School of Theology & Ministry

Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology

The PhD in Practical Theology at St. Thomas University is the only program of its kind at a Catholic institution in the United States. It emphasizes sound theological research, the skills of social analysis, and lived experience. It employs a collaborative educational approach among a community of learners engaging theological and allied disciplines in critical conversation. In addition, the program provides a unique opportunity for scholarly formation deeply rooted in Scripture and Tradition and critically engages contemporary experience and pastoral reality, prophetic and liberating activity, cultural diversity and contextual sensitivity, critical and constructive approaches, and imaginative and artistic spiritual engagement. The doctoral coursework is uniquely in practical theology, thereby giving students an intensive immersion in the field. The strong focus on methodology prepares graduates for a wide array of specialized theological scholarship complemented by faculty strengths in the major areas of contemporary practical theology. Its curriculum reflects the Catholic voice in practical theology as well as a strong engagement across all Christian traditions. The interconfessional and intercultural nature of its students makes for rich conversations, particularly within the larger context of South Florida. Special student conferences, teaching opportunities, and a personal mentoring approach round out the program. Many have published prior to graduating under faculty guidance. Graduates have gone on to serve in faculty positions and taken up other leadership roles in church and society.

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Career Opportunities

With the doctorate in theology, you can find career options for teaching, research, ministerial service such as youth ministry and religious education. You might serve in hospitals ministry or administration, nursing facilities and in specialty areas, such as substance and alcohol abuse programs.

You are prepared to teach in special areas such as church history or other aspects of theology.

The PhD student develops proficiency in theological research and writing and can also prepare you for media work such as a career in television or print journalism.

A doctoral degree in theology is helpful if you want to find employment in social services or humanitarian aid work. Charitable trusts and foundations also hire theology students and some students move into positions as consultants, rather than as employees. By teaching research skills the PhD degree program equips graduates to be analysts often employed by government.

Curriculum (Course Sampling)

STM 811 Contemporary Practical Theology (4 credits)
Introduces major works within practical theology worldwide since the 1960s together with an exploration of practical theological method. Relates developments within practical theology to those within the larger discipline of theology. Students will develop a synthesis of contemporary practical theology suitable for work toward an eventual dissertation topic.

STM 821 Hermeneutics and Methodology in Practical Theology (4 credits)
Presents hermeneutical philosophy and related interpretive fields central to contemporary practical theology, integrating methodological topics with a diversity of perspectives including deconstructionist, critical and postmodern theory. Students will develop philosophical and methodological criticism necessary to advance the contemporary construction of theology in a direction that restores focus on phronesis and recovers the primacy of praxis.

STM 911 Formation and Spirituality in Practical Theology (4 credits)
Examines critical areas of Christian formational practice, including religious education and proclamation, including preaching (didache, kergyma); spiritual theology; theological reflection; spiritual direction; and theological education. Students will be trained to collectively undertake a practical theological examination of their experience of formational practice.

STM 921 Community Life and Pastoral Practice for Practical Theology (4 credits)
Presents congregational studies and Christian community life (koinonia) in light of a practical ecclesiology, including organizational theory, leadership styles, and pastoral care practices. Students will be trained to collectively undertake a practical theological examination of their experience of such practices.

STM 941 Culture and Ritual in Practical Theology (4 credits)
Examines contextual theologies and the theology of culture, including intercultural and postcolonial studies, with particular attention to ritual studies in light of the praxis of worship (leiturgia) and the role of symbol in practical theology. Students will be trained to collectively undertake a practical theological examination of their experience of such practices.

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