Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Pastoral Studies


Master of Divinity

The MDiv curriculum recognizes that professional ministerial leadership emerges from faith-filled ministerial practice and seeks reflective critical understanding to prepare graduates to know, serve and love practically.

This gives rise to three aspects of the MDiv program: faith formation, reflective critical understanding and ministerial practice.

These areas of the curriculum prepare students for work in various areas:

  • The church's institutional placements, which include parish leadership, diocesan administration, hospital chaplaincy and campus ministry, and parallel religious organizations, which include ministry options in organizations dealing with religious communications.
  • Peace and justice advocacy, parochial school administration, as well as spirituality centers.
  • Public-service positions such as legal advocacy, industrial chaplaincy, business ethics, social work, nursing and counseling that invite a pastoral or spiritual perspective, along with standard knowledge of the field.

The MDiv degree is a 72-credit-hour (24-course) degree program, composed of three interconnected components: academic coursework, pastoral formation and ministerial skills. The IPS MDiv curriculum recognizes ministerial leadership as emerging from faith-filled ministerial practice, seeking reflective critical understanding, so as to serve, know, and love practically. These three movements are reflected in each aspect of the MDiv Program: Faith Formation, Reflective Critical Understanding and Ministerial Practice.

The MDiv curriculum builds on top of the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree program. Course descriptions for several of the core courses below are described in the MAPS degree's section of this website.

Critical Understanding

15 courses, 45 credit hours

Context 6 credits:

  • 555—The Human Person and Psychological Development, 3 hours
  • 532—The Social Context: Ministry in the City, 3 hours

The incarnation of Jesus, Christian life and ministry are socially located, that is, they take place in specific social, cultural, political and economic contexts. These social contexts provide the environment within which persons minister. This course provides a model and practical skills for social analysis and strategies for social change to facilitate ministry in an urban context. As such it involves a group experience of social analysis and the development of strategies to respond to the identified social needs.

Scripture, 3 courses, 9 credits

  • 417—Literature of Ancient Israel, 3 hours
  • 416—Christian Origins: An Exploration of the New Testament, 3 hours
  • Scripture Electives, 3 hours

Systematic Theology, 4 courses, 12 credits

  • 531—Christian Doctrine and Its History: God, Christ & the Spirit, 3 hours
  • 402—The Church and Its Mission, 3 hours
  • 570—Introduction to Theology and Ministry, 3 hours
  • Systematic Theology Elective, 3 hours

Ethics, 2 courses, 6 credits

  • 553—Moral Theology and Catholic Social Teaching, 3 hours
  • Ethics Elective, 3 hours

Christian Living, 4 courses, 12 credits

  • 541—Liturgy and Christian Sacraments, 3 hours
  • 545—Foundations of Christian Spirituality, 3 hours
  • Christian Living Elective, 3 hours
  • Christian Living Elective, 3 hours

Ministerial Practice

7 courses, 21 credit hours

  • 560—Liturgical Leadership in Public Prayer, 3 hours
  • 565—Pastoral Leadership
  • 564—Introduction to Pastoral Care & Counseling, 3 hours
  • Ministerial Practice Elective, 3 hours

Ministry Focus, 3 courses, 9 credit hours

Ministry Focus names the process by which the MDiv student reviews the work of the first half of his/her curriculum, declares an intended focus or particular character, and projects the remainder of this curriculum for assessment, feedback, and approval by the IPS faculty. While these two tasks are distinct they intertwine in many ways and are enacted in one procedure.

Ministry Focus Elective, 3 hours

Contextual Education

2 courses, 6 credit hours

As a "pastoral" institute, IPS operates from a "praxis paradigm*" in relation to theological and ministerial education. This means that in Contextual Education students acquire knowledge for the sake of religious transformation as they experience God's action in persons' lives and link this action with tradition. Thus, images of Contextual Education limited to giving students work experience. while they are studying, or that understand Field Education to be the context in which to "learn skills," are marginal to and outmoded for the praxis paradigm for pastoral studies. On the contrary, Contextual Education is an essential locus for exercising and gaining the knowledge essential for pastoral studies. It is a theological exercise, including four movements:

  • Describing the community's practice
  • Analyzing this practice historically
  • Systematically relating life themes in the practice to the religious traditions
  • Establishing the norms and strategies of ministerial response to the practice

Contextual Education plays a major role in the very orchestration of theological education, an activity through which students generate data for theological construction and reconstruction. It also provides a setting for the student to exercise ministerial skills of caring for creation (cosmic, social, personal, and individual welfare), proclaiming the faith, and enacting the community.

Contextual Education then stands at the portal between the community and the university. In one direction the Contextual Education students join the community engaging the religious experiences of life. In the other, at the Institute, they join teachers and colleagues reflecting on the community's practice in light of the religious traditions. During this exchange MDiv Students learn to generatively practice reflection and reflectively practice. They learn to become "ministers," ambassadors to the community.

MDiv students normally engage in Contextual Education during the second year of the program (or after 8–12 courses have been completed). This allows students to do one year of classroom work and to prepare to engage a Contextual Education placement. It provides another year of classroom endeavor after the experience to concentrate on one's ministry objectives, refined in Contextual Education.

  • 580—Field Education I, 3 hours
  • 581—Field Education II, 3 hours

Clinical Pastoral Education, 0 hours

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is a an interfaith method of theological education through which a student learns pastoral skills within a context of ministerial relationships to people and under the direct supervision of a certified pastoral supervisor. It provides a learning situation for a ministerial student in which they may develop awareness of the theological and psycho-social concerns of persons in crisis.

The CPE component is typically completed before application to candidacy to address one key candidacy concern, namely, personal growth matters of self awareness and self reflection. The student uses material from the CPE report to support his or her candidacy.

Candidacy is the process by which the IPS faculty exercises its responsibility to the church and other concerned publics by determining that the student has both the potential to satisfactorily complete this degree and a readiness to begin ministry.

MDiv Midpoint Review

When students reach the half-way point in their coursework, they being preparing for contextual education. As part of this preparation process, students will also do a Midpoint Review. The student will write a brief statement (3-4 pages) on his or her “Vocational Identity, Vision, and Practice." This statement will first be approved by the Faculty Coordinator for Contextual Education. It will be submitted to the student's advisor, and the student and advisor will meet to discuss the statement, as well as the student's progress toward the completion of the M.Div. program. The advisor will note the successful completion of the Midpoint Review in the student’s eportfolio on TaskStream. Alternatively, if the advisor has concerns about the student’s progress, further work may be requested to successfully complete this review (e.g., further units of CPE, spiritual direction or pastoral counseling, re-taking courses in which one did not receive a passing grade, etc.). Failure to successfully complete this review and/or any additional steps requested in this process may be grounds for dismissal from the program.

In addition, the statement will serve as a draft for this same section of the student’s final integration project, and the comparison of the two drafts will ideally demonstrate the progress and growth the student has achieved through completing the final half of the MDiv program. For guidelines on drafting this statement, see the relevant section of the M.Div. Integration Project Guidelines Integration Project.

Faith Formation

Spiritual Direction

Spiritual direction is the process of deepening one's relationship with God through a reflection and discernment process shared with a mentor trained to facilitate listening and responding to God's continuing revelation in the whole of one's life. It is recognized that many MDiv students have a spiritual director and the availability of this service is not intended to replace that long-standing relationship. However IPS does provide the opportunity of experienced spiritual directors for all IPS students. Individual sessions will be held for one hour every other week. A registration form available on the IPS website must be filled out and returned to the IPS Office 2 weeks prior to the beginning of each semester, and registration must be made through LOCUS. This is a 0 credit hour course.

Pastoral Counseling

Pastoral counseling is a process of developing a deeper understanding of self and self-in-relationship to others, to society and to the environment. Particular attention is given to theological and psychological dimensions of personal growth and integration. Individual sessions will be one hour each week. A registration form available on the IPS website must be filled out and returned to the IPS Office 2 weeks prior to the beginning of each semester, and registration must be made through LOCUS. This is a 0 credit hour course.

Click here for further information on the Institute's program of Personal Growth and Spiritual Development.

Curriculum Planning Worksheet for MA_Divinity