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Ecclesiastical Degree Programs

St. Mary’s Seminary & University is the first educational institution in the United States with the right to grant academic degrees by the authority of the Holy See, first authorized in 1822 by Pope Pius VII at the request of Archbishop Ambrose Maréchal, S.S., third Archbishop of Baltimore.

The statutes and privileges of the Ecclesiastical Theological Faculty of St. Mary’s Seminary & University were recently renewed by the Holy See in 2010.

Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology Degree (S.T.B.)
The requirements for the baccalaureate degree are as follows:
  • Completion of the philosophical and undergraduate theological coursework as defined in the current edition of the Program for Priestly Formation;
  • Completion of 90 graduate credit hours of course work;
  • The maintaining of a 2.5 G.P.A. for the S.T.B. courses;
  • The successful completion of written comprehensive examinations. A copy of the theses on which the comprehensive questions will be based is available through the office of the Dean of the Ecclesiastical Faculty (Praeses).

Although the number of graduate credit hours required for the S.T.B. could be completed in six semesters, seminarians will be required to take the S.T.B. courses in accordance with the cycle of courses required for priesthood candidates. Thus, seminarians will not complete all of the requirements for the S.T.B. degree until they are in their eighth semester of theology at St. Mary’s. However, qualified seminarians will be permitted to begin taking S.T.L. courses and fulfilling S.T.L. requirements during their seventh and eighth semesters of theology. The number of semester credit hours per course is three unless otherwise noted.

Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.)
ClassroomThe Licentiate in Sacred Theology is a two-year program of advanced theological studies beyond the first cycle of general theological studies. It includes both a specialization in one area of theology and a major research paper. St. Mary’s Ecclesiastical Theological Faculty offers the opportunity for specialization in Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, or Moral Theology.

Requirements for Admission:

  • The S.T.B. degree or equivalent;
  • A cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.0 (B) in the S.T.B. program or other evidence indicating solid assurance that the student is capable of 3.0 S.T.L. work;
  • Presentation of first cycle written research work;
  • Proven reading skills in Latin and one modern language other than English useful for theological study. The requirement may be satisfied either by a high school transcript showing three (3) years’ work in the area or a college level transcript showing two (2) years’ work in the area or by competency examination;
  • A student concentrating in the area of Biblical Theology must fulfill language requirements in either Biblical Greek or Biblical Hebrew. Greek and/or Hebrew requirements may be fulfilled by a year’s work in the language area.

The Licentiate Program

  • Four semesters in the program;
  • A total of 24 credits of 700/800 level seminars and/or elective courses;
    a. Five courses must be in the student's area of specialization, and two of these must be at the 800 level.
    b. Of the remaining three courses, one must be a specially designated 800-level interdisciplinary seminar.
    c. The area of specialization must be determined before the beginning of the second semester.
    d. Normally no more than nine credits may be taken during any one semester. Options for scheduling course requirements over the four semesters may be discussed with the Praeses.
    e. Normally no more than six credits may be taken as independent study courses.
    f. Normally no more than six credits may be taken outside St. Mary’s Ecclesiastical Faculty.
  • A cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.0 (B) is required with an average of 3.0 in the student’s field of concentration and no grade in any course may be below a C.
  • A major research paper of 75-100 pages demonstrating scholarly competence in a topic in the student’s area of concentration;
    a. Before the end of the second month of the student’s second semester, the student must choose a director ordinarily drawn from among the members of the Ecclesiastical Theological Faculty.
    b. Further, the student must present to the Praeses, before the end of the third month of that semester, a topic proposal and a brief outline for his approval.
  • Toward the end of the curriculum, the student must pass a 60 minute oral comprehensive examination on the research paper and on ten selected theological topics. A 3.0 (B) is required for the examination. The examination board consists of the student’s research paper director, a second reader, and the Praeses or his delegate.
  • All work for the S.T.L. program must be completed within five years of matriculation.

Doctorate in Sacred Theology Degree (S.T.D.)
The Doctorate of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) is the ecclesiastical degree enabling the holder to teach in an ecclesiastical faculty. The goal of the degree program is to train a scholar who has a broad knowledge of theology, a critical competence in theological methodology, and a specialization in a field of theology where he or she can do original research. The S.T.D. thesis “makes a real contribution to the progress of science” (Sapientia Christiana, 49, iii).

While St. Mary’s is authorized by the Holy See to grant the S.T.D. degree, it chooses to proceed very cautiously in admitting only those candidates of clear promise whose research interests coincide with that of faculty members capable of and interested in doctoral direction. Applicants must possess the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) degree or equivalent work done within an ecclesiastical faculty, with a G.P.A. of 3.50.

Application letters should include the identification of a proposed field of specialization along with a statement of scholarly goals and two letters of recommendation from people in a position to judge the candidate’s aptitude for doctoral work.

An admissions committee of the Ecclesiastical Theological Faculty reviews applications of prospective doctoral students, and the Praeses notifies students of its decision.

S.T.D. requirements include:

  • Successful completion (3.50 G.P.A.) of twelve additional credits, which include at least two 800-level seminars with the remaining credits done in directed research taken during at least one year of residence;
  • Two terms of service as a teaching assistant;
  • Competency in Latin and two modern languages other than English that are useful for scholarly research; the requirement may be satisfied either by a high school transcript showing three (3) years’ work in the area or a college level transcript showing two (2) years’ work in the area or by competency examination;
  • A student concentrating in the area of Biblical Theology must fulfill language requirements in both Biblical Greek and Biblical Hebrew; Greek and Hebrew requirements may be fulfilled by a year’s work in the language area;
  • Submission by the end of the first year of a dissertation proposal approved by the student’s director and the Ecclesiastical Faculty Admissions Committee;
  • Two semesters of dissertation guidance, leading to completion of a doctoral dissertation not to exceed 80,000 words; the dissertation is ordinarily defended within five years, with the possibility of extension granted by the Admissions Committee of the Ecclesiastical Theological Faculty;
  • Defense of the dissertation before a committee appointed by the Praeses and consisting of the director, two readers, and the Praeses or his delegate as Chair.