Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Pastoral Studies

Chaplaincy Preparation

Are you discerning a vocation as a Professional Health Care Chaplain?

The Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) offers a unique Health Care Chaplaincy concentration to prepare students for the entire process to be certified as a Board Certified Chaplain (BOC) with The National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC). The NACC certifies Catholic chaplains.

Students interested in becoming Board Certified Chaplains with the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) can do so by pursuing the Masters of Divinity degree with a concentration in chaplaincy, which is aimed at meeting APC competencies. The APC certifies Protestant chaplains as well as chaplains in an array of religious traditions.

  • What is Chaplaincy?
  • Is Chaplaincy My Vocation?
  • Theological Education
  • Clinical Preparation
  • The Certification Process
  • More Information

What Is Chaplaincy?

Chaplains attend to sacred stories of those confronting change in their lives. As the patient struggles to find meaning, relationship with God, as well as sense of identity and self-worth, come into question. The chaplain is trained to listen to the patient's story, to be present to the patient's values, and to reframe the crisis in the context of these values.

The role of the chaplain in health care has changed radically in the past several decades. There was a time in Catholic health care that the bulk of the spiritual support was provided by women religious or the ordained. However, technological change, reduced numbers of clergy, and expanded ministerial opportunities have contributed to a significant shift in chaplaincy. Chaplains are now expected to have expertise in areas that reflect the increased sophistication of health care today. These areas include risk assessment, crisis intervention, advocacy, cultural and religious diversity, ethics, integration of the patient's story into a larger faith perspective, ritual support, end-of-life issues, and bereavement and grief. Chaplains are continually called to walk the line between medicine's institutional tendencies and individual conscience. Chaplains are trained to honor the patient's agenda; the patient is the person who decides what has meaning and how that meaning is lived in his or her own spirituality. In a crisis, it is often the chaplain who acts as liaison between the patient and medical personnel. Perhaps the most important act of healing a chaplain can perform is to empower the patient or family member to access his or her own spiritual and religious coping strategies. This is both the heart and challenge of chaplaincy.

Is Chaplaincy My Vocation?

Consider yourself a minister attending to the sick, preparing a person to accept the hour of death, leading a family in a worshipful grieving of their loss. "If you have a deeply compassionate heart and care about people in need; if you want to make a real difference in people in crisis, then the answer is definitely Yes! Join the 10,000 chaplains of different faiths who daily serve in diverse settings including: hospitals, hospice, palliative care, mental health, prisons and other settings where people experience life's pain and setbacks. Caring chaplains can help people who seek to understand their lives from a faith perspective. You can be with them offering them hope, healing, and strength through your loving presence" (taken from NACC website). The NACC website will help you examine the vocation of chaplaincy. You will especially enjoy the video clip and get answers to several questions such as, what is a chaplain do? Are there jobs available? What is the pay of a chaplain like? The NACC is the official certifying agency for Catholic chaplains.

Theological Education

A first step in chaplaincy preparation is theological education. Chaplaincy certification requires the MAPS degree (NACC certification) or the MDiv degree (APC/NACC certification). The curriculum for the MAPS—Health Care Chaplaincy concentration can be found here.

Clinical Preparation

Chaplaincy certification for both the NACC and APC also requires four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). CPE brings theological students and ministers of all faiths (pastors, priests, rabbis, imams and others) into supervised encounter with persons in crisis, ordinarily in a health care setting. Out of an intense involvement with persons in need, and the feedback from peers and teachers, students develop new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs of those to whom they minister. From theological reflection on specific human situations, they gain a new understanding of ministry. Within the interdisciplinary team process of helping persons, they develop skills in interpersonal and interprofessional relationships. This description is taken from the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education website. This link will bring you to many questions about this formation process. For more information on CPE itself, please visit Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) page.

The Certification Process

Professional employment as a chaplain generally requires certification. After completing the above educational requirements, as well as additional clinical hours for the APC, graduates can submit an application for Board Certification. The certification process for the NACC and the APC differs to some extent.

National Association of Catholic Chaplains:


Association of Professional Chaplains:


A certified chaplain is one who meets the following standards:

  • A skilled provider of patient care with an exceptional capacity to listen
  • A specialist in the dynamics of grief, loss and bereavement
  • A social justice advocate in health care
  • One who understands belief/values of religious traditions and cultures, and possesses the ability to transcend denominational and faith tradition lines
  • An ethics resource/consultant for end of life decision-making and advanced directives for health care
  • A collaborator with other medical staff in the areas of spiritual formation, support, and moral distress
  • One who navigates the institutional silos of spiritual care: pastoral care, mission initiatives, workplace spirituality
  • One who assists patients in navigating the continuum of care from hospital, to home, the community and hospice
  • A worship leader for health care rituals, sacraments, and celebrations
  • An organizational leader, a group facilitator
  • One knowledgeable of and able to participate in pastoral care research

In order to sit before the accrediting board of the NACC or APC , students must prepare and submit an extensive portfolio of materials. A unique component of the IPS program is the Health Care Integration Project (IPS 493 or IPS 593), where students are mentored in their preparation of these materials. As of 2014, IPS boasts a 100% certification rate of graduates with the NACC.

Additionally, students are required to have ecclesial endorsement—an affirmation from their church body that they publicly represent the church. For endorsement of the Catholic chaplain the NACC is instrumental in handling that process. Endorsing bodies for Protestant denominations are listed here.

If you have questions about chaplaincy and how IPS can prepare you for certification, please contact timone davis at tdavis10@luc.edu or by phone at 312.915.7491.