The initial idea of an ecumenical program in theology for men and women of all faiths in Baltimore began in 1967. At that time, a small group of clergy and laity, including Dr. W. F. Albright, the world-renowned professor of Near Eastern Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, was exploring the possibility of establishing a graduate theological program in the city. Based on these discussions, St. Mary’s Seminary & University and its president, John F. Dede, P.S.S., agreed to offer to the public a graduate evening program in theology. The Seminary saw this as an important way to serve the Baltimore community and as part of its response to the decrees on ecumenism, non-Christian religions, and priestly formation of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
St. Mary’s Seminary & University established the Ecumenical Institute of Theology as its graduate evening program in the fall of 1968. The new program received the endorsement and support of Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, Archbishop of Baltimore, and the Rt. Rev. Harry Lee Doll, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. During its initial years, the Ecumenical Institute was directed by the Seminary faculty. In the late 1970s, formal bylaws and an Executive Board were put in place to oversee the Ecumenical Institute under the direction of St. Mary’s Seminary & University’s Board of Trustees.
The Executive Board of St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute is composed of representatives of the professional, corporate, academic, and religious communities of the greater Baltimore area. The Ecumenical Institute’s faculty is drawn from neighboring academic and religious institutions, as well as from the St. Mary’s Seminary & University theological faculty. The student body consists of approximately 200 students enrolled in master’s, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. Others are pursuing courses for credit or as auditors for personal enrichment.
The mission of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology, the evening division of St. Mary’s Seminary & University, is to offer accredited ecumenical theological education at the Master of Arts level to qualified men and women in the greater Baltimore area. Through its academic programs and community events, the Ecumenical Institute seeks to provide opportunities for personal or professional enrichment; preparation for voluntary or professional leadership in a church, school, or community organization; and a basic theological foundation for ministry.
As a center for theological study in a pluralistic society, the Ecumenical Institute exists to promote ecumenical and interfaith understanding and to contribute to the formation of a theologically and ethically informed public. At the Ecumenical Institute, theological inquiry takes place in an atmosphere that acknowledges the diversity of religions and cultures while emphasizing the Jewish and Christian traditions. The educational program of the Ecumenical Institute is intended to stimulate careful reflection leading to knowledge of one’s own tradition and respect for the traditions of other people.