Master of Arts Degree Program

Kenrick School of Theology offers the Master of Arts degree in theology (M.A.). The degree provides a graduate-level understanding of the theological disciplines for general educational purposes. Like the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) Program, the M.A. Program is based on the four-year Ordination Program at Kenrick, which consists of basic and advanced components. The basic components of the Ordination Program constitute the M.Div. Program; the advanced components constitute the distinctive elements of the M.A. Program. The two degrees are further distinct in that the purpose of the M.Div. Program is to prepare students for the priestly life and for pastoral leadership. The specific components of the Kenrick M.Div Program that are oriented to priestly life and pastoral leadership do not form part of the M.A. Program.

Summary of Master of Arts Degree Program Goals

By its mission to prepare men for the Roman Catholic priesthood, Kenrick School of Theology seeks to instill in its students:

1) an abiding priestly identity, founded on Christ Jesus and in his Church;

2) a cooperative priestly ministry, comprised of teaching, sanctifying, and leading; and

3) an integrated priestly spirituality, embracing celibacy, simplicity, obedience, and prayer.

At Kenrick this preparation for the priesthood takes place in the Ordination-M.Div. Program, which is articulated in four interrelated dimensions: human formation, spiritual formation, intellectual formation, and pastoral formation. The Kenrick M.A. Program is based in the intellectual formation component of the Ordination Program. The goals of the Master of Arts degree program are that the student acquire the following:

1) an ability to conduct and present theological research on an advanced academic level.

2) a competence for future teaching of theology or religion courses at the high school or college level.

3) a competence for the possible pursuit of post-graduate academic study in one of the theological disciplines.

The goals of the Master of Arts Degree Program also conform to the standards of Accreditation of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, which require that a Master of Arts degree program provide "a basic understanding of theological disciplines for further graduate study or for general educational purposes" (ATS Standards, E. 1.0). The understanding of theological disciplines and general education purposes are explicit foci for all three goals: further graduate study is the focus of goal three.

Summative Evaluation for the M.A. Program

The summative evaluation exercise is a requirement shared with the Ordination Program but not with the M.Div. Program. It consists of either of two options: the preparation and defense of a thesis or the completion of a written and oral comprehensive examination. Students who elect the thesis option must have a minimum GPA of 3.3, must be approved by the faculty, and must have their thesis topic approved by the Academic Dean.

In rendering this approval, the Academic Dean may take into consideration the topic's degree of challenge and the student's level of ability.

If a level of competence in a research language is integral to the student's research or focus, such competence must be shown by a translation exercise. The determination of a need for such competence and the certification of such are left to the student and his research advisor.

All Ordination-M.A. students are required to enroll in the two semesters of the Summative Evaluation Seminar, a one-hour course, for an additional two hours of credit. The procedures of this course and the protocols for the actual evaluation exercises are described in the Summative Evaluation Handbook.

If a student fails to complete the summative evaluation exercise, the seminary, at its option, may withhold or withdraw its recommendation for ordination.

Thesis Track

The Thesis Paper

A candidate in the thesis track develops a thesis paper in his focused discipline under the direction of a research advisor who must be a faculty member of Kenrick School of Theology.

The purpose of this thesis paper is to demonstrate the candidate's competence for independent research in the field of focused study. The thesis paper can be an original contribution or a presentation of research.

The thesis paper is to be no less than 50 pages and no more than 80 pages in length. The Kenrick School of Theology Stylesheet for the M.A. Thesis Paper is to be followed. It is available from the Academic Office.

The research advisor guides the candidate's research from beginning to end. In the event that a candidate's research advisor leaves Kenrick School of Theology, the candidate ordinarily can keep the research advisor if the candidate is moving towards defense within a year; if not, then the candidate must find a new advisor. If it is financially reasonable to bring back the research advisor for a defense during that year, Kenrick School of Theology will cover the expenses; otherwise, a proxy will be appointed by the Academic Dean.

Candidates must declare their focus discipline and research advisor by the end of their second semester in the Master of Arts program.

Completion of the thesis paper counts two semester hours towards the completion of the curriculum requirements. The grade for the thesis paper is given by the examination board at the conclusion of the defense. The candidate should prepare three copies of the thesis paper: one each for the research advisor, the other examiner, and the Academic Dean. The copy presented to the Academic Dean becomes the property of the library.

By December 15th of the final year of campus residency, the candidate must submit to his advisor a reasonably complete first draft of the thesis. Failure to meet this requirement will entail the candidate’s discontinuance from the thesis track and his enrollment in the comprehensives track. Note that, since the comprehensives track requires one additional M.A. elective course, this additional requirement will be applicable to the candidate at that time. If he does not already have a sufficient number of courses to meet this additional requirement, he will be required to enroll in the additional M.A. course in the immediately coming semester.

Defense before the Examination Board

When the candidate has completed the thesis paper, it must be approved by the research advisor for oral presentation to the examination board. This board is composed of the research advisor and another full-time faculty member selected by the research advisor with the approval of the Academic Dean. At the request of the candidate, and with the approval of the Academic Dean, this second examiner may be an adjunct faculty member or a faculty member from another theology school with which Kenrick School of Theology has cross registration. Examiners are to hold at least the S.T.L. or equivalent.

The order of events leading to the defense is as follows.

Week One:

  • the candidate and research advisor agree the paper is ready for presentation;
  • the candidate formally requests a defense date from the Coordinator of Summative Evaluation;
  • the research advisor selects the other examiner as described above;

Week Two:

  • within one week of their selection, both examiners receive the penultimate text;

Weeks Three and Four:

  • examiners have two weeks to return their comments to the candidate; they may recommend changes, but only the research advisor may require changes;

Weeks Five and Six:

  • the candidate has two weeks to produce a final text and distribute it to the examiners;

Week Seven:

  • the examiners have one week to review the final text.

The defense date (set earlier) may be set for any date beginning with week eight, except for dates that fall within the week of final examinations.

The defense is closed to the public and is chaired by the research advisor. In the defense, the candidate has 15 minutes to present, followed by 15 minutes for each of the examiners; these times are approximate, but the total length is not to exceed 60 minutes. In his presentation, the candidate is not delivering a formal lecture which represents his thesis paper but rather a summary in which he explains why he chose the topic, what he expected to find, what insights or surprises he in fact found, what areas remain for further study, etc. The examiners examine the candidate on the thesis paper. In the course of the defense, examiners may recommend but may not require further changes in the thesis paper.

Each examiner submits a single letter grade for the thesis paper and the defense considered together, with the research advisor computing and announcing the grade at the conclusion of the defense. The grade is to be computed according to the current scale for grade points, and the two grades are to be weighted according to this formula: the research advisor's grade is counted for 60% of the total; the other examiner’s grade is counted for 40%. Note that the final grade for the defense is also the final grade for the thesis paper and is included in the candidate's grade point average for the Master of Arts program.

Comprehensives Track

A candidate in the comprehensives track writes polished drafts of five questions and completes an oral comprehensive examination. The purpose of the comprehensive examination is to demonstrate the candidate's competence in the survey, interdisciplinary, or focused study he has chosen.

The student chooses a first examiner with whom to develop two examination questions. The second examiner is assigned by the Academic Dean by a random process. (The purpose of such random assignment is assure that the workload of the examination process is balanced fairly among the members of the faculty.) The candidate may exercise a right of first refusal on the appointment of either examiner by the Academic Dean.

In consultation with the two examiners, the candidate develops five questions plus supporting bibliography suitable for an oral examination. Two questions are drawn from the area specialty of the examination advisor and two from the area of the second examiner. One question is integrative in nature.

Oral Examination

During the oral examination, closed to the public, the candidate has 15 minutes to present, followed by 15 minutes for each of the examiners, for a total of no more than 60 minutes.

In his presentation, the candidate is not delivering a formal lecture but rather a summary in which he explains why he chose the focus study (if applicable); how he developed the original five examination questions; what difference reading and preparing the questions has made in his understanding; any insights/surprises he found in study; and areas for further study.

The examiners are free to arrange their questions as they see fit. They may ask the candidate to support the answer with background information. They might ask about what is written as well as the deeper presuppositions and wider context for what is written.

Each examiner submits a single letter grade for the oral examination, with the examination advisor computing and announcing the grade at the conclusion of the defense. The grade is to be computed according to the current scale for grade points, and the two grades are to be weighted equally.

If a candidate fails the examination, the examination advisor will present the candidate with the specific concerns of the examiners, with examiners' specific recommendations for additional research, and with a focused bibliography. The candidate will have three weeks to do the additional work, after which time the examination advisor will re-convene the examiners and candidate for a 30 minute follow-up oral examination. The procedure for evaluating this follow-up oral examination is the same as for the initial oral examination.

The oral examination and any retake sessions may be videotaped for the purpose of program assessment.

Graduation from the M.A. Program

Degrees are awarded by the Board of Trustees at the time of the annual spring Academic Convocation. Kenrick School of Theology awards the honor “Graduates with Distinction" to degree recipients with a G.P.A. of 3.80 or higher. There is a diploma graduation fee, regardless of whether one attends the Academic Convocation; fees are posted annually by the Academic Office.

Location and Duration of the Program

The Master of Arts degree program is contemporaneous with the four-year Ordination Program but entails the equivalent of two years of work. The program is subject to the same residency requirement as the Ordination Program, at the campus of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Distinctive Resources for the Programs

Kenrick School of Theology affords to students enrolled in the Master of Arts Program the General Institutional Resources. In addition to these, Kenrick also affords its students faculty, library resources, and support services to sustain specialization in the M.A. Program. Students are provided with M.A. advisors, as applicable, for guidance and support in the particular decisions related to this program, and the program itself is administered by the Academic Dean with the assistance of the Coordinator of Summative Evaluation.