Religious Studies Course Catalog Information

Religious Studies

The program in Religious Studies invites students to explore the big questions about life, death, love, sin, freedom, grace, peace, justice, God and the human community. Christianity, and specifically the Catholic tradition, are the focuses of the religious studies program. Courses not only explore the religious dimensions of life but also endeavor to cultivate the skills and methods necessary to the study of religion and theology. The content and skills fostered in Religious Studies courses enable students to understand and appropriate their own religious tradition.

In conjunction with Campus Ministry, the Department in Religious Studies offers a certificate in Lay Ministry. And through the co-exchange program with the University of Notre Dame, students at both institutions can take the second requirement and other courses at the other school.

General Education Requirements

Students take two courses in Religious Studies, six semester hours, as a requirement for graduation. The first General Education course, usually taken in the first year, is RLST 101 Introducing Religious Studies. The second General Education course, normally taken in the second year, may be chosen from any 200-level RLST class. 300- & 400-level courses are electives and do not fulfill the two-course core requirement. The College encourages students to enrich their academic program with elective courses in Religious Studies.


A student completing the Advanced W in Religious Studies assembles a portfolio of three 4-8 page papers demonstrating her ability to read theological literature with sensitivity, rigor, and understanding, and to engage in theological writing with insight, clarity and persuasion.


The Comprehensive in Religious Studies consists of a two-part comprehensive examination that students take in their final year. The exam tests the student's breadth of knowledge in Religious Studies and her facility in theological reflection. One part covers historical materials, texts, and issues (up to 1950); the second examines contemporary sources (1950 to present). Each test consists of three essays. Students prepare their bibliography and test areas in consultation with their academic advisor and other members of the Religious Studies faculty. Students may use any books or articles relevant to the exam while taking it.


Major in Religious Studies (27 hours)

  • RLST 101 and one 200 level RLST course
  • one course in each of the following areas:
    • Biblical Studies, RLST 304, 307, or 308
    • Historical Theology, RLST 325 or 445
    • Theory of Theology, RLST 370 or 406
    • Systematic Theology, RLST 315, 318, 355, or 457
    • Ethical Studies, RLST 352, 458
  • two additional RLST courses at the 300/400 level

Minor in Religious Studies (15 hours)

  • RLST 101, and one 200 level RLST course
  • three additional courses in RLST; two must be at the 300 level or above (with the exception of RLST 338 and 486, which do not count towards the minor).


101 Introducing Religious Studies

3 credits

This course introduces students to the study of religion and theological inquiry. Through a variety of sources it explores the meaning of religion in personal and cultural life. [1st GenEd]

213 Experiencing God

3 credits

An exploration of the ways people come to know the divine through their own experience. This course will focus on works in which people reflect on their experience of the divine, and it will also consider works in which scholars seek to understand religious experience from different perspectives.  [2nd GenEd]

225 Reading the Hebrew Bible in Jewish and Christian Terms

3 credits

This course is a study of the Bible as a foundation for Jewish and Christian theology and the relationship between the two faith traditions. It will focus on the Hebrew Bible and how some of its texts and themes are utilized and reinterpreted in the New Testament. [2nd GenEd]

232 Introduction to the New Testament

3 credits

This course examines the Christian biblical writings giving attention to their social-historical, literary, and theological characteristics. The New Testament texts are situated within the respective Jewish Palestinian and Greco-Roman contexts of Jesus and his early followers. Attention is given to compositional issues and to the subsequent transmission of these writings.  [2nd GenEd]

233RM Christian Moral Life I

3 credits

This course treats various topical issues in the area of Christian moral theology. It will have two principal parts besides an overall introduction. The first part will explain the various relevant factors in making moral decisions in the life of the Christian. The second part will deal with more thematic issues in the area of biomedical ethics. Rome campus.  [2nd GenEd]

234RM Contemporary Moral Life II

3 credits

This course continues the ethical reflection initiated in RLST 233 and applies some of the criteria to the areas of theological, social and sexual ethics. However, RLST 233 is not a prerequisite for this course. Rome campus. 
[2nd GenEd]

236 Faith in Action

3 credits

This course examines the faith, practices and theories of influential American Christian activists who exemplify a variety of approaches to the Christian quest for justice. It seeks to understand how a commitment to justice can grow out of Christian faith.  [2nd GenEd]

240 Catholic Social Thought

3 credits

What is the Church's proper role in social and political life? What are Catholics to think and do in a world which poses ever more difficult moral quandaries? The purpose of this course is to examine the positions taken by Catholic writers on an array of social ethical issues, including political freedom and responsibility, the morality of different economic systems, women's rights, sexual ethics and the nuclear arms race.  [2nd GenEd]

242 Eucharist: A Way of Life

3 credits

This course studies the sacrament as the presence of Jesus in the assembly, in the Word and in bread and wine. It also explores the meals of Jesus, the theologies of Eucharistic celebration through the centuries, the meaning of symbols and rituals as well as the connection between the way Christians celebrate and the way they live.  [2nd GenEd]

251 The Christian Tradition

3 credits

An examination of the sources and development of Christianity's central teachings. Consideration of the history and contemporary understandings of those aspects of the faith of prime importance: God, Christ, the Church, the Christian life. What does it mean to be part of the Christian tradition? How can we understand its richness and diversity?  [2nd GenEd]

261 Catholic Faith and Life

3 credits

A study of basic doctrinal beliefs, moral values and worship in the Catholic Church. Primarily an introduction to a theological understanding of these issues, the course also considers practical implications for personal and social life. 
[2nd GenEd]

290 Special Topics

3 credits

The presentation of selected general education topics not covered in regular departmental 200 level courses. May be repeated for credit with a different topic.  [2nd GenEd]

NOTE:  Courses at the 300 level are open only to those Saint Mary's and Notre Dame students who have already satisfied their General Education requirement.

304 Historical Jesus: The Quest for Jesus of Nazareth

3 credits

This course will examine the life, message, and mission of the historical Jesus of Nazareth.  Students will study the historical context in which Jesus lived, investigate the ancient sources which provide the data for reconstructing the life of the historical Jesus, and make use of historical-critical scholarly methods.

307 Leviticus and Numbers:  Cultural Interpretations

3 credits

This course is a study of the third and fourth books in the Torah or Pentateuch.  These biblical books will be read in conversation with biblical criticism and cultural anthropology.

308 Paul and His Times

3 credits

This course introduces students to the life, letters, and beliefs of Paul's own writings within their social-historical contexts. Students also become familiar with diverse positions in Pauline studies by reading contemporary scholarship.

312 Theologies of Love

3 credits

A study of various theological approaches to the concept and lived reality of love and loving—God, human persons, and the world of nature and culture. Different sorts of human love are explored, the love of friendship, married love, parental and filial love, love of one's work, etc. Excerpts are read from classical and contemporary theologians, a few mystics and some current social activists.

314 Reading and Interpreting Hebrew Bible Prophets

3 credits

This course is a study of the fifteen prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible, written from the 8th century BCE to approximately the 4th century BCE.  The books will be read in conversation with contemporary work on methods of biblical interpretations, particularly feminist criticism.

315 Free and Responsible: Grace and the Human Condition

3 credits

This course explores the God-human relationship which the Christian tradition describes as grace. It studies contemporary expressions of God's action, human freedom, and responsibility. It also explores classical texts and Church teaching on the relationship of grace to sin, salvation and the meaning of history.

318 Heaven and Hell

3 credits

This course offers an interdisciplinary introduction to eschatology, the branch of Christian theology that deals with what are traditionally known as the last things--death, judgement, heaven, and hell. The class will focus on the ways theologians and artists have wrestled with understanding and depicting the afterlife.

325 Great Theologians

3 credits

In a given semester, the work of a few Christian theologians is studied according to selected themes in their writings. Choice of the specific theologians is determined according to the expertise of available faculty and expressed interest of majors. Seminar format.

338 Studies in Theology and Film

1 credit

This course focuses on selected theological themes in films.  Students learn to think critically, discover and discuss theological themes in a variety of cinematic presentations.  May be repeated for credit with a different theme.  (This class meets 7 times.)

339 Religion and Literature

3 credits

An interdisciplinary look at some masterpieces of Western literature which deal with the themes of sin, evil, grace, and redemption. Classical and modern authors.

351 Religion and Science

3 credits

This course explores the relationship between religion and science, and addresses questions raised by the religion/science debate and seeks ways to relate better the wisdom gained by science and religion.

352 Religion and Politics

3 credits

The course examines ethical issues at the intersections of religion and politics. It explores topics such as the function and limits of secular authority for religious communities, the possible imperative for religious claims to enter the public sphere, and how various competing religious claims may be adjudicated effectively.

355 African-American Theologies

3 credits

This course will be an engagement with various forms of African-American theologies. Our focus will be on ways in which African-Americans have conceived of the three persons of the Christian Trinity, both constructively and critically. We will also consider ways in which social, historical, cultural, and political contexts relate to developing theologies.

362 Becoming Women

3 credits

This course examines Christian theological positions about women and sexuality as these positions have affected Church teaching on the dignity and vocation of women in society. It demonstrates the importance of constructive theological reflection on contemporary issues facing women.

370 Aquinas's Search for God: Faith Meets Philosophy

3 credits

This course, based in the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, pursues the mysteries of faith with the fascination of reason. Topics to be addressed include the existence and attributes of God, God's relationship to the world's evil, and the delicate balance between faith and reason.

380 World Religions and Christianity

3 credits

What do non-Christian religions say about ultimate reality and the meaning of life? How should Christians regard the beliefs and practices of non-Christians? A survey of selected non-Christian theologies and Christian responses.

390 Special Topics

1-3 credits

The presentation of selected subjects of special relevance not included in regular department offerings. May be repeated with different topic.

406 Ways of Doing Theology

3 credits

Reflection on the methods and standards used by Christian thinkers to develop appropriate and credible theologies when faced with the most pressing issues in contemporary Christian life.

423 Contemporary Catholic Thought

3 credits

An examination of developments in post-Vatican II Catholic theology. Topics include the opening of theology to the challenges of modernity, new currents in Christology, recent shifts in reflection on church and ministry, and continuing developments in Catholic social and political theology.

445 Historical Theology

3 credits

This course is an exercise in Historical Theology that identifies classical theologians and classical texts from the Christian tradition — especially from the early Church, the Middle Ages, and the Reformation. This course explores selected classical texts, in context, as a way of understanding the evolution of Christian doctrine and as a way of informing the work of theology.

457 Systematic Theology Seminar

3 credits

A study of systematics, correlating major theological themes and doctrinal issues such as Christology, ecclesiology, sin and grace, sacraments.

458 Theological Ethics Seminar

3 credits

A study of basic issues for Christian ethical reflection, such as the status of norms, the meaning of natural law, doctrine of person and human action, and the nature of moral argument.

476 Theology for Ministry I: Theory

3 credits

A study of issues, foundations, and theologies which shape contemporary catechetical ministries. Special attention to the psychology of religious learning and to themes in biblical, moral and doctrinal theology which characterize contemporary Catholic thinking. Students begin some form of catechetical ministry. (Formerly RLST 420)

486 Theology for Ministry II:Practicum

3 credits

Supervised teaching of religion in a local parish or school is the basis for a weekly reflection seminar and for readings. Prerequisite: RLST 420. Supervisory fee $50. This practicum does not count as one of the two required electives for the RLST major or minor. (Formerly RLST 421)

497 Independent Study

1-3 credits

May be repeated.