Christians are called to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) through their everyday lives at home, work, and the larger communities to which they belong. The Master of Pastoral Studies program at Loyola University New Orleans provides lay people with the theological and spiritual grounding necessary to become wiser and more effective ministers, leading by example and proclaiming the Good News through their words and actions. This online degree program is transformative, international in scope, and open to students of all faiths, preparing students to work in a variety of contexts including parishes, schools, diocesan offices, secular workplaces, and the helping professions of medicine and social work.

Program Requirements

The Master of Pastoral Studies (MPS) is a 36-credit hour degree program. Requirements for the program consist of:

  • Theological core courses (18 credit hours)
  • Focus area courses (9 credit hours)
  • Elective courses (6 credit hours)
  • Capstone course (3 credit hours)

Included Coursework

Our pastoral studies curriculum prepares students to excel in a variety of ministry roles.To view a helpful breakdown of program requirements for this degree, download the degree program course listing (DPCL).

Some of the courses you can expect to take include:

Introduction to Practical Theology

This initial course in ministry education introduces students to a process of “pastoral praxis,” through a method of keeping theological reflection in constant dialogue with action. Students explore the interplay of the Christian tradition and the dynamics of living out that tradition through the socio-cultural, personal, and institutional contexts of their ministries.

Jewish Roots of Christian Faith: Intro to Old Testament

This course introduces students to the literature, history, and theology of ancient Israel as embodied in the ancient Hebrew scriptures commonly known as the Old Testament. It examines the major themes of Exodus, promise-fulfillment, and covenant in Israel’s history from the time of the patriarchs to the period of late Second Temple Judaism, which was the context of Jesus’ life and teachings.

Spirituality, Morality, and Ethics

Traditional Catholic ethics are examined in the light of Vatican II. Students study the nature of the human person and the meaning of freedom and sin. They also explore the role of Scripture, reason and the natural law, norms, conscience, and Church authority in making moral decisions. Throughout the course, Christian living is placed in the context of personal spirituality and the call to discipleship. Sexual ethics and Catholic social teaching are discussed at length in the course.

Focus Areas

Pursuing a Master of Pastoral Studies degree allows students to gain specific competencies in the focus area of their choice while earning a master’s degree from an institution with a long-standing reputation for excellence in education and ministerial formation. Students in the Master of Pastoral Studies program can choose:

Christian Spirituality for Ministry

This focus area in Christian spirituality recognizes that theological reflection and ministry are rooted in and foster the minister’s lived relationship with God. The goal of this focus area is to enable students to become familiar with the Christian tradition of spirituality and so enrich their personal and communal lives as ministers. Courses include:

  • Spirituality for Ministers
  • History of Christian Spirituality
  • Pastoral Leadership and Organization

Digital Culture and Ministry

This focus area invites students into the communicative aspects of theology and ministry. Communication is especially relevant in our digital age, for the potential of social and digital media to extend the reach of our ministries requires us all to become professional communicators in the context of our work. Courses include:

  • Digital Media and Ministry
  • Religious Communication
  • Pastoral Leadership and Organization

Marketplace Ministry

The focus area of Marketplace Ministries assists students in reflecting upon the spirituality of work in its various manifestations. Students then explore the meaning and avenues for Christian praxis in the midst of organizational settings that are not specifically ecclesial in identity. Courses include:

  • Spirituality and Theology of Work
  • Ministry in the Marketplace
  • Pastoral Leadership and Organization

Pastoral Life and Administration

The focus area in pastoral life and administration helps prepare pastoral leaders for ministry in the growing number of parishes without a resident pastor, or to serve as pastoral administrators or associates on parish teams. Courses include:

  • Parish Life and Ministry
  • Contemporary Issues in Pastoral Ministry
  • Pastoral Leadership and Organization

Religion and Ecology

This focus area explores the universe as the primary religious reality and manifestation of the divine and grapples with the implications of the universe and its story for all people of faith. Courses include:

  • The Universe as Divine Manifestation
  • The Emergent Universe: Our Sacred Story
  • Pastoral Leadership and Organization

Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry introduces students to the dynamic foundations of youth and young adult ministry with an emphasis on the developmental needs of adolescents, young adults, the lived experience of contemporary youth and young adult ministers, the prevalence of social media, and ministry models and practices that best promote healthy Christian development in youth and young adults during these challenging times. Courses include:

  • Foundations of Youth Ministry
  • Adolescent Spirituality and Faith Development
  • Pastoral Leadership and Organization

Pastoral Care

Opportunities for providing pastoral care come with the territory of prison, hospice, hospital, and nursing home ministry, as well as ministry in social service agencies. This focus area offers a solid background and working knowledge of skills for women and men who work in pastoral care settings, which require them to initiate and sustain relationships with others in which a high degree of support and challenge are offered. Courses include:

  • Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling
  • Counseling Theories
  • Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Individual Counseling Skills Lab
  • Clinical Pastoral Training (CPT) Practicum

Individualized Program

Given their unique ministries, some students find that a combination of courses from different focus areas may suit their needs. Such students, in consultation with their advisor, may develop an individualized track for the MPS degree.

  • Two focus area courses (chosen in consultation with an advisor)
  • Pastoral Leadership and Organization