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Focus Areas

Christian Spirituality | Digital Culture and Ministry | Marketplace Ministry | Pastoral Care | Pastoral Life and Administration | Religion and Ecology | Religious EducationYouth and Young Adult Ministry | Small Christian Community Formation | Individualized Track

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

    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 (All LIM course descriptions available here):

    • 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. 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 (All LIM course descriptions available here):

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

    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 (All LIM course descriptions available here):

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

    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 (All LIM course descriptions available here):

    • Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling★  
    • 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 Training Practicum (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,, before you register for them, to make sure that they will apply.

    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 (All LIM course descriptions available here):

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

    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 (All LIM course descriptions available here):

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

    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 (All LIM course descriptions available here):

    • Foundations of Religious Education
    • Curriculum Development
    • Religious Education across the Curriculum  or Catechetical Leadership

    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

    Courses in the focus area are (All LIM course descriptions available here):

    • Foundations of Youth and Young Adult Ministry
    • Youth and Young Adults: Spirituality and Methods of Faith Development
    • Pastoral Leadership and Organization

    Small Christian Community Formation

    Whether they are called basic Christian communities, basic ecclesial communities, intentional Christian communities, or small Christian communities, they are a way of being in the world that harkens back to the models and fervor of the early church. They bring life to parishes and other Christian groups across continents.

    The focus area in Small Christian Community Formation provides pastoral agents with a broad theological and historical understanding of this movement, with a familiarity of research on SCCs, and with skills for forming and nurturing intentional Christian communities in parishes, religious communities, prisons, schools, and other grassroots settings.

    Courses in the focus area are (All LIM course descriptions available here):

    • Inner Life of Small Christian Communities
    • Public Life of Small Christian Communities
    • Pastoral Leadership and Organization

    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, two focus area courses are chosen in consultation with a student’s advisor. 

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

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