Religious Studies

The Religious Studies Department considers the study of religion essential to the liberal arts because of the Catholic intellectual tradition of the College. The department offers both an undergraduate major and a minor in Religious Studies, and also a Masters degree in Religious Studies. The major and the minor are designed to provide an academic foundation for graduate study in theology or religion, or for a career related to Religious Studies.

Undergraduate courses are divided according to the five areas listed below:

I. Scripture

II. Christian Thought

III. Christian Ethics

IV. Religion and Religions

V. Special Offerings

Religious Studies Bachelor of Arts Degree

Required Courses

Lower Division:

RST 15

Introduction to Christian Scriptures

(3)

RST 21

Introduction to Catholicism

(3)

RST 41

Introduction to Christian Ethics

(3)

Upper Division:

1. Scripture (3)

RST 155

3 units of upper division Scripture study

2. Christian Thought (6)

RST 131

Jesus

Another upper division course from category II, Christian Thought

3. Christian Ethics (3)

An upper division course from category III, Christian Ethics

4. Upper Division Elective (3)

An upper division course from any of the Religious Studies categories

5. Senior Thesis/Project (3)

RST 199

Senior Thesis/Project

General Elective (3)

3 units in upper or lower division

Total units in Religious Studies: 30

Plus General Studies requirements and electives totaling 124 semester units including Modern Language requirement. Majors must maintain a C or better in each of the courses taken in fulfillment of these requirements for the Religious Studies major.

Religious Studies Minor

Requirements:

  1. An Introductory Level Scripture course (3)
  2. Christian Thought (3)
  3. Christian Ethics (3)
  4. Electives: 9 units (at least 6 of which must be upper division) (9)

Total units in Religious Studies: 18

Religious Studies Courses

I. Scripture Courses

Upper Division Prerequisites: Ordinarily all upper division courses in Scripture require one (1) lower division course in the same area as a prerequisite. A waiver of this prerequisite may be granted by the instructor.

RST 11 Introduction to Hebrew Scriptures (3)

A consideration of selected themes of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), viewed from the perspective of revelation, and analyzed with the methods of modern biblical scholarship. GS-VA1

RST 15 Introduction to the New Testament (3)

An introduction to methods of modern biblical scholarship and an examination of the four canonical gospels, selected Pauline letters, and Acts of the Apostles. GS-VA1

RST 155ABCD Upper Division Scripture Study (3,3,3,3)

A, Synoptic Gospels: Advanced study of the three synoptics with special attention given to literary style, historical context, interpretation skills and the Christology contained in each.

B, Pauline Literature: Advanced study of various Pauline themes as well as the historical context of the first Christian communities that affected the future of the early Church.

C, Johannine Literature: Study of the Gospel of John in relation to other New Testament texts, with emphasis on the historical context of the Johannine community and its understanding of revelation.

D, Hebrew Scriptures: Advanced study of selected texts in the Hebrew Scriptures, with attention to literary style, historical context, interpretation skills and the understanding of God’s revelation to Israel. (See statement on prerequisite.) GS-VA1

II. Christian Thought Courses

Upper Division Prerequisites: Ordinarily all upper division courses in Christian Thought require one (1) lower division course in the same area as a prerequisite. A waiver of this prerequisite may be granted by the instructor.

RST 21 Contemporary Catholicism (3)

Study of how early Christianity and contemporary Catholicism perceive representative beliefs, rites, ethics, and community structures in the Catholic tradition of Christianity. Includes discussion of some contemporary concerns and issues in light of Vatican Council II. GS-VA2

RST 23 Spiritual Journeys of Women (3)

An exploration of the spiritual experiences of women primarily from the Judeo-Christian tradition. These experiences will be probed for elements which might be transferable beyond their particular historical and personal contexts to current spiritual experiences. GS-VA2

RST 25/125 Theology of Marriage and Family (3)

Overview of Catholic theology of marriage and family from biblical, historical, cultural and ethical perspectives. (See statement on prerequisite.) GS-VA2

RST 70 Faith and Human Development (3)

A study of the phenomenon of religious belief and the importance of faith for one's further development as a person in relation to others and to God. GS-VA2

RST 131 Jesus of Nazareth, Christ of Faith (3)

A brief survey of the historical development of the Christian understandings of Jesus as the Christ from biblical traditions to the present. Discussion of key aspects of current interpretations of Jesus. Prerequisite: RST 15 or RST 21, or permission of the instructor. GS-VA2

RST 135 Women and Christianity (3)

An introduction to a variety of the major themes and issues which are engaging Christian and Catholic feminist liberation theologians including the roles of women in scripture, Christian history, and church life. (See statement on prerequisite.) GS-VA2

RST 137 Challenges in Contemporary Theology (3)

Presentation of how major changes in theology during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries not only challenged traditional Catholic thought and practice, but also influenced contemporary theology and praxis. (See statement on prerequisite.) GS–VA2

RST 170 Theology and Human Experience (3)

A survey of human psychological development and human faith development which explores how personal, social and cultural experiences influence a person’s faith development. (See statement on prerequisite.)

RST 190T Advanced Studies in Christian Thought (1-3)

Advanced study of special texts, figures or topics such as Church history, sacraments, liturgy, Aquinas, Rahner. Selected themes may vary with each offering. May be repeated for credit.

III. Christian Ethics Courses

Upper Division Prerequisites: Ordinarily all upper division courses in Christian Ethics require one (1) lower division course in the same area (See exception for RST 149, which also accepts 21 as prerequisite.). A waiver of these prerequisites may be granted on approval of the instructor.

RST 41/141 Introduction to Christian Ethics (3)

An introduction to the study of moral decision-making from the perspective of Christian faith. The sources and nature of moral obligation, personal and social responsibility, freedom and sinfulness are among the topics to be covered. Both RST 41 and RST 141 may be repeated for credit. GS-VA3.

RST 45/145 Contemporary Issues in Christian Ethics (3)

A consideration of the positions and views of Christian ethicists on selected contemporary issues. Topics may vary. Prerequisite for RST 145: A lower division course in this area. GS-VA3

RST 49/149 Biomedical Issues in Christian Ethics (3)

A study of issues and questions concerning the phenomenon of human life, the process of dying, and current developments in medicine and technology. Topics include reproductive technologies, genetic engineering, euthanasia, healthcare reform and clinical ethics. Prerequisite for RST 149: RST 41 or RST 21or PHI 21. GS-VA3

RST 146 The Catholic Justice and Peace Tradition (3)

An examination of Catholic Social Teaching, an ethical tradition which has developed in the past century as the church faced contemporary social problems such as structural poverty, discrimination, immigration, racism, violence and war. The course will also focus on particular groups which have been inspired by this body of teachings. (See statement on prerequisite.) GS-VA3

RST 190E Advanced Studies in Christian Ethics (1-3)

Advanced study of special figures or topics such as war and peace, liberation theology, and racism. Selected themes may vary with each offering. May be repeated for credit.

IV. Religion and the Religions Courses

Upper Division Prerequisites: Ordinarily all upper division courses in Religion and the Religions require one (1) course in the same area of study. A waiver of a prerequisite may be granted on approval of the instructor.

RST 61/161 World Religions (3)

A survey of the largest religious traditions: includes Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Other religions may be added (e.g., Confucian/Taoism at the discretion of professor). This course focuses on the following: the religion’s historical development, its sacred texts, essentials in its way of life, its spiritual life and arts, and distinctive truths about ultimate realities and the unique purpose of human life and afterlife hopes. Prerequisite for RST 161: A lower division course in the same area. GS-VA4, VI

RST 78/178 Death and Afterlife (3)

A study of world religions with focus on each religion’s distinctive understanding of the unique dimensions of human death and mortality, spiritual religious preparations for one’s death and life, ideals for religious ways to go through bodily death and a detailed understanding of life after death and the ultimate hopes it embodies. Prerequisite for RST 178: A lower division course in the same area. GS-VA4, VI

RST 172 Jesus and the Buddha (3)

An advanced comparison of the life and teachings of Jesus and Gautama, the Buddha. Comparisons will use the sacred texts of these two religions to represent the life story and religious teachings of these founders. It will also include dialogues on the important similarities and differences which Christian and Buddhist traditions have developed, including how Buddhists understand Jesus and Christians understand the Buddha. Prerequisite: RST 61 or equivalent background in Buddhism and Christianity. GS-VA4, VI

RST 175 Myth, Religion and Culture (3)

A study of representative religious myths on a variety of sacred themes: myths of creation, myths of salvation, myths of the cycles of history, myths of the origin of human death, myths of the gods and goddesses’ lives, myths of the afterlife, myths of the ends of the world. The focus of these studies is to understand the special nature of myth as a religious way of understanding these sacred realities. Where possible, the presence of these myths in cultural literature, cinema, and arts will also be illustrated. GS-VA4, VI

RST 190R Advanced Studies in Religion(s) (1-3)

Advanced study of special topics, figures, or texts. Selected themes may vary with each offering. May be repeated for credit.

V. Religious Studies Special Offerings Courses

RST 191 Seminar (3)

Advanced study and research in any of the four major areas of study. Selected themes, figures, issues or texts. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisites: A minimum of one (1) lower division course from any area of religious studies. Permission of instructor is required.

RST 193 Directed Studies (1-3)

Offered with approval of instructor and chairperson, following the published procedures for Directed Studies courses.

RST 196 Independent Studies (1-3)

Offered only with approval of instructor and chairperson, following the published procedures for Independent Studies courses.

RST 199 Senior Thesis/Project for RST majors only (3)

Written thesis or service ministry project (including written component) completed in senior year under the direction of a Religious Studies faculty member. The thesis focuses on an area of interest and results in a well-developed research paper which demonstrates the student’s understanding and critical assessment of a topic in religion. The project engages the student in a theological reflection process at a predetermined service ministry site, and demonstrates the student’s ability to appropriate and apply religious theories and resources to practical ministry and to correlate practical learnings from the workplace with theory.

RST 199H Senior Honors Thesis (3)

Open only to students admitted to the Honors Program.

The following courses also are eligible for Religious Studies credit:

RST 120/ENG 130 Faith and Fiction (3)

See ENG 130 for course description. When taken for RST designation, prerequisite applies: either a Scripture course or RST 21, Catholicism.

RST 130/HIS 131 History of Religion in North America (3)

See HIS 131 for course description.

RST 160/PHI 160 Philosophy of Religion (3)

See PHI 160 for course description. When taken under RST designation, GS-VA4, and VI.

RST 180/SOC 195 Sociology of Religion (3)

See SOC 195 for course description. When taken under RST designation, GS-VA4.

Religious Studies Graduate Program

The Graduate Program in Religious Studies empowers students to effect social change and social justice in their communities and the world at large by providing theoretical foundations and praxis-centered learning in scripture, theology, ethics and pastoral outreach. It provides opportunities for the student to place personal faith within a theological understanding based on the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

The program challenges students to consider the interrelation between theory and praxis, and to see personal religious goals and belief systems in new and contemporary ways. Those who are already in pastoral ministry will find the studies practically based with an orientation towards local ecclesial communities. The department has a core group of faculty and visiting professors who provide both continuity for the program and theological competency in specific fields of inquiry.

The program responds to the goals and objectives of all its students. It serves:

  • Students interested in academic research
  • Ministers seeking to improve pastoral skills or to become pastoral associates and directors of parish life
  • Teachers of religious studies
  • Those who simply wish to enhance their personal theological and spiritual understanding

Learning Outcomes

Learn and employ prominent theories and methods used routinely in each of the major program areas.

Demonstrate the ability to think critically by using program-specific theories and research methods to access, research, synthesize and analyze information and ideas.

Communicate effectively both in writing and orally; master the conventions of the field’s standard notation & bibliographic style.

Engage a diverse society through increased awareness of race, class, gender, and socioeconomic issues that lead to systemic and distributive injustices.

Graduate Courses are divided according to the four areas listed below:

I. Scripture

II. Systematics

III. Ethics

IV. Pastoral Theology/Ministry

Religious Studies M.A.

Admission Requirements

Satisfactory completion of graduate division and department requirements.

Degree Requirements:

  • 24 units (Two 3-unit courses in each of the four major areas, one of which is RST 220: Theories & Methods)
  • 9 units Electives (3-unit courses)
  • 3 units Capstone Project
  • 36 units Total

Religious Studies M.A. Capstone Project:

In order to receive the M.A. in Religious Studies the student must successfully complete the Capstone Project.

The “Capstone Project” is the terminal research exercise consisting of:

  • RST_290: Capstone Proposal (1)
  • RST_291: Capstone Research, Analysis and Presentation (2)
  • Normally the student completes RST 291 within one academic semester. If for valid reasons this is impossible, the student may register for RST 291ABCD (1, 1, 1, 1)

The Director of Graduate Religious Studies program and the Graduate Dean must approve any exception to this.

Religious Studies M.A. Transfer of Credit

The student may transfer six (6) units of graduate religious studies credit from a regionally accredited institution of higher learning towards the completion of the M.A. in Religious Studies degree.

In order to do so, the student must first successfully complete six (6) units of Mount St. Mary’s College Graduate Religious Studies credit before formally petitioning for unit transfer.

The acceptance of transfer credit is subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Religious Studies and the Graduate Dean. Credits cannot predate admission to Mount St. Mary’s College by more than seven (7) years. The Director of Graduate Religious Studies and the Graduate Dean must approve any exception to this.

Graduate Religious Studies Courses

Scripture Courses (RST 200 RST 207)

RST 200: Scripture and Social Justice (3)

An introduction to standard methodologies for critical understanding of biblical texts, including historical, literary, rhetorical, and social criticisms; and emphasizes themes of social justice in contemporary interpretive methodologies.

RST 203: Special Topics in the Hebrew Bible (1-3)

An exploration of particular issues, approaches, or texts within the Hebrew Bible and its Ancient Near Eastern context. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 205: The New Testament (3)

An introduction to the standard methodologies used for critical understanding of the New Testament, including historical, literary, rhetorical, and social criticisms.

RST 207: Special Topics in the New Testament (1-3)

An exploration of particular issues, approaches, and texts within the New Testament. Course may be repeated for credit.

Systematic (RST 220 RST 239)

RST 220: Theories & Method (3)

An introduction to the various methodologies used in theological research. It presents the research skills required to study the Church as a living, Christian community constantly interpreting its own life within the context of an ongoing relationship with God. (Required course for all students)

RST 222: Liberation Theologies (3)

An investigation of the primary sources of the history, methods and theories of liberation theologies. This course will also analyze various contemporary theological literature concerned with liberation and will explore issues and challenges involved in social change.

RST 223: Christology (3)

A critical-historical theological reflection on the Christian confession that Jesus of Nazareth is Christ and Savior.

RST 228: Ecclesiology (3)

An analysis of the development and presentation of contemporary ecclesiology through dialogue with Sacred Scripture, the Tradition of the Church, Vatican II and contemporary theologies.

RST 234: World Religions/Religious Diversity (1-3)

An in-depth study of contemporary topics in the dialog between the major religious traditions. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 239: Special Topics in Systematics (1-3)

An in-depth study of particular topics within the area of systematics. Course may be repeated for credit.

Ethics (RST 243 RST 249)

RST 243: Catholic Social Teaching (3)

A theological investigation of the collection of Catholic Social Teachings developed since the end of the 19th century when Christian morality, rooted in Scripture and tradition, encountered contemporary social problems.

RST 246: Issues of Life and Death (3)

A study of issues and questions concerning the phenomenon of human life and the process of dying. Topics include reproductive technologies, genetic engineering and euthanasia

RST 247: Sex, Gender, and Ethics (1-3)

A critical study of biblical perspectives, theological positions, ethical reasonings, church traditions, faith commitments and empirical data which address questions of sexuality and relationships. This course also explores how issues of sexuality and gender engage in issues of power. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 248: Eco-Justice (3)

An investigation of the interconnected realities of ecological sustainability and justice for humans. Course readings and discussions will examine how ecocentric theology can be applied to everyday life. Examining choices, the course will lead to formation of a "deep ecology" code of environmental ethics.

RST 249: Special Topics in Ethics (1-3)

An in-depth study of particular topics within the area of moral theology and Christian ethics. (e.g. ethics of globalization, sexual ethics after AIDS, political ethics, etc.) Course may be repeated for credit.

Integrated Inter-Area Courses (RST 250-253)

Courses in this area can be applied to any of the four areas (Scripture, Systematics, Ethics, and Pastoral Ministry/Theology) as designated by the instructor.

RST 250 Sojourners & Strangers (3)

An examination of immigration as a site of inquiry for students of religion, investigating "what immigrants do together religiously in the United States" (Warner 1998:9) rather than immigration politics/policy that so often frames the issues. An integrated inter-area course.  

RST 251 Contemporary Ethics of Justice: Human Slavery (3)

A study of human trafficking through an investigation of its history, causes and consequences, as well as an investigation of human slavery in its contemporary international setting. An integrated inter-area course.  

RST 252 Christology & Spirituality in the Fourth Gospel (3)

Emphasizing both historical-critical and narrative critical approaches, students will go through the Fourth Gospel studying its literary techniques, its various theological motifs, and ancient as well as more recent developments in its interpretation. An integrated inter-area course.  

RST 253 Topics in Integrated Inter-Area Studies (1-3)

A multi-dimensional study of a particular topic, presented from the perspective of at least two of the areas of study within the program. These areas will be designated on the syllabus. Course may be repeated for credit.

Pastoral Theology/Ministry (RST 266 RST 289)

RST 266: Leadership in Pastoral Ministry (3)

An introduction to the biblical, theological, ethical and social foundations, for effective leadership in the contemporary Church.

RST 269: Special Topics in Pastoral Theology/Ministry (1-3)

An in-depth study of particular topics within the area of pastoral theology and/or ministry. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 280: Pastoral Care: Foundations & Issues (1-3)

An exploration of theological and spiritual foundations for the pastoral care relationship; investigation of particular issues which arise in pastoral ministry. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 282: Spiritual Direction (1-3)

An introduction to the nature of the spiritual direction relationship, the preparation and role of the spiritual director, and the purpose of direction. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 285: Parish/Non-Profit Organizing (1-3)

An introduction of strategies used for parish and non-profit organizations to develop short and long term strategic plans as a way for faith-based communities and justice organizations to pursue their goals for social change. Topics will include, values of faith based business ventures, issues faced by non- profit organizations, the nature of goals and directives, collaboration and networking, and legal issues. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 287: Law in Church Life (1-3)

An historical and theological study of Canon Law within the context of the lived experience of the Church. Presentation will focus on application to pastoral ministry and parish management. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 289: Ministries of the Word: Teaching & Preaching (3)

An exploration of the ministries of teaching and preaching within and for the faith community. The approach will be rooted in theology and also in contemporary understandings of the Good News and of effective praxis.

Capstone Project (RST 290-291)

RST 290: Capstone Proposal Proposal (1)

A preparation course designed for the Capstone Project culminating in a research proposal. Description provided by the department.

RST 291: Capstone Project Research, Analysis, and Presentation (2)

A culminating project of the student’s devising, with a clearly delimited research methods and goals overseen by a capstone committee (2 faculty minimum), ending in a presentation by the student, both oral and written.

RST 291ABCD: Capstone Research Essay Continuation (1, 1, 1, 1)

Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 295: Internship (1-3)

This course is offered by special pre-arrangement with the Program Director, available by request in any term. Mount St. Mary’s undergraduate norms for Academic Internship apply. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 298: Directed Individual Study (1-3)

This course is offered by special pre-arrangement, available by request in any term. A student may apply for directed individual study with the approval of a faculty advisor and the program director. No more than six (6) units of directed individual study may be taken towards the M.A. Degree. Any exception to this is granted by the Director of Graduate Religious Studies with the approval of the Graduate Dean. Course may be repeated for credit.

RST 299: Independent Study (1-3)

This course is offered by special pre-arrangement, available by request in any term. A student may apply for independent study with the approval of a faculty advisor and the program director. Mount St. Mary’s College undergraduate norms for Independent Study apply. No more than six (6) units of independent study may be taken towards the M.A. Degree. Any exception to this is granted by the Director of Graduate Religious Studies with the approval of the Graduate Dean. Course may be repeated for credit.