Readiness for Ministry Program
Bachelor of Sacred Theology
Master of Arts
Master of Arts in Ecclesial Ministry
Master of Divinity
Permanent Diaconate
Dual Degree Program
Continuing Education
The Master of Arts program is open to diocesan, religious, and lay students. It is a 2-3 year program leading to a Master of Arts degree with a concentration in Systematic Theology, Sacred Scripture, Monastic Studies, or Ecclesial Ministry. The program is designed to equip the student with the tools for critical thinking and research on a graduate level or for diaconal and lay ministry within the Church. The program features M.A. level seminars and affords the student the opportunity to work through a program of studies best suited to his/her life circumstances, interests, and projected goals. Each candidate must choose an academic advisor in the area of concentration.
Master of Arts in Systematic Theology, Sacred Scripture, Monastic Studies

“The purpose of these degree programs is to provide a basic understanding of theological disciplines for further graduate study and for general educational purposes.”—The Association of Theological Schools, Bulletin 50, Part 1, 2012, G-52, D.1.1.1.


The goals of the program are as follows:

  • Students will attain academic competency in theology with a concentration in either systematic theology, Sacred Scripture, or monastic studies;
  • Students will acquire knowledge of the Catholic theological tradition by engaging in graduate-level research, including at least one graduate research seminar and the completion of two 7500 word research papers;
  • Students will develop the skills needed for critical theological reflection through coursework and discussion of research topics;
  • Students will demonstrate theological integration through a comprehensive written examination, two directed research papers, and the presentation of a public lecture.

The courses in the Seminary curriculum acceptable for the Master of Arts program are in the 800 series. The courses in the 700 series, with additional work, may also be acceptable, if first approved by the Academic Dean.


Admission Requirements

The admission requirements are as follows:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college and indication of aptitude for advanced study;
  • 18 credits in philosophy and Judeo-Christian theology with no less than six credits in each area;
  • For a concentration in Sacred Scripture, an introductory course in Sacred Scripture is required;
  • For a concentration in Sacred Scripture a working knowledge of Biblical Hebrew or Greek, at the intermediate level; for a concentration in Systematic Theology or Monastic Studies, a working knowledge of Biblical Greek or Latin is preferable, although French or German may be substituted. The determination of sufficient language ability is normally made through language exams;
  • The score of a recent Graduate Record Examination, if requested;
  • Three letters of recommendation, at least two of which must be from people who know the academic ability of the applicant;
  • A personal interview with the Academic Dean.
  • Dual degree candidates must have a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.0 after two semesters of

Lay students admitted to this program must be available to take courses during the day. The average course load for lay students is nine credits.

  • All lay students are required to take a noncredit research and methodology course during the first year of studies. Consult the Wednesday Formation Schedule for details.
Degree Requirements

Click here to see the M.A. degree requirements.

A grade point average of 3.0 and a B grade in each course and seminar required for the degree.

Successful completion of the comprehensive exam.

A candidate must complete all degree requirements within ten years after acceptance into the M.A. program. Normally a period of 2-3 years will be needed to complete all degree requirements for the Master of Arts degree.

Credit Transfer A maximum of 12 credits may be transferred from other graduate schools. Transfer credits must have been earned within the previous ten-year period.
Academic Advisement

Each M.A. candidate is responsible for seeking an academic advisor from among the members of the regular faculty of Saint Vincent Seminary who teach in the student’s area of concentration. The student obtains from the Academic Dean a copy of an agreement form, which is signed by the faculty member and indicates that member’s willingness to serve as advisor. The faculty advisor of an M.A. candidate:

  • is chosen by the candidate at the time of admission to M.A. candidacy from among the faculty who teach in the candidate’s concentration;
  • advises the student regarding program requirements, methodology, the use of bibliography, and policies;
  • assists the student in choosing courses that fulfill the elective requirements;
  • is available to consult with the Academic Dean regarding the M.A. comprehensive examinations, if necessary.
Comprehensive Examinations

PART ONE: The M.A. degree in Systematic Theology, Sacred Scripture, and Monastic Studies requires a written exam based upon a list of comprehensive exam questions. This exam assesses the students’ general knowledge of the Catholic theological tradition in his/her area of concentration. Questions will be distributed when the student is admitted to the program. The exam is to be taken early in the fall of Fourth Theology if one is an ordination student and in the last semester of studies if one is not. The exam will consist of eight randomly selected questions; the student must answer five—three from the area of concentration, two from other areas.

PART TWO: The M.A. degree in Systematic Theology, Sacred Scripture, and Monastic Studies requires two 7500-word directed research papers in the student’s area of concentration. The paper requirements are as follows:

  • After being admitted into the M.A. program, students must obtain a faculty advisor who is willing to direct their research and has competency in the student’s area of concentration. 
  • For the two papers, students are permitted to develop and build upon any previously completed paper from a course or seminar in their area of concentration, provided they do so according to the criteria articulated below.
  • In their research, students must appropriate a minimum of 7 primary (original) sources and 20 secondary sources (as approved by their faculty advisor) and choose a general topic relevant to their area of concentration. 
  • With the aid of secondary sources, the papers must reflect the students’ ability to integrate the primary sources with content from core courses in their area of concentration.
  • Students should not seek to be “original” but rather should demonstrate their ability to articulate the content and development of the Catholic theological tradition in their specific area of research. 
  • As determined by the readers in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor, the quality of papers should demonstrate the potential for publication. 
  • Papers will be evaluated by the faculty advisor and two readers. The first reader must have competency in the student’s area of concentration. The second reader may be from a different area of concentration. The final grade for each paper will be comprised of the following: the grades determined by the faculty advisor and first reader will each count as 40% of the paper’s final grade. The grade determined by the second reader will count as 20% of the paper’s final grade.
  • For ordination students, the first paper is due at the beginning of Third Year, and the second at the beginning of Fourth. For non-ordination students, the first paper is due one year prior to graduation, and the second is due one month prior to the completion of the semester he/she graduates. Those wishing to write an M.A. thesis may utilize one of these papers and expand it to 15,000-17,500 words (exclusive of footnotes and Bibliography).

PART THREE: The M.A. degree in Systematic Theology, Scripture, and Monastic Studies requires a thirty minute public lecture on the topic of one of the above papers to be delivered before a faculty board and students. The presentation should be 30 minutes in length and will be followed by a 30-minute Q and A period. The presentation is to be delivered during the semester in which the student graduates. The presentation will be graded by three professors, two of which are from the student’s area of concentration. Students will be assessed on both the content of the lecture and the effectiveness of their delivery. A grading rubric will be distributed to the student prior to the presentation.

Final Grade for Comprehensive Exam:

 The final grade for the comprehensive exam will be comprised of the grades taken from the three parts of the exam and averaged together. Each part counts as 1/3 of the final grade. For Part II, the scores for each paper will be averaged together to determine one grade for this section of the exam.
The results of the M.A. comprehensives will be incorporated into the student’s cumulative G.P.A. for the M.A. course of studies according to the following formula:

  • comprehensive exam 25%
  • course work 75%
The results of the M.A. comprehensives do not affect the student’s G.P.A. for the M.Div. degree programs.

The final results of the student’s M.A. grade point average will be recorded on the official transcript in the following way:

  • Passed with highest honors 96-100
  • Passed with high honors 91-95
  • Passed with honors 86-90
  • Passed satisfactorily 83-85
  • Failed 0-82

Students must have an 83% average for each part of the comprehensive exam to complete the degree. In case of failure in any part, the failed section may be repeated once.

M.A. Seminar Paper Guidelines

General Principles

In submitting a M.A. seminar paper the student must:

  • Give evidence of knowledge of the sources available in the specialized area and demonstrate the ability to use the materials available;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the general background of the seminar topic;
  • Indicate the precise insights gained and be able to demonstrate what the research means in terms of the Church and theology.

Specific Guidelines

The text of the paper, excluding notes and bibliography, must be at least 5000 words in length. A draft of the paper may be required a month before the close of the semester. The draft will be discussed with the student within ten days after the submission of the paper. The student will be advised about the needed revisions and is expected to incorporate them. The final paper is to be submitted before the end of the semester. Grading criteria for the paper include:

  • clear statement of the questions;
  • substantial evidence for the position taken on the questions;
  • evidence of comprehension of the questions through new insights and substantive conclusions;
  • use of resources in the specialized area;
  • notes, including analytical notes;
  • correctness of form, coherence of style, clarity of expression;
  • bibliography;
  • student response to suggested changes in the draft.

 An M.A. candidate may request or be invited to write a thesis. Following agreement of a faculty member to direct a thesis and the concurrence of the M.A. advisor, the student submits a thesis proposal.

This proposal includes:

  • statement and a brief synopsis of the topic;
  • reasons for the choice of the topic;
  • thesis outline;
  • preliminary bibliography.

The thesis proposal must be signed by the thesis director and the M.A. advisor, and is sent to the M.A. Committee for approval.

Following the approval of the M.A. Committee, the student may register for the thesis. The student should work closely with the thesis director and, in conjunction with the advisor, secure a second reader. The student will submit the thesis work as required by the director.

The thesis should not be less than 15,000 nor more than 17,500 words in length (not counting footnotes and bibliography).

The thesis grade will consist of the average of the grades submitted by the thesis director and the second reader.

The thesis grade will be determined by:

  • satisfactory completion of the approved thesis proposal;
  • thorough exploration of the state of the question within contemporary research at the Master’s level;
  • innovative reflections or approaches to the question;
  • adherence to approved Seminary style regulations.

Thesis Credit

Students who successfully complete a thesis are granted 6 credits that may be counted toward the completion of elective credits.
Thesis Preparation The Master of Arts candidate is to submit four copies of the thesis prepared according to the official style sheet for the Seminary (see Nancy Jean Vyhmeister, Your Guide to Writing Quality Research Papers: For Students of Religion and Theology (Grand Rapids: Michigan: Zondervan, 2008), Second Edition.). Additional Seminary style requirements are described in the Seminary Thesis Preparation Guidelines. Copies of these guidelines can be obtained from the Academic Dean.


E-mail Us