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Focus Area Concentrations

Focus areas group courses based on specific areas of ministry and religious education. Students reflect upon their ministry or religious education praxis in relation to current literature and trends in the field.

Religious Education

Both church and culture continue to invest their hopes for a better world in education. This vocation is viewed as the means through which we achieve and understanding of life and how it should be lived. Religious educators are especially attentive to this mission. They work both within and alongside religious tradition to promote within their students a sense of identity, reverence, and responsibility for life and the sacred. The degree in religious education provides religious educators with a broad and in-depth exploration of the field. The coursework combines the development of confidence and creativity in working out curricula and gives practice in crafting effective learning processes. It provides educators with a set of multi-disciplinary perspectives and methodologies to enrich their practice.

Courses in the focus area are:

Foundations of Religious Education

An exploration of the contextual roots of the field that includes the Christian theological tradition, family, church, and socio-cultural influences and responses, as well as creation itself. Through this model of contextual reflection, participants will trace the evolution of the theory and practice of religious education in its Christian expression with special attention to its contemporary Roman Catholic character and responsibilities in ecclesial and academic settings.

Curriculum Development

This course enables participants to distinguish three models of teaching and learning that are practiced in various educational contexts and to consider their strengths and weaknesses as well as their value, relevance, and appropriateness in the practice of religious education in church and school. Special attention will be given to contemporary guidelines, curricula, and concerns in Catholic religious education.

Plus, EITHER

Religious Education across the Curriculum

This course envisions a school in which religious education is set at the center of the academic curriculum. Within such a school, religious education would obviously take the traditional form of a discrete subject that is concerned with passing on to students the distinctive teachings of the Catholic faith. This explicit focus of necessity remains but a part of the whole curriculum. What is needed and taken up in the course is a more comprehensive and integrated understanding and practice of religious education in which the religious educator partners with teachers to illumine the presence and activity of God, of the sacred, that ultimately and intimately pervades every subject and discipline as well as to affirm and support these teachers’ more implicit practice of religious education.

OR

Catechetical Leadership

This course begins with the theological and doctrinal foundations of the catechetical ministry, as rooted in evangelization, and as a particular ministry to foster conversion to Jesus Christ. From this foundation, the course moves on to explore a variety of pastoral issues that shape our ministries of catechesis: working with children, youth, adults; the role of the community in the task of catechesis; the relationship between liturgy and catechesis; and finally the formation of and resources available for catechetical leaders.

Christian Spirituality for Ministry

The 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.& The focus area will introduce students to the history of Christian spirituality, to the rich variety and diverse forms of people’s search for God. It will also invite reflection on the theological foundations and practices of the Christian life and on the integration of religious experience and ministry. In this way, it can broaden students’ theological vision, professional competence and practical ministerial skills. As a preparation for spiritual ministry, theological principles and spiritual practices will be examined that will enable students to be more effective in planning and facilitating days of prayer, retreats and group prayer sessions. It will also assist those who are ministering to others as faith companions as they listen to and dialogue with those desiring to grow in their relationship with God. This focus area is suitable for those who work in the areas of bereavement, outreach to the sick, retreat work, and general pastoral care. This area does not constitute professional preparation for spiritual directors, but it does provide an important foundation for those involved in this ministry.

Courses in the focus area are:

Spirituality for Ministers

This course discusses the theological foundation of Christian life and explores how ministry is rooted in and gives expression to the minister’s relationship with God. Students are invited to reflect on prayer, discernment, and spiritual growth in the context of finding God in the midst of ministry.

History of Christian Spirituality

This course is an introduction to the variety of experiences and expressions of Christian spirituality from the roots of the Hebrew Scriptures to contemporary spiritual writing. The course focuses on monasticism, mysticism, and modern apostolic spirituality as a way of exploring the recurring questions and challenges that shape the human search for God.

Pastoral Leadership and Organization

This course explores the meaning of pastoral leadership in light of the current research in organizational development and ecclesiology. Current literature is surveyed in light of the mission of the church and the ecclesial vision of participants. Special emphasis is placed upon participative strategic planning processes and organizational development. Participants will analyze an organizational system for its strengths and weaknesses and propose interventions that would strengthen its organizational functioning.

Pastoral and Educational Praxis

In this capstone course, students employ the method of practical theology to reflect on concerns related to their ministerial and educational praxis. Careful analyses that include the social and cultural circumstances surrounding their identified praxis will be undertaken, as well as an appreciative and critical retrieval of the voice of the faith tradition. Based on that reflection, possible educational and ministerial interventions that meet criteria of pragmatic feasibility and religious faithfulness will be imagined and articulated verbally and in writing for evaluation and feedback.

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. With the emphasis on our present cultural context, the focus area explores how we might approach the task of communicating faith in the digital age with an awareness of and respect for relevant fundamental theology, especially the theology of revelation, which considers God's self-communication to humankind as a starting point. Ministry emerging from the theology of revelation asks what we can learn from God's self-communication for our own communicative practices, especially if we are called to communicate the gospel.  Special topics explored in these courses include participation, authority, mobility, and presence, all in light of the Christian and Roman Catholic tradition of social communication, as well as a variety of media used for communicating faith: visual, oral, electronic, embodied, musical, and digital.

Courses in the focus area are:

Digital Media and Ministry

This course explores the question of communicating faith online. Using the social communication tradition of the Roman Catholic Church as well as current ecumenical scholarship, this course offers critical theory for engaging in social communication for ministry, as well as exploring the practical, pastoral implications of this for our digital culture and context.

Religious Communication

This course explores how a variety of communication media can benefit ministers in their particular settings. Both theory and practice of contemporary communication media, especially the use of television, are explored with hands-on experience.

Pastoral Leadership and Organization

This course explores the meaning of pastoral leadership in light of the current research in organizational development and ecclesiology. Current literature is surveyed in light of the mission of the church and the ecclesial vision of participants. Special emphasis is placed upon participative strategic planning processes and organizational development. Participants will analyze an organizational system for its strengths and weaknesses and propose interventions that would strengthen its organizational functioning.

Pastoral and Educational Praxis

In this capstone course, students employ the method of practical theology to reflect on concerns related to their ministerial and educational praxis. Careful analyses that include the social and cultural circumstances surrounding their identified praxis will be undertaken, as well as an appreciative and critical retrieval of the voice of the faith tradition. Based on that reflection, possible educational and ministerial interventions that meet criteria of pragmatic feasibility and religious faithfulness will be imagined and articulated verbally and in writing for evaluation and feedback.

Marketplace Ministry

Organizations may be viewed as sacred fields of human energy in which the primary work of envisioning and structuring the life of our global community takes place. The ministerial praxis of those who engage others in work, neighborhood, and volunteer associations and organizations is to become co-creators with God or to act as leaven for the reign of God emerging in the midst of the “marketplace.” Marketplace ministers are the “church sent,” bringing and affirming the good news and vision of God’s shalom through prophetic action and compassionate relationships in their corporate and relational settings. They participate in the evangelization of social structures to bring about more just and caring communities and organizations.

The courses of the Marketplace Ministries focus area assist 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. The focus area is useful for those who see their primary ministry as happening beyond church structures and for those in ecclesial settings who want to foster a wider sense of marketplace ministries among their Christian community members.

Courses in the focus area are:

The Theology and Spirituality of Work

Oriented to those students who understand their ministry as primarily taking place outside of parish or other explicit ecclesial communities, this course investigates work and profession from the standpoints of vocation and community. Vocation is considered as a transformation of toil into creative work, and profession is viewed as an expression of the way one professes commitment to a particular community. Creativity, redemption, and collaboration are explored in light of workplace systems and the difference that Christians can make in the world.

Ministry in the Marketplace

This course helps students discern practical approaches to working toward mutually respectful, caring, and just communities in diverse and pluralistic work and community settings. The course will explore how images of collective life rooted in the biblical image of the reign of God can be translated into contemporary societies and community life with respect for persons of varying backgrounds and tradition.

Pastoral Leadership and Organization

This course explores the meaning of pastoral leadership in light of the current research in organizational development and ecclesiology. Current literature is surveyed in light of the mission of the church and the ecclesial vision of participants. Special emphasis is placed upon participative strategic planning processes and organizational development. Participants will analyze an organizational system for its strengths and weaknesses and propose interventions that would strengthen its organizational functioning.

Pastoral and Educational Praxis

In this capstone course, students employ the method of practical theology to reflect on concerns related to their ministerial and educational praxis. Careful analyses that include the social and cultural circumstances surrounding their identified praxis will be undertaken, as well as an appreciative and critical retrieval of the voice of the faith tradition. Based on that reflection, possible educational and ministerial interventions that meet criteria of pragmatic feasibility and religious faithfulness will be imagined and articulated verbally and in writing for evaluation and feedback.

Pastoral Care

Opportunities for providing pastoral care come with the territory of prison, hospice, hospital, and nursing home ministries, 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. This focus area does not lead to licensure as a professional pastoral counselor.  Rather, it equips pastoral ministers with a set of basic skills, along with the accompanying conceptual and experimental background, to respond well during the everyday pastoral care demands of their ministries. Graduates of this focus area may complete additional units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and become eligible for certification as a chaplain through the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC).

Students interested in pastoral counseling or counseling as a profession should seek out degree programs ending in licensure. Loyola University New Orleans has a unique on-campus program leading to a dual master’s degree in pastoral studies (M.P.S.) and a master’s degree in counseling (M.S.).

This focus area choice may not be feasible for all online students because students need to be able to complete the equivalent of the two required counseling courses (Counseling Theories and Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling) from an accredited graduate program in their local area, if on-campus work at Loyola University New Orleans is not possible for them during a regular fall semester. The fourth course in this focus area, which fulfills the capstone requirement, is one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education from an accredited site. (Available accredited sites for CPE may be found through the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education website).

Courses in the focus area are:

Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling

This course is a religious and social psychological introduction to the basic stance of pastoral care and counseling. It explores how pastoral counseling is like and not like secular counseling practice and articulates the unique characteristics of forms of counseling calling themselves pastoral.

★ Students in the online program may take this class as an elective or as part of an individualized focus area program.

Counseling Theories

Normally taken from an accredited graduate program in the student’s location

Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Normally taken from an accredited graduate program in the student’s location

Clinical Pastoral Education

Normally be taken a from a site accredited by the ACPE

If you are interested in the Pastoral Care focus area, please explore the following:

  1. Go to the ACPE website and search for accredited CPE Centers to see if CPE is available in your area. Check the schedules of CPE offerings at local sites to determine if participating in CPE for one unit is feasible for you.
  2. Check local accredited universities in your area for graduate courses available to you in the counseling area. They should, in general, cover the same topics and processes as the Loyola University courses Counseling Theories and Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
  3. Please send the catalog descriptions of the courses you plan to take locally and transfer into your MPS program to Judy Lavergne, jflaverg@loyno.edu, before you register for them, to make sure that they will apply.
  4. Students in the Pastoral Care focus area complete 1 unit of CPE in lieu of the capstone course.  The CPE unit should be completed at a site accredited by the ACPE (See the directory at www.acpe.edu).  If your hospital is an accredited site, the CPE unit there may be applied to your MPS degree.  Please contact LIM Director for information on how to register for the Loyola independent study course credit before beginning the CPE unit.  We will assign you to an instructor who will engage with you in reflecting on your CPE experience. 

Pastoral Life and Administration

Competent, educated lay ecclesial ministers are being called by today’s church to facilitate the pastoral and administrative life of parishes, dioceses, and other church-related organizations. 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. This circumstance provides the laity, women religious, religious brothers, and deacons with increasing opportunities to share their gifts and talents with the parish and diocesan church. LIM seeks to help students discover and claim these gifts and talents and prepares students with skills in pastoral administration. Pastoral Leadership and Organization, required of all MPS students, provides content related to administration skills. The two focus area courses are centered on pastoral life issues related to ministry in parishes and church-related organizations.

Courses in the focus area are:

Parish Life and Ministry

The aim of this course is to help participants reflect on today’s experience of the parish in its many shapes and forms. Pastoral practice and canon law are used during the course as reference points for discussion of the pastoral and canonical issues raised by the student and the course content.

Contemporary Issues in Pastoral Ministry

This course examines a number of challenges facing parishes and pastoral leaders in a variety of ministry settings. Topics include issues related to evangelization, collaborative ministry, parish mergers and transitions, and the spirituality of lay ecclesial ministers, among others. Course participants also examine in more depth the needs and models of ministry related to a particular population (for example, ministry to homebound elderly) in their faith community.

Pastoral Leadership and Organization

This course explores the meaning of pastoral leadership in light of the current research in organizational development and ecclesiology. Current literature is surveyed in light of the mission of the church and the ecclesial vision of participants. Special emphasis is placed upon participative strategic planning processes and organizational development. Participants will analyze an organizational system for its strengths and weaknesses and propose interventions that would strengthen its organizational functioning.

Pastoral and Educational Praxis

In this capstone course, students employ the method of practical theology to reflect on concerns related to their ministerial and educational praxis. Careful analyses that include the social and cultural circumstances surrounding their identified praxis will be undertaken, as well as an appreciative and critical retrieval of the voice of the faith tradition. Based on that reflection, possible educational and ministerial interventions that meet criteria of pragmatic feasibility and religious faithfulness will be imagined and articulated verbally and in writing for evaluation and feedback.

Religion and Ecology

We are born of a long evolutionary process and fulfill our role as that unique life form through which the universe becomes self-reflective. In time we awaken to the universe–our intellect, imagination, heart, and soul. This source of all that is in space and time, this great story of life emerging, diversifying, relating, and renewing its form and function, with its infinite cast of characters, manifests and mediates divine presence within the human community. Such profound communication might be interpreted as our foundational religious education, spiritual direction, sacred text, healing, source of inspiration and guidance.

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. What makes the story compelling is the revelation that the universe is our primary existential reality and the only self-referent context in the phenomenal order. This description of our sacred space has only recently become available to us through scientific research and discovery.

Having established the primacy of the cosmological order as divine manifestation and sacred story the focus area shifts to a consideration of the earth and its distinctive revelation and evolution. Here is our particular and common home, as Pope Francis calls it in his encyclical Laudato Si' and elsewhere. Here we find our identity within the comprehensive order of the natural world. Our task then becomes one of discerning and interpreting the divine communication expressed in and through this “sacred text.”

While the subject of this focus area is foundational for everyone involved in ministry and religious education, it may also be of particular interest to those whose primary commitments and concerns relate to the natural world.

Courses in the focus area are:

The Universe as Divine Manifestation

This course engages students in a process of discernment, interpretation, and response to the natural world as revelatory, as a primary mediation and distinctive focus of divine presence and activity. Our exploration begins with searching out this revelation in the cosmological order through scientific insights into the structure and functioning of the universe. From this macrophase perspective, the course shifts to the more proximate witness to the divine as this finds expression in and through the planet Earth. Out of this experience and insight we will articulate the meaning of this revelation for ourselves and for people of faith in our times.

The Emergent Universe: Our Sacred Story

This course asks participants to immerse themselves in contemporary discoveries and understandings of the emergent universe and to reflect on its spiritual dimensions and significance. As we become familiar with this new story, this sacred story, we will also attend to the data which describes the urgency of the ecological issue with an eye to discerning its implications for the physical, psychic, and spiritual dimensions of our lives.

Pastoral Leadership and Organization

This course explores the meaning of pastoral leadership in light of the current research in organizational development and ecclesiology. Current literature is surveyed in light of the mission of the church and the ecclesial vision of participants. Special emphasis is placed upon participative strategic planning processes and organizational development. Participants will analyze an organizational system for its strengths and weaknesses and propose interventions that would strengthen its organizational functioning.

Pastoral and Educational Praxis

In this capstone course, students employ the method of practical theology to reflect on concerns related to their ministerial and educational praxis. Careful analyses that include the social and cultural circumstances surrounding their identified praxis will be undertaken, as well as an appreciative and critical retrieval of the voice of the faith tradition. Based on that reflection, possible educational and ministerial interventions that meet criteria of pragmatic feasibility and religious faithfulness will be imagined and articulated verbally and in writing for evaluation and feedback.

Youth and Young Adult Ministry

Youth, young adult, and pastoral juvenil hispana ministries are increasingly important in the US Catholic Church. In their statements on ministry, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops calls for dynamic and effective forms of leadership education to prepare those who work in youth, young adult, and pastoral juvenil hispana ministries to empower young people for their mission in the world by inviting them into the full life of the Church.

This focus area introduces students to the dynamic foundations of youth, young adult, and pastoral juvenile hispana ministries with an emphasis on the developmental needs of adolescents and young adults, and los jóvenes; 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. It gives students an opportunity to explore in depth the phenomenon of spiritual development, the best practices in ministry to these groups, and the impact that effective programs for youth, young adults, and los jóvenes can have on the mission of local churches, the whole church, and the wider community in which youth and their family members live and work. Courses in the focus area are:

Foundations of Youth and Young Adult Ministry

The course examines the broad foundations of youth (ages 12-18) and young adult (ages 18-39) ministry and pastoral juvenil hispana. Students will investigate models for comprehensive youth and young adult ministry and pastoral juvenil hispana that incorporate developmentally and culturally sound programming, strengthen the family’s role in the lives of young people, involve youth, young adults, and los jóvenes as integral members of the local church, and reach out to key individuals and organizations in the wider community in the dynamic effort to promote healthy formation. Students will also explore best practices in young adult ministry and pastoral juvenil hispana in order to connect young adults and los jóvenes with their faith, the church, a peer community, and the wider community in which they and their family members live and work.

Youth and Young Adults: Spirituality and Methods of Faith Development

In this course, students first examine in depth the phenomenon and characteristics of youth, young adult, and los jóvenes spirituality. They then examine typical stages of religious development during adolescence through the emerging adult years. Finally, students direct their attention to a study of a variety of methodologies to enhance and encourage the faith development of youth, young adults, and los jóvenes and explore ways to help them grow in religious knowledge and religious expression.

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Pastoral Leadership and Organization

This course explores the meaning of pastoral leadership in light of the current research in organizational development and ecclesiology. Current literature is surveyed in light of the mission of the church and the ecclesial vision of participants. Special emphasis is placed upon participative strategic planning processes and organizational development. Participants will analyze an organizational system for its strengths and weaknesses and propose interventions that would strengthen its organizational functioning.

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Pastoral and Educational Praxis

In this capstone course, students employ the method of practical theology to reflect on concerns related to their ministerial and educational praxis. Careful analyses that include the social and cultural circumstances surrounding their identified praxis will be undertaken, as well as an appreciative and critical retrieval of the voice of the faith tradition. Based on that reflection, possible educational and ministerial interventions that meet criteria of pragmatic feasibility and religious faithfulness will be imagined and articulated verbally and in writing for evaluation and feedback.

Individualized Track

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 or CPS certificate. In the individualized track, courses are:

Focus Course 1

Chosen in consultation with advisor

Focus Course 2

Chosen in consultation with advisor

Pastoral Leadership and Organization

This course explores the meaning of pastoral leadership in light of the current research in organizational development and ecclesiology. Current literature is surveyed in light of the mission of the church and the ecclesial vision of participants. Special emphasis is placed upon participative strategic planning processes and organizational development. Participants will analyze an organizational system for its strengths and weaknesses and propose interventions that would strengthen its organizational functioning.

Pastoral and Educational Praxis

In this capstone course, students employ the method of practical theology to reflect on concerns related to their ministerial and educational praxis. Careful analyses that include the social and cultural circumstances surrounding their identified praxis will be undertaken, as well as an appreciative and critical retrieval of the voice of the faith tradition. Based on that reflection, possible educational and ministerial interventions that meet criteria of pragmatic feasibility and religious faithfulness will be imagined and articulated verbally and in writing for evaluation and feedback.

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