Intellectual Formation


Intellectual formation presupposed that candidates have a broad knowledge of the human condition as well as both the cultural literacy and the global awareness of an educated Westerner. It works to ensure that candidates have an understanding of divine revelation as transmitted by Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium, a sound sense of pastoral judgment, a true sympathy for the Church and its ministries, an ability to communicate the Gospel message, and a commitment to continuing education after ordination (PPF, n. 136 ff).

Christ the Teacher: The Christian faith is most importantly a communal and individual encounter with a person, Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnate Son of God. Everything else is derived from this—whether creeds, doctrines, propositions, or documents. Theology itself is the ongoing effort to come to know this person better.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

It is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith…A more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love…In the words of St. Augustine, ‘I believe in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe’ (n. 158).

The person whom we come to know in faith is no one less than the Wisdom of God and the Power of God (see 1 Cor 1:24), the pattern of all intelligibility and holiness, and the power that upholds and redeems. We know him first of all in an encounter that is mediated to us through the Church and cultivated in our own spirituality. Indeed without this basis, the study of theology cannot make sense. But precisely on this basis a whole new world of meaning opens for us. The goal of intellectual formation is a disciplined exploration of that world of meaning, always with a view towards evangelization. 

The Intellectual Formation Program at Kenrick School of Theology is articulated in six area specialties, which jointly contribute to the mystagogia that is the heart of the program: Scripture, Church History, Systematic Theology, Liturgical-Sacramental Theology, Moral Theology, and Pastoral Studies. Each area is constituted by a set of core required courses and a varying set of elective courses. Independent or tutorial study is also available, with the authorization of the Academic Dean.

Scripture is the soul, the foundation, and the point of departure for all of theology. Church History provides a chronological framework for understanding the development of the Church through its four principal periods: the Patristic, the Medieval, the Modern, and the Contemporary. Systematic Theology provides a conceptual framework for the effort to understand and interrelate the mysteries of the faith. Liturgical and Sacramental Theology offers a comprehensive reflection on the centrality of the Paschal Mystery in the history of the human race, and on the continuation of that mystery in the liturgy—the summit and source of the Church’s life. Moral Theology offers a comprehensive reflection on the response of the Christian to the saving love of Christ, above all in the deeds of a virtuous and loving life. Pastoral Studies mark the transition in the curriculum from theory to practice.

Activities of the Intellectual Formation Program

The following six areas of courses comprise the Intellectual Formation Program (see Curriculum page for specific courses within each of the six areas): Scripture, Church History, Systematic Theology, Liturgical & Sacramental Theology, Moral Theology, and Pastoral Studies. In addition to these six areas, the Intellectual Formation Program also entails two ancillary areas, Curriculum Support Courses and Language Courses. Curriculum Support Courses are a specifically-directed aid to the graduate writing and summative evaluation that the Intellectual Formation Program requires (see Curriculum page for specific courses). Language Courses are also offered as a support to graduate-level study or to pastoral ministry. These courses are generally 3-hour courses, offered at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced level. The first course in each cycle is listed here. Study in other languages can be accommodated, according to the availability of instructors.

LNG 511     Hebrew
LNG 521     Greek
LNG 531     Latin
LNG 541     Spanish

The Ordination program requires 12 hours of elective courses, which are announced for each area at the time of registration.

The Ordination program also requires completion of a summative evaluation exercise in the form of a comprehensive examination. Ordination program students who are also enrolled in the M.A. program may satisfy this requirement by either of the options for the M.A. summative, by the M.A. comprehensive examination or by the M.A. thesis and defense.

In each semester of work, the student must maintain a grade point average of 2.75. A first failure to do so constitutes grounds for academic probation; a second failure constitutes grounds for dismissal from the program.

Objectives of Intellectual Formation

As a result of his engagement in the Intellectual Formation Program, each candidate will demonstrate the following (PPF, n. 280c.):

  • A love for the truth, as discovered by faith and reason;
  • A fidelity to the saving Word of God, as carried by Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium;
  • An ability to interpret Scripture and the basic texts of Tradition;
  • An adherence to the teaching of the Magisterium, according to the level of authority exercised;
  • A body of knowledge, consisting of the history, the doctrines, the institutional development, and the cultural expressions of Catholicism;
  • An ability to interact with historical and cultural contexts and to participate in the Gospel’s ongoing transformation of contemporary contexts;
  • An ability to distinguish between theological opinion and the deposit of faith;
  • A theologically-informed habit of pastoral judgment;
  • An ability to move comfortably between theology and pastoral practice;
  • An ability to deal with legitimate pluralism and divergent opinions;
  • An awareness of the divisions of Christianity and a commitment to ecumenism;
  • An awareness of the dialogue between Christianity and other world religions
  • An ability to preach and to teach—a proficiency in the use of appropriate cultural, theological, and pastoral resources to mediate the meaning of Christian faith to contemporary culture;
  • A knowledge of languages that may be necessary or suitable for the exercise of the pastoral ministry