Theology: FAQ

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Top ten reasons to study theology at St. Bonaventure

 Top-flight faculty with a strong international orientation

Small classes (typically 5 to 15 in theology courses) that encourage discussion and interaction among faculty and students

Broad range of courses, covering most aspects of the academic study of theology

Plenty of opportunities for ministry development through University Ministries and the Journey Project, along with the new Certificate in Religious Education

Bright and interesting (and fun!) students in theology classes, including many who are enrolled in the university’s Honors Program

Strong sense of community among faculty and students within the department

Personalized assistance with course selection and planning for the future (including help with graduate school admissions)

Franciscan ethos that promotes a caring and inclusive campus environment

 Scenic location with lots of outdoor activities (skiing, hiking, canoeing, etc.) nearby

 Affordable private school education, including competitive financial aid packages for strong students


Frequently asked questions about studying theology at St. Bonaventure

1. What is theology?

The word “theology” comes from two Greek words that together mean something like “speech about the divine.” As a field of academic study, theology refers to the disciplined investigation of the religious dimension of human experience. The term “theology” can also be used in a more limited sense to describe the beliefs held by a particular religious community.

Because religion touches so many aspects of people’s lives, the study of theology cuts across many traditional disciplinary boundaries. Like philosophy, it examines what people believe about the nature of reality and why they hold those beliefs. Like sociology, it investigates what people do in social groups and institutions to express their beliefs. Like psychology, it explores what motivates people to adopt a religious outlook on life. And like history, it studies the past as well as the present. In short, theology is a complex and engaging field of study that appeals to people with a broad variety of interests.

2. What do students do with a degree in theology?

Students who major or minor in theology are trained to investigate and interpret human experience using a variety of methods and perspectives. They also learn how to critically analyze the thought-patterns, motives, and actions of individuals and societies. Theology students also have many opportunities to develop their skills in written and oral communication. All of these abilities are important for success in graduate studies and employment in a variety of fields.

Theology majors tend to be unique individuals with highly diverse career interests. Many are preparing for careers in teaching or ministry. Some of these students go directly to graduate school or seminary after graduation, while others find jobs in churches, parochial schools, social service agencies, or other religious organizations. Other students combine theology with another field of study and proceed to earn graduate degrees in fields as diverse as social work, history, education, counseling, and law. Some theology majors elect to spend a year or two working as volunteers in various types of religious service programs while exploring their career options. Finally, some students study theology as a channel of personal growth while taking a second major in another field that offers a more predictable career path. Faculty advisors work closely with each student to help them plan for life after graduation.

3. What kinds of students choose to study theology at St. Bonaventure?

Students who major in theology are typically bright, motivated people who like to think for themselves about the vital questions of human existence. A remarkably high percentage of them are enrolled in the university’s Honors Program. Most combine academic studies with a deep personal engagement with religion, but the program includes students whose interest in theology is purely academic. Roman Catholics are in the majority, but students from any religious tradition (including non-Christian traditions) are welcome in the program.

4. What kind of preparation do I need to study theology at St. Bonaventure?

Since the study of theology crosses so many disciplinary boundaries, the best preparation for a major or minor in theology is a broad high school education. Students who enjoy studying history, literature, psychology, sociology, or the arts will find many opportunities to combine these interests with the study of theology. High school religion classes and other forms of religious education can be useful as background resources, but no prior course work in theology is assumed or required.

5. What kinds of courses are offered by the Theology Department?

The Theology Department offers a wide range of courses that cover most of the subjects normally included in the academic study of theology. Some courses focus on a particular religious tradition, text, or thinker, while others trace a particular question or theme across a variety of sources. Some examine the relation between religion and other realms of thought (science, philosophy, art, etc.), while others explore the private beliefs and practices of individuals. Most look at religion in a fairly objective manner, but some encourage students to examine their own beliefs and the beliefs of people around them. To learn more about the courses offered by the department, see the Description of Courses page.

6. What are the requirements for earning a major in theology?

The major in theology requires a total of 33 hours of course work in the department, including three required courses, five courses chosen from a list of options, a senior seminar, and two free electives. Students are given a substantial degree of freedom in selecting the courses that will count toward their major. A full description of the major requirements can be found by clicking here.

7. What are the requirements for earning a minor in theology?

The minor in theology requires 18 hours of course work, including two required core courses (CLAR 106, “Foundational Religious Texts of the Western World” and CLAR 107, “The Catholic-Franciscan Heritage”) and 12 hours of theology courses chosen by the student (four additional courses).

8. Is it possible to combine studies in theology with studies in another field?

Students in every major except Elementary Education have enough flexibility in their schedules to take courses in theology. Often students who are working on a degree in another field will take a course or two in theology and enjoy it so much that they decide to pursue a minor or even a second major in theology.

Students who choose to major in theology are encouraged to take courses in other disciplines in order to broaden their horizons. Many decide to complete a minor or a second major in fields as diverse as philosophy, sociology, psychology, history, or English. Many students find that having concentrations in two fields gives them an advantage in finding jobs or gaining admission to graduate schools.

9. Is it possible to study abroad in theology for a semester while at St. Bonaventure?

The Office of International Studies provides hands-on assistance for students who wish to study abroad during their time at St. Bonaventure. Many foreign colleges and universities offer courses in theology that will fulfill the requirements for the theology major at St. Bonaventure. Some schools offer enough courses to allow students to study nothing but theology during their semester abroad. For more information, contact the Office of International Studies.

10. What kind of training for ministry is offered at St. Bonaventure?

The theology program at St. Bonaventure is designed to help students understand the social and intellectual dimensions of human religious experience, not to equip them for careers in ministry. Students who intend to work in ministry occupations usually go on to pursue graduate studies in a seminary or other ministerial training program. The department does offer a number of courses in religious education as part of a program leading to a Certificate in Religious Education. This program is designed to equip theology majors to teach religion in a parochial school or to manage the religious education program of a local church.

St. Bonaventure also maintains a strong and active University Ministries program that offers numerous opportunities for both supervised and independent ministry experience. Their web site describes many of the programs and activities that are available on campus, including student-run groups. Students who are considering careers as priests, friars, or sisters can participate in vocation exploration groups directed by friars and sisters that aim to help them discover their calling in life.

St. Bonaventure is also one of an elite group of universities around the country that recently received a five-year, $2,000,000 grant to assist students with the process of integrating faith, academic studies, and service. This program, called the “Journey Project,” offers numerous opportunities for students to explore their personal call to ministry and to gain practical experience in community service and leadership. One of the more attractive features of the Journey Project is a service internship program that provides students with paid work in local churches or non-profit organizations and then brings them together for group reflection sessions to discuss what they are learning. For more information, see the Journey Project’s web site.

11. What can I expect from the theology faculty at St. Bonaventure?

The nine full-time members of the theology faculty (six men and three women) bring a strong international favor to the classroom. Six are natives of countries other than the United States (India, Russia, Germany, and Canada), and nearly all have studied in other countries. All hold doctorates from leading universities, including Harvard, Cambridge, Chicago, Duke, Toronto, and McGill. All are professional scholars who write books, publish articles, and present papers on a regular basis. For more on the background and interests of particular faculty members, see the faculty web pages.

The theology faculty is also highly diverse from a religious standpoint, including people from a variety of faith traditions. Students of any religious persuasion as well as students who question the value of religion will find the faculty to be welcoming and supportive.

All of the members of the theology faculty are committed teachers who work hard to make their classes interesting and engaging to students. Many non-majors decide to enroll in theology classes after hearing glowing reports about the faculty from their peers. Theology classes at St. Bonaventure are academically challenging, but faculty members are available at any time to help students with course work and to discuss their personal concerns. Faculty and students also interact informally at a variety of departmental social functions throughout the school year.

12. What kind of financial aid is available for theology students at St. Bonaventure?

St. Bonaventure provides generous amounts of financial aid to students with strong academic records. The average student at St. Bonaventure receives enough financial aid to cover one-third of the cost of their education. Students with high grades and/ or test scores can qualify for higher levels of assistance. The Theology Department also offers two $1,000/yr. scholarships to top incoming theology majors. For more information on financial aid at St. Bonaventure, see the web site of the Office of Financial Aid.