How to Study Theology (and Not Quit Your Day Job)

When considering the possibility of taking some theology classes, or even pursuing a degree, it is often the objections that hold sway, rather than the movement of the Spirit. What can you do with that? Do you have a back-up plan?  Isn’t that a waste of money? The pressure to do something practical that will lead to employment is immense.  And yet, our hearts are restless…The desire is there, but the justification is sometimes hard to come by. 

Those who take the plunge give a wide variety of reasons for doing so – some quite specific, others barely communicable. Here are three reasons you might be considering the formal study of theology:

1.) You work for the Church in some capacity and want some professional development.

Whether you are a catechist in a parish, a permanent deacon, or a vice-chancellor of an archdiocese, continuing formation in the faith is crucial.  No ministry is minor. Though advanced study may or may not mean an increase in salary, it will bring an increase in confidence and a deeper relationship with Christ. The beauty of theology is that its subject matter is infinite. 

2.) You’ve recently come to a greater appreciation of your Catholic faith and feel the need to know more. 

Conversion is a powerful thing. When your faith is awakened, you crave a deeper relationship with the Lord and a greater knowledge of His revelation. Your desire to live your faith in your home and professional life is strong, but the know-how is lacking. Even twelve years of Catholic school is not enough! The personal encounter with Jesus sparks a desire to learn everything possible about Him. 

3.) You feel God calling you to something, but you don’t know what it is. 

When asked why they decided to study theology, so many students say that they really don’t know—they just felt that God wanted them to do it. Theology students range from traditional-age college students searching for their vocation to retirees looking to grow in the faith and serve in their parishes. The diversity among students is as great as within the Church herself. 

So, you are feeling the call to study theology, but you can’t leave your employment. Or move to a new city. Or go into large debt. It is just too impractical. But wait – there’s more! It is, in fact, possible to study theology and not quit your day job! Here’s how.

The Saint Joseph’s College online Theology program makes it convenient and affordable to earn a theology degree, or just take some classes. The program is completely online offered in a self-paced environment with monthly start dates and offers the lowest tuition of any online Catholic theology program.  

The College offers an array of programming, including a Master of Divinity, Master of Arts degrees in Pastoral Theology, Sacred Theology, and Advanced Diaconal Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in Theological Studies, and a variety of certificates in Catholic theology at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels. For the neophyte, a non-credit course on The Catechism for Catechists is a perfect beginning.  

New certificate programs in Black Catholic and Latino Catholic communities prepare pastoral ministers serving those populations, both of which are changing as they grow. Once predominantly African-American, the Black Catholic population now includes many refugees from Africa, making the population very diverse. Likewise, the Latino community is representative of a number of Spanish-speaking countries, each with a unique culture.  

The Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program is rooted in and professes fidelity to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and heritage of the Roman Catholic Church, seeking to combine faith with reason in the pursuit of academic excellence. Its faculty exemplifies its philosophy that effective ministry requires a solid theological foundation, grounded in solid Catholic doctrine, with a deep spiritual and pastoral orientation. Every faculty member has received the mandatum from the bishop of the local Diocese of Portland.   

So here is the fourth reason to study theology--because you can! The Gospel tells us to “be not afraid” to “go by another way!” Studying theology may be the road less traveled, but it is one that is spiritually enriching and has practical applications for our work, both in the Church and in the temporal world. Saint Joseph’s College is a guide on that road, and we’d like to invite you to walk with us. The choice to study theology may not get the enthusiastic nod from family and friends. It will require humility, and even a small martyrdom. It is “another way,” and an often unexpected one. But it is a path you do not walk alone--the SJC community accompanies you. 

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