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Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS)

The Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) program at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake (USML) includes a range of classes explicitly oriented to applying theological knowledge in ministry. The program also includes a practicum and pastoral project as part of its requirements.

The MAPS equips you with the knowledge and skills to become a dynamic leader in your parish or community. It is a transformative journey that nurtures your personal and spiritual growth.

This degree provides a solid foundation in pastoral research methods and Catholic theology. You will gain the ability to evangelize and catechize your community, interpret Scripture with historical accuracy, understand sacramental and theological perspectives, and respond to ethical questions with a firm grounding in Catholic moral tradition.

Who Benefits from the MAPS Program?

  • Those working as a Religious Educator/Catechist
  • Those preparing for a career in Evangelization
  • Those looking to grow in knowledge and skills
  • Deacons and pastoral ministers

Complement existing skills and open doors to fulfilling careers in:

  • High school religious education
  • Pastoral associate
  • Hospital, military, or corporate chaplaincy
  • Missionary work
  • Parish Ministry

Course Work

With 42 credit hours, you will delve into human formation, integrating insights from the social sciences and spiritual disciplines. This unique experience will equip you with knowledge and inspire and motivate you within a supportive community.

This program is renowned for its activity-based learning. You’ll acquire practical skills through courses like pastoral care, where you’ll learn to accompany individuals through times of crisis.

The capstone project involves real-world scenarios, empowering you to apply your knowledge in a parish setting. This hands-on approach will make you feel confident and capable in future roles.

USML MAPS Course of Study

This first course in Canon Law treats briefly the history of Canon Law up to and including the Revised Code. The first three Books of the Code are discussed: General Norms, the People of God, the Teaching Office of the Church.

Part one of this course sets forth fundamental moral theology. Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, various ecclesial traditions, and natural reason are studied in light of moral decision-making. Christ is the paradigm of human action. The believer is challenged to live the faith. Virtue as a path to holiness is discussed along with fundamental concepts including: natural law, sin, and action theory (the role of intention and the moral object in voluntary human acts). Part two applies foundational moral principles to practical questions concerning sexuality, marriage, and family.

This course prepares students to bring an in-depth perspective to the range of pastoral situations they will encounter as ecclesial ministers. It will address specific content pertinent to pastoral ministry and introduce basic pastoral skills.

After some introductory classes on the origins of the New Testament, on methods of reading it, and its roots in the Jewish Scriptures, the course will spend most of the semester on the Synoptic Gospels and Acts. Students will also do an assignment involving the study of the New Testament Epistle 5.

This course will introduce the Old Testament’s contents. Ancient Israel’s history will be used to understand the content and development of the biblical books. Methods of exegesis encouraged by official Church teaching will be introduced.

This course treats the history of Christian sacramental theology by considering crucial theological issues, key theologians, and major magisterial initiatives in different historical periods (patristic, medieval, early modern, and modern). The influence of modern biblical studies is evaluated. Students not only receive a survey of the Church’s sacramental practice in different historical periods but are also equipped to understand the theological contributions that each period made to the Catholic understanding of sacramental doctrine and practice.

Spiritual Theology is the branch of theology asking, “What is holiness?” It covers both ascetical and mystical theology in an attempt to answer that question. This course is a systematic study of spiritual theology, which looks at some of the great spiritual masters of the Church, men and women who have lived the life of holiness. It is also designed to work in conjunction with the first-year formation program on the theology and practice of prayer.

This final integration project allows the student to demonstrate his/her capacity to integrate and articulate what s/he has learned through the MAPS academic and formation programs. The project focuses on the application of these learnings to a specific pastoral situation.

This course explores the dignity of the human person and its practical implications of human life in society. Topics to be discussed include war and peace, poverty and wealth, private environment, racism, domestic and community violence, double effect, scandal, material cooperation with evil, and the life issues of abortion and capital punishment.

This course will treat theological notions about the origin and destining of the universe and humanity. Encompassing the major themes of creation, sin, grace, and eschatology, we will examine topics such as the image of God, free will and Original Sin, justification, death, judgment, heaven, hell, and purgatory.

This course is a general introduction to the theology of the person and work of Jesus Christ. The first part of the course surveys the development of dogma of the person of Christ from Jesus’ teaching about himself to the Third Council of Constantinople. The second part of the course examines the contemporary challenge of historical-critical investigation of Scripture to the identity and saving mission of Christ and the Scriptural foundations for the doctrine of Christ as universal savior. The third part of the course surveys the development of understanding of the saving work of Christ, emphasizing the Roman Catholic understanding of the dynamics of salvation in comparison with Eastern, Protestant, and contemporary pluralist soteriologies.

This course is intended to provide students with a broad overview of some of the major events and persons in the history of the Church. Particular emphasis will be placed on the history of the Roman Church. Important themes include: the papacy, the development of doctrine, church/state relations, and the relationship between Christianity and culture.

This course will analyze the origin, nature, and mission of the mystery of the Church. There will be a special emphasis on the four marks of the Church: one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. The major ecclesial themes presented in the conciliar documents of the Second Vatican Council Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes will be highlighted and analyzed throughout the course. In a particular way, the Universal call to Holiness will be presented as the benchmark for living the Christian life. Finally, Chapter VIII of Lumen Gentium will be offered as a guide to the Church’s rich Marian doctrine and devotion. The course will also provide a survey of the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of salvation and in the life of Christ and the Church.

This course engages the participants in the practice and application of pastoral theology. A focus on pastoral care and parish skills will be emphasized. This course will prepare the student to enter pastoral situations with an in-depth Catholic perspective from the human, cultural/contextual, and theological dimensions. The fact that every aspect of Church teaching leads to specific ways of involvement with ministry will inform the pedagogy for this course.

This survey course introduces students to fundamental Catholic theology. Using the Nicene Creed as the overall structure of the course, the students will study the Nature of God, the Doctrine of the Trinity, and those attributes we associate with our Triune God. In the second half of the course, the students will learn about the Hierarchy of Truths, the relationship between Scripture, the Tradition, and the Magisterium, and lastly, the essential elements of Eschatology and Mariology.

Through the Church’s liturgical and sacramental life, the paschal mystery is made present in the lives of the faithful. This course provides the background and skills necessary in preparing and leading liturgical celebrations, discusses current liturgical issues, and encourages the development of a liturgical spirituality.


  • Bachelor’s degree in any field and a 3.0 GPA for admission
  • Capacity to read and write at the graduate level
  • Willingness to grow in knowledge and skills for ministry

Application Process

Students seeking to apply for the MAPS program but without a bachelor’s degree should complete the Petition for Prior Learning Assessment before the MAPS application. It’s helpful to use a worksheet to prepare the petition.

Director-Level Certification, Renewal of Certification, and Ministerial Practicum

Please refer to the Certification web page for detailed information.

Chaplaincy Certification

Students who feel called to become certified as a chaplain either in the Catholic faith or on a national level can do so by following the guidelines on the following web pages:

Participant Resources

All participants are provided with a MAPS Handbook that communicates the various elements of the process and the School of Parish Leadership and Evangelization’s expectations. They are required to read the Handbook and commit to its expectations.

Academic Information and Forms

USML MAPS Course of Study
USML MAPS Curriculum
Association of Chicago Theological Schools Registration Form
Course Approval Form