, the Gospels and the Pauline epistles. Major theological themes and salvation history are discussed as these are incorporated into ministerial and educational contexts.

Liturgy and Sacraments (3 credits, DVST 605)

This course presents the revelatory, sacramental and ecclesial principles of Catholic liturgical worship. The course examines the theology of the seven sacraments with special attention to the Eucharist, including an analysis of the sacraments in terms of sign, matter, form, cause, effects, minister and recipient. The ecclesiological and spiritual implications of the Church’s liturgy are also addressed.

Frequently offered electives

Foundations of Personal and Ecclesial Prayer (3 credits, DVPT 612)

This course introduces students to the theological foundations and spiritual practices that serve as the basis of both personal and ecclesial prayer in the Catholic tradition. It provides students with the knowledge and tools they need to develop a personal habit of prayer, including exposure to the classical forms of Catholic devotional prayer. It then prepares students to lead the ecclesial community in prayer for rites other than the Eucharist including ministry to the sick, presiding and preaching the Liturgy of the Hours, catechumenate rites, wake and graveside services and services of Word and Communion.

Catechetical Leadership (3 credits, DVPT 728)

This course examines principles of leadership and organizational theory with application to the ministry of catechesis, evangelization and faith formation. It includes skill development in communication, conflict resolution, collaborative leadership and the coordination of programs for lifelong faith formation. It emphasizes liturgical catechesis, lectionary-based catechesis and the development of teaching and leadership skills required for sacramental preparation of parishioners in collaboration with catechetical leaders, youth ministers and religious educators in schools.

Administration and Stewardship (3 credits, DVPT 738)

This course introduces students to the stewardship of the resources of the Church at the parish level, mindful of the parish’s role in sanctification. It treats issues related to the administration of parish staff, the work of pastoral councils and committees and the promotion of ministerial relationships. Students engage in field research and/or learn from the tutelage of experienced church administrator at local parishes.

Curriculum Development (3 credits, DVPT 930)

This course provides leaders in Catholic schools and religious education programs with the knowledge and skills they need to select, develop and evaluate curricula. Beginning with the definition of key terms in the world of catechesis and Catholic education, the course covers principles and practices related to child development, diverse learners, different educational methods, the training of catechists and steps for planning, implementing and reviewing curricular resources.

For more information, view the complete course listing for The Saint Paul Seminary. Additional electives may be taken with approval from the student's academic advisor.

Scroll to Top