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Graduate Program inPastoral Ministries


People of all ages, vocations and walks of life pursue the Master's Degree in Pastoral Ministries to enrich their lives through a deeper exploration of their faith. Many choose to deepen their understanding of spiritual matters in order to pursue careers in fields related to social justice, such as human services, community outreach, restorative justice, education, youth or campus ministry. Coursework focuses on history, psychology, discernment, contemporary issues, liturgy, scripture, prayer, Hispanic ministry, and lay leadership from a justice perspective.

Students in the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries earn an M.A. degree. The degree requirements consist of sixty quarter units which are made up of fifteen four-unit classes. Seven of the fifteen courses are required foundational courses; the remaining eight classes are selected from a variety of elective courses.

In addition, each student is required to submit a Mid-Program Review paper and to create a Capstone ePortfolio which will include the final papers or projects from three Foundational courses and three other courses.

For the Capstone ePortfolio review the student will also write an 8 to 10 page integrative essay at the end of his/her degree program, after making the final ePortfolio selections, reflecting on the following questions.

  • How did I come to understand each of the five learning goals through the chosen projects and the program in general?
  • How did mastering these learning goals and objectives strengthen my ability to minister?

Goal 1:

Students will gain a broad theological foundation that will undergird inquiry into a select area of concentration. (Theological Knowledge)


  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of Fundamental Theology, Christology, Ecclesiology, Ethics, Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament according to the competencies articulated by each of these areas.
  2. Students will integrate their core theological competencies in their chosen area of concentration.

Goal 2:

Students will develop pastoral skills, ministry knowledge, and liturgical fluencies in at least one key field of study relevant to Christian ministry. (Pastoral Proficiency)


  1. Students will demonstrate a depth of practical and theoretical knowledge in their area of concentration.
  2. Students will understand the significance of liturgy for their ministry and in the life of faith.

Goal 3:

Students will become competent leaders dedicated to serving the Church and to creating community in parish and other pastoral settings. (Leadership Skill)


  1. Students will employ historically informed knowledge of the tradition to assess theological positions and pastoral issues.
  2. Students will apply skills from their area of concentration for use in their faith community.

Goal 4:

Students will demonstrate a critically informed approach to faith that promotes social justice for the common good, especially for the benefit of those in greatest need. (Justice Commitment)


  1. Students will address issues of inequity and injustice in light of the Christian witness.
  2. Students will integrate the perspective of the poor and the marginalized in their reflection on theological and pastoral issues.

Goal 5:

Students will become prepared ministry professionals able to function effectively in a diverse global religious environment. (Diversity Fluency)


  1. Students will describe and address cultural differences in Christian practice.
  2. Students will demonstrate a critical appreciation of religious diversity.
  • Fundamental Theology – PMIN 201 or PMIN 288
  • Christology – PMIN 203
  • Ethics – PMIN 287 or PMIN 251
  • Ecclesiology – PMIN 204 or PMIN 225
  • Hebrew Bible – PMIN 205 or PMIN 283
  • New Testament – PMIN 206 or PMIN 214
  • Sacraments & Liturgy – PMIN 297 or PLIT 202
Fundamental Theology Foundational Courses
PMIN 201 - Fundamental Theology

A consideration of revelation as God's self communication. What is the relationship of revelation to Christian faith? (Fundamental Theology Foundational Course, 4 Units)

PMIN 288 - Practical Theology

Practical theology is the conscious engagement of theological thinking with social-cultural practices, including the practices that make up the life of the Church. This course questions both the practices that make up life and ministry, on the one hand, and theology itself on the other. (Fundamental Theology Foundational Course, 4 Units)

Christology Foundational Courses
PMIN 203 - The Mystery of Jesus Christ

An introduction to contemporary Catholic Christology. Examines Jesus Christ as a historical figure and object of faith and the Christian answer to the human situation. Coursework centers on Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom of God and considers his history through the Resurrection. (Christology Foundational Course, 4 Units)

PMIN 218 - Liberation Theology

An investigation and analysis of Jesus the Christ from a liberation perspective, and the implications for church and ministry. (Christology Foundational Course, 4 Units)

Ecclesiology Foundational Courses
PMIN 204 - Church

An examination of the Christian church, the meeting place of all mysteries, from cultural, scriptural, historical, doctrinal, and ministerial perspectives. (Ecclesiology Foundational Course, 4 Units)

PMIN 225 - Church History

A survey of the major theological developments in Christian history against the backdrop of the social and political currents of the periods in question. (Ecclesiology Foundational Course, 4 Units)

Ethics Foundational Courses
PMIN 251 - Catholic Social Teaching

An examination of the vibrant and living tradition of Catholic social thought. It explores key features of Christian social responsibility through analysis of the official encyclicals and pastorals that comprise Catholic social teaching. In addition to surveying the encylical tradition as it has developed over the past 125 years, its theological foundations, and its function, it explores pastoral implications of its key themes and core commitments. (Ethics Foundational Course, 4 Units)

PMIN 287 - Issues of Moral Theology

Examination of the sources and methods of moral theology in the context of ministry in the Catholic Church today. Special attention is given to issues as they have developed since the end of Vatican II. These topics include the role of Scripture, moral principles, sin, freedom, authority, conscience, and natural law. Attention will also be given to contemporary debates over pro-creative ethics, divorce, euthanasia, abortion, and poverty. (Ethics Foundational Course, 4 Units)

Hebrew Bible Foundational Courses
PMIN 205 - Hebrew Bible

A study of Hebrew historical, prophetic, wisdom, and apocalyptic literature as the medium of God's teaching word in Israel and in the church. (Hebrew Bible Foundational Course, 4 Units)

PMIN 283 - Hebrew Bible in its Cultural Context

An examination of the Hebrew Bible in light of comparative literature from the ancient Near East, how the biblical writers framed their theology as a response to the ideologies, mythologies, and ritual practices of their age; consideration of how the cultured character of the Bible can stand in dialogue with contemporary issues of diversity and multiculturalism. (Hebrew Bible Foundational Course, 4 Units)

New Testament Foundational Courses
PMIN 206 - Synoptic Gospels

A study of the first three gospels with special attention given to methodology of Scriptural exegesis. Includes study of literary genres, source analysis, and problems of oral and written transmission, as well as the unique contributions of the evangelists as authors. (New Testament Foundational Course, 4 Units)

PMIN 214 - New Testament

An Introduction to the socio-historical contexts, literary characteristics, and theological messages of the New Testament text, with special attention to the methodology of biblical exegesis for contemporary Christian communities. (New Testament Foundational Course, 4 Units)

Sacraments & Liturgy Foundational Courses
PMIN 297 - Sacraments & Liturgy

Sacraments and Liturgy will explore primarily the role that symbols and rituals play in Christianity; how they shape Christian lives and renew our faith. On a second level, it will explore the ways that Christians have described the role of symbols and rituals in their lives and how those symbols and rituals aid in their salvation. (Sacraments & Liturgy Foundational Course, 4 Units)

PLIT 202 - Christian Liturgy

An exploration of the great Christian symbols and the importance of the role of ritual in life and in Christian celebration. The course will include an introduction to worship as experienced and celebrated by the Christian community. (Sacraments & Liturgy Foundational Course, 4 Units)

Electives Courses
Catechetics Elective Courses
CATE 211 - Foundations of Catechesis

An exploration and reflection on the nature, goal, and process of catechesis. This course examines twentieth century catechetical renewal and a catechetical model which emerged from this renewal. (Elective, 4 Units)

CATE 212 - Process of Catechesis

A study of the nature, goal, and process of adult catechesis. This course will consider adult experiences, motivation, and catechetical approaches. (Elective, 4 Units)

CATE 216 - Liturgical Catechesis

A study of the revised rituals of the sacraments and the catechesis which accompanies these rites. Special emphasis will be given to the Lectionary, the Prayer texts, and the symbolic action of each rite in order to consider ways of developing a catechesis which will open up the meaning of the rites. (Elective, 4 Units)

CATE 217 - Transformative Catechesis

This course explores the prophetic dimension of catechesis and its ability to transform individuals, the parish community and the larger society. By examining current catechetical methods within the context of transformative catehesis, students (catechists) will be helped to re-align their approach to catechesis and thus revitalize their teaching and their communities. (Elective, 4 Units)

CATE 224 - Practice of Catechesis

An exploration of the role and person of the catechist; practical issues and problems catechists face; specific catechetical methods; and the planning, implementation, and revision of catechetical programs. Also considers the meaning of "teaching." (Elective, 4 Units)

CATE 225 - Sacramental Preparation

Forming the Church: Sacramental Ecclesiology and Preparation for Parishes and Schools
Ecclesiology and Sacramental Theology are two sides of an essential Catholic theological coin. In this course we shall define and describe the theological relationships between the Church and the Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and Marriage. With those theological tools in hand, we will explore “best practices” for re-invigorating existing programs as well as imagining new ways of forming the Church. Projects will be inked to the particular ministries, interests and Church-situations of the students. (Catechetics Elective Course, 4 Units)

CATE 275 - Introduction to Canon Law

Pastoral ministers will be introduced to the nature, history, and function of Church law. The course surveys the norms of the 1983 Code of Canon Law in the areas of general norms, the rights and obligations of the Christian faithful, Church structures, the teaching and sanctifying offices of the Church, temporal goods, sanctions and procedural law. (Elective, 4 Units)

Pastoral Liturgy Courses
PLIT 202 - Christian Liturgy

An exploration of the great Christian symbols and the importance of the role of ritual in life and in Christian celebration. The course will include an introduction to worship as experienced and celebrated by the Christian community. (Elective, 4 Units)

PLIT 231 - Ritual Theory and Practice

An introduction to the study of ritual as a universal human phenomenon and the source of Christian worship and celebration. Introduction to ritual theory, including analysis of the anthropological, psychological, and sociological dimensions of ritual action. (Elective, 4 Units)

PLIT 232 -  The Eucharist

An introduction to the theology and celebration of the Eucharist. The course will include: New Testament beginnings, a brief historical overview and pastoral and catechetical questions concerning contemporary celebration of the Eucharist. (Elective, 4 Units)

PLIT 235 - Sacraments of Healing

A consideration of liturgical prayer in relation to the experience of sickness and dying. Examination of the theological, historical, and pastoral aspects of ministry to the sick and dying based on the rites. (Elective, 4 Units)

PLIT 262 - Theology of Faith

This course will study the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and appropriate catechesis for this Rite. The course will include study of the Lectionary, the symbolic actions and the prayer texts which are fundamental to the Rite and catechesis for the Rite. (Elective, 4 Units)

PLIT 265 - Inculturation and Liturgy

An analysis of the complex relationship between culture and liturgy, and a critique of current church practice involving several different cultural communities. (Elective, 4 Units)

Pastoral Ministries Elective Courses
PMIN 229 - The Church Holy and Sinful

This course will be an exploration of the notion of ecclesial holiness (and sinfulness). This course will include a study of the following: ecclesiological diversity in history (various models); a critical reading of church documents; holiness understood dynamically instead of statically; the place of conversion in ecclesial holiness. (Pastoral Ministries Elective Course, 4 Units)

PMIN 280 - The Wounded Healer: The Making of a Pastoral Person

With his classic image of the “wounded healer,” Henri Nouwen reminds us that imperfect people do effective ministry. Drawing on the insights of developmental psychology, The Spiritual Exercises, and contemporary theologies of ministry, this course will examine the psychological and spiritual formation of the pastoral person. Students will discover within their own human imperfection the deepest wellsprings of pastoral identity and ministerial effectiveness. They will also experience a model of theological reflection on ministry. (Elective, 4 Units)

Spirituality Elective Courses
SPIR 230 - Liturgical Spirituality

An introduction to the historical, theological, and cultural issues underlying the liturgical and spiritual traditions of the Christian churches. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 233 - Thomas Merton

The 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birth (1915-2015) invites exploration of the thought and vision of this 20th century monk, mystic, and prophet. This course will consider a variety of themes in Merton’s writings, including his understandings of contemplation, the true self, solitude and solidarity, dialogue with Eastern religions, and peacemaking/nonviolence. His quest for personal and social transformation and his legacy of contemplation and prophetic insight will serve as a springboard for our exploration. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 234 - Transition and Transformation

“The only constant is change.” This course will examine the experience of transition from the perspective of the Christian tradition, the human sciences, and contemporary spirituality. Students will be encouraged to reflect upon the transitions they have experienced/are experiencing in their own lives. The class will unfold in four parts: 1.) A look at the lived experience of transition in one person’s story; 2.) Analysis of the process of transition; 3.) Transition as seen through the lens of theology and psychology; and 4.) How might we sustain transformation in our lives? Both personal and cultural transformation will be considered. (Elective, 4 units)

SPIR 240 - History of Western Christian Spirituality

A study of major traditions and issues in Western Christian spirituality. Analyzes various spiritualities in terms of their historical context, suppositions, strengths, and weaknesses. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 241 - Scriptures and Spirituality

An exploration of diverse forms of biblical literature in their historical and socio-cultural contexts as the source and model of Judeo-Christian spirituality. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 242 - Discernment and Christian Decision Making

Focuses on the elements and dynamics of spirituality with emphasis on communal and individual Christian decision making. In-depth study of the rules of Ignatius of Loyola on discernment. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 243 - Psychological Issues in Spirituality

An exploration of the relationship of psychology to spirituality, emphasizing how the insights of psychology may be used in spirituality. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 244 - Spirituality and Ministry

Examines the nature and development of ministry in the Church with special attention given to forms of adult ministry. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 245 - Process of Transformation

This will be a laboratory course on the process of transformation. Lectures, class discussions, readings, guided meditations, and sharing in triads will contribute to a flexible class structure. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 246 - Contemporary Issues in Spirituality

An exploration of the ways traditional spiritual concepts and language need to be translated if they are to speak to our contemporary human experience. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 248 - Prayer and Prayer Methods

An experiential and theological exploration of prayer and meditation methods within the Christian tradition, with an emphasis upon noticing and articulating one's religious experience as a foundation for personal and communal theological reflection. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 251 - Spirituality and Catholic Social Teaching

Catholic Social Teaching and spirituality are thoroughly connected. Christian spirituality is inherently social and provides guidance on how we live our life in society. This course will examine the implications of spirituality for our actions in personal, social, political, and religious spheres. The social dimensions of spirituality and the documents of Catholic Social Teaching will be examined vis-a-vis our individual and communal responses to the creation of a more just world. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 252 - Spirituality Today

The course will focus on examples of current Catholic Christian spirituality. We will probe these examples to understand their roots in the tradition and their implications of our lives. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 260 - Art of Spiritual Direction

A practical course for those who want to explore what spiritual direction is and how it is done. Students should be willing to learn more about themselves both spiritually and psychologically and to explore the leading of God in their lives. Topics addressed will include prayer, discernment, listening, God's healing, transference and counter-transference, and the differences between spiritual direction and psychotherapy. (Elective, 4 Units)

SPIR 264 - Ministry, Prayer and Practice

Strong spiritual roots are essential to effective ministry in a fractured world. What deepens these roots to sustain us in the midst of the challenges of our time? This course will focus on various forms of prayer and spiritual practice with a focus on both personal and ministerial growth. We will explore the relationship between personality and spiritual growth, ways of discernment, approaches to prayer, and other practices that support our growth. Students will be offered the option of developing a personal “rule of life” to guide their ongoing practice. (Spirituality Elective Course, 4 Units)

SPIR 277 - Ignatian Spirituality

A contemporary study and experience of Ignatian spirituality through the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, including his spiritual exercises, autobiography, spiritual journal, and letters. (Elective, 4 Units)


Students interested in pursuing the Hispanic Ministry emphasis will complete the seven required GPPM courses and an additional required course in U.S. Latino Theology.

Students also register for the three online GPPM summer courses the same way they register for all GPPM courses through eCampus.

PMIN 296 U.S. Latino Theology
This course acquaints students with the historical development of Hispanic theology in the United States. Attention will be given to the works of representative U.S. Hispanic theologians and to the themes and concerns that these works address.

Students interested in pursuing the Restorative Justice / Chaplaincy emphasis are required to complete the seven required GPPM foundational courses as well as five additional courses:

Students take only three additional electives for the total of 15 courses (60 units).

There are two hubs for the emphasis in Restorative Justice / Chaplaincy in the MA in Pastoral Ministries. The southern hub location is in the Diocese of San Diego at the Diocesan Pastoral Center 3888 Paducah Drive in San Diego and serves students from all of the surrounding dioceses. The hub serving the dioceses in northern Californa is to be announced soon.

Mid-way through your coursework and at the conclusion of your program, you will compile portfolios of course papers and projects that illustrate your learning of program objectives and goals, and write an integrative theological reflection that demonstrates your mastery.  Specific directions for these projects are available at the Student Resources section of this website.

Since 1983 the candidates for the Permanent Diaconate as well as the trainees for the Diocesan Advanced Lay Leadership program in the Diocese of San José have received their theological training in the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries in face-to-face classes on the Santa Clara University campus.

The candidates for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Monterey receive their theological formation in the program with blended classes offered at locations within their home diocese and online.

Students may study in the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries with a non-degree seeking student status for personal enrichment and to enhance their service in ministry. Tuition costs remain the same as for degree seeking students. We welcome students from many diverse regions of the world and from different faith traditions to study alongside our current degree-seeking students.

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