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Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Pastoral Studies


Master of Divinity

The M.Div. curriculum recognizes that professional ministerial leadership emerges from faith-filled ministerial practice and seeks reflective critical understanding to prepare graduates to know, serve and love practically.

This gives rise to three aspects of the M.Div. program: faith formation, reflective critical understanding and ministerial practice.

These areas of the curriculum prepare students for work in various areas:

The M.Div. degree is a 72-credit-hour (24-course) degree program, composed of three interconnected components: academic coursework, pastoral formation and ministerial skills. The IPS M.Div. curriculum recognizes ministerial leadership as emerging from faith-filled ministerial practice, seeking reflective critical understanding, so as to serve, know, and love practically. These three movements are reflected in each aspect of the M.Div. Program: Faith Formation, Reflective Critical Understanding and Ministerial Practice.

The M.Div. curriculum builds on top of the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree program. Course descriptions for several of the core courses below are described in the MAPS degree's section of this website

Critical Understanding

15 courses, 45 credit hours
Context 6 credits:

The incarnation of Jesus, Christian life and ministry are socially located, that is, they take place in specific social, cultural, political and economic contexts. These social contexts provide the environment within which persons minister. This course provides a model and practical skills for social analysis and strategies for social change to facilitate ministry in an urban context. As such it involves a group experience of social analysis and the development of strategies to respond to the identified social needs.

Scripture, 3 courses, 9 credits:

Systematic Theology, 4 courses, 12 credits:

Ethics, 2 courses, 6 credits

Christian Living, 4 courses, 12 credits

Ministerial Practice

7 courses, 21 credit hours 

Ministry Focus, 3 courses, 9 credit hours

Ministry Focus names the process by which the M.Div. student reviews the work of the first half of his/her curriculum, declares an intended focus or particular character, and projects the remainder of this curriculum for assessment, feedback, and approval by the IPS faculty. While these two tasks are distinct they intertwine in many ways and are enacted in one procedure.

Ministry Focus Elective, 3 hours
Ministry Focus Elective, 3 hours
Ministry Focus Elective, 3 hours

Contextual Education

2 courses, 6 credit hours

As a "pastoral" institute, IPS operates from a "praxis paradigm*" in relation to theological and ministerial education. This means that in Contextual Education students acquire knowledge for the sake of religious transformation as they experience God's action in persons' lives and link this action with tradition. Thus, images of Contextual Education limited to giving students .work experience. while they are studying, or that understand Field Education to be the context in which to "learn skills," are marginal to and outmoded for the praxis paradigm for pastoral studies. On the contrary, Contextual Education is an essential locus for exercising and gaining the knowledge essential for pastoral studies. It is a theological exercise, including four movements:

Contextual Education plays a major role in the very orchestration of theological education, an activity through which students generate data for theological construction and reconstruction. It also provides a setting for the student to exercise ministerial skills of caring for creation (cosmic, social, personal, and individual welfare), proclaiming the faith, and enacting the community.

Contextual Education then stands at the portal between the community and the university. In one direction the Contextual Education students join the community engaging the religious experiences of life. In the other, at the Institute, they join teachers and colleagues reflecting on the community's practice in light of the religious traditions. During this exchange M.Div. Students learn to generatively practice reflection and reflectively practice. They learn to become "ministers," ambassadors to the community.

M.Div. students normally engage in Contextual Education during the second year of the program (or after 8-12 courses have been completed). This allows students to do one year of classroom work and to prepare to engage a Contextual Education placement. It provides another year of classroom endeavor after the experience to concentrate on one's ministry objectives, refined in Contextual Education.

Clinical Pastoral Education, 0 hours 

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is a an interfaith method of theological education through which a student learns pastoral skills within a context of ministerial relationships to people and under the direct supervision of a certified pastoral supervisor. It provides a learning situation for a ministerial student in which they may develop awareness of the theological and psycho-social concerns of persons in crisis.

The CPE component is typically completed before application to candidacy to address one key candidacy concern, namely, personal growth matters of self awareness and self reflection. The student uses material from the CPE report to support his or her candidacy.

Candidacy is the process by which the IPS faculty exercises its responsibility to the church and other concerned publics by determining that the student has both the potential to satisfactorily complete this degree and a readiness to begin ministry. Students assess what they have accomplished, focus more clearly on their vision of ministry, and articulate issues and guidelines both for choosing future courses and for their remaining work in field education. Students also use this process to look ahead to the "M.Div. Project." Application for Candidacy typically takes place when the student has completed thirty-six hours (1/2) of course work. Ideally both CPE and the first semester of Field Education have also been completed; however, one must be completed.

The M.Div. Project is an opportunity to display competence gained in preparation for ministerial leadership through course work, field education, personal growth, and reflection during the years in the M.Div. Program. This final paper is intended as a demonstration of the student's ability;

The project not only demonstrates the foundation out of which the student's work now grows, but also develops a project relevant to the future of the student's ministry. The M.Div. project exhibits integration, shows the capacity to reflect upon experience, demonstrates one's ability to research major issues of life and faith, and exercises the skill to link contemporary needs with the tradition. This paper is to be 25 to 40 pages in length. The completed and approved M.Div. Project is due approximately two working weeks before graduation.

Faith Formation

Spiritual Direction 
Spiritual direction is the process of deepening one's relationship with God through a reflection and discernment process shared with a mentor trained to facilitate listening and responding to God's continuing revelation in the whole of one's life. It is recognized that many M.Div. students have a spiritual director and the availability of this service is not intended to replace that long-standing relationship. However IPS does provide the opportunity of experienced spiritual directors for all IPS students. Individual sessions will be held for one hour every other week. A registration form available on the IPS website must be filled out and returned to the IPS Office 2 weeks prior to the beginning of each semester, and registration must be made through LOCUS. This is a 0 credit hour course.

Pastoral Counseling 
Pastoral counseling is a process of developing a deeper understanding of self and self-in-relationship to others, to society and to the environment. Particular attention is given to theological and psychological dimensions of personal growth and integration. Individual sessions will be one hour each week. A registration form available on the IPS website must be filled out and returned to the IPS Office 2 weeks prior to the beginning of each semester, and registration must be made through LOCUS. This is a 0 credit hour course.

Click here for further information on the Institute's program of Personal Growth and Spiritual Development.


Institute of Pastoral Studies ยท 820 North Michigan Avenue, Lewis Towers 630, Chicago, IL 60611

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