The Department of Theology and Religious Studies, with roots in the Jesuit and Catholic tradition, shares the mission of John Carroll University to reflect the value system of the Gospels. In particular, the Jesuit spirit brings to education a rationality appropriately balanced by human affection, an esteem for the individual as a unique person, training in discerning choice, openness to change, and a quest for God’s greater glory in the use of the world’s goods. The department offers courses that span a wide range of theological and religious thought and provide a context for ecumenical dialogue and study.

As a University department, Theology and Religious Studies is committed to academic excellence among its faculty and students. The faculty is nationally and internationally known in the areas of church history, contemporary systematic theology, Asian religions, interfaith studies, Islam, pastoral theology, religious ethics, and scripture. Furthermore, members of the faculty are prominent in professional activities and draw their educational backgrounds from outstanding universities. Faculty have served as officers of professional societies, as advisors to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, as editors of professional journals, and as members of boards of trustees, and have published books and articles in numerous scholarly journals. Two programs are offered, each with different admission requirements.

The Goal of the Graduate Program
The goal of the graduate program is to provide master’s students with advanced knowledge of the content and method of various disciplines of theology and religious studies (scripture, ethics, world religions, systematic theology, and Christian history).

John Carroll students pursue a Master of Arts in Theology and Religious Studies in order to achieve a variety of goals. Some of our students hold prior degrees or concentrations in theology and return to John Carroll to update their knowledge. Some are engaged in religious education, ministry, and professional careers in church and religion, while others are planning teaching careers. Some seek to expand their knowledge of theology and religion for personal enrichment. Still others intend to continue their work in doctoral programs after completing the M.A. at John Carroll.

Program Learning Goals

The successful Master of Arts graduate:

  1. Exhibits a nuanced understanding of the key terms and methodologies of the diverse subfields within the academic study of religion, including knowledge of diversity and development within these subfields; is able to articulate and apply in depth a particular methodology to a specific religious question or topics.
  2. Critically analyzes religious texts, art, doctrines, practices, and other expressions in light of their historical, cultural, and social contexts; understands the methods, sources, and research tools necessary for academic research of these expressions.
  3. Demonstrates a deep awareness of multiple religious world-views and is able to engage in the kind of interreligious dialogue that leads to mutual respect and understanding.
  4. Assesses and applies multiple religious or ethical frameworks to complex issues, with an awareness of the various inter-related causes of injustice and a commitment to respond evidenced in action for the common good.
  5. Exhibits a nuanced understanding of the key terms and methodologies within Catholic systematic theology, and the ability to address strengths and weaknesses of differing theological approaches.
  6. Demonstrates aptitude and facility with standard practices of advanced academic research in theology and religious studies and a potential for original work in the field.

Admission Requirements
Master of Arts:

  • A completed application.
  • Two letters of recommendation from persons acquainted with the applicant’s academic qualifications. If appropriate, one letter from a person familiar with the applicant’s professional work is encouraged.
  • A 500-word written statement of purpose from the applicant, indicating his/her purpose in seeking admission to the master program.
  • Official transcripts from all institutions attended.
  • Six undergraduate courses in Religious Studies desired.
  • The GRE General Test or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT). (OPTIONAL)

Certificate of Advanced Studies:

  • A completed application.
  • A master’s degree in a recognized academic discipline.
  • 18 semester hours of undergraduate or graduate work in religious studies, theology, or the equivalent. This requirement may occasionally be waived for special circumstances.
  • A 500-word written statement of purpose from the applicant, indicating his/her purpose in seeking admission to the certificate program.
  • Official transcripts from all institutions attended.

Course Requirements

  • 30 graduate semester hours of study.
  • Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (TRS 400), which is taught each fall.
  • Introduction to Systematic Theology (TRS 430), which is taught each spring.
  • One course in Religious Ethics.
  • One course in World Religions.
  • At least 15 semester hours in 500-level courses.
  • A comprehensive examination.
  • A research essay or master’s thesis.

Related Programs Sponsored by the Department of Theology and Religious Studies:

The Ignatian Spirituality Institute
The department is home to the Ignatian Spirituality Institute (ISI), which offers a two-year, non-credit certificate program for the training of spiritual directors in the tradition of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Requirements for admission include a record of education and work history, a written spiritual autobiography, three letters of recommendation, and an interview with the ISI Admissions Committee. The ISI is endowed by a grant from the F. J. O’Neill Charitable Corporation and by gifts from other generous donors. For further information, contact the Director: Joan M. Nuth, Ph.D.

The Walter and Mary Tuohy Chair of Interreligious Studies
The department is honored to sponsor the Walter and Mary Tuohy Chair of Interreligious Studies, which annually brings to the department a distinguished visiting scholar who teaches the course Tuohy Chair (RL 385/585). The chair, named in honor of the late Walter Tuohy, a leading railroad executive, and his wife Mary, was established in 1966. The past Tuohy Chair holders include Alastair Campbell; Anne Clifford, C.S.J.; Francis Clooney, S.J.; Brian Daley, S.J.; Maria Harris; Diana Hayes; Sidney Griffith; John Haughey, S.J.; Paul L. Heck; Robin Jensen; James Keenan, S.J.; Arthur J. Lelyveld; Wolfhart Pannenberg; Norman Pittenger; George Smiga; Kelley Spoerl; and David Tracy. For more information, contact the Director: David R. Mason, Ph.D.

Bediüzzaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies
The Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies was established in 2003 to honor the teachings and vision of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi (1876-1960), a scholar of Islam from Turkey, who dedicated his life to the teachings of the Qur’an and to understanding the relationships with other religious traditions. The Nursi chair seeks to continue his legacy by promoting dialogue on Islam not only within the JCU community but also with local, national, and international audiences. The Nursi Chair offers courses on the religion of Islam, including Islamic spirituality and eschatology. In addition, the chair creates curricular and co-curricular opportunities, sponsors lectures, and hosts conferences on issues related to Islam. Some of the recent lecturers include John Esposito, Ebrahim Moosa, Abdulaziz Sacheddina, and Michael Sells. For further information, contact the Director: Zeki Saritoprak, Ph.D.

The Jack and Mary Jane Breen Chair in Catholic Systematic Theology
The Jack and Mary Jane Breen Chair in Catholic Systematic Theology was inaugurated in 2011 through a generous endowment gift from Jack and Mary Jane Breen, alumni of John Carroll University. The chair will enhance John Carroll’s Jesuit and Catholic tradition through the teaching of Catholic systematic theology, an academic discipline that seeks to develop an orderly, rational, and intelligible account of the Catholic faith. A distinguished academic will teach undergraduate and graduate students, participate in the dissemination of scholarly research, and interact with both the John Carroll University community and the world beyond.  The current holder of the chair is Dr. Edward P. Hahnenberg.

Financial Assistance

  • Theology and Religious Studies Scholarships, equivalent to a 1/3 reduction in tuition, are available for all students enrolled in the Theology and Religious Studies graduate program.
  • A limited number of graduate assistantships are available, which provide a tuition waiver for 10-20 credit hours per year and a stipend for working 20 hours weekly in the department.
  • The University’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid offers assistance on student loans.