Questions about Admissions

Q: Are there any prerequisites that must be met in order to be considered for admission?

A: Yes. To be considered for the program, applicants must meet all of the following prerequisite criteria:

  • Be a practicing Catholic in good standing.
  • The completion of a bachelor’s degree.
  • At least 8 semester credit hours in philosophy, or the equivalent.
  • At least 12 credit hours in theology or religious studies.
  • Significant service experience, preferably in ministry in the Catholic Church.

Q: 8 credits of philosophy? Why so much philosophy for a program in theology? And what do you mean by “the equivalent?”

A: A solid background in philosophy is an important ingredient for success in studying theology at the graduate level. Philosophy and theology have long been closely associated in the Catholic Tradition. Philosophical thinking, categories, and questions inform the study of theology at many levels, particularly in the area of systematic or dogmatic theology. In addition, the prior study of philosophy is emphasized by the U.S. Catholic bishops in documents about preparation for ministry, particularly the Program of Priestly Formation.

By 8 credits, in philosophy “or the equivalent” we mean that sometimes other kinds of humanities courses can be counted toward the philosophy requirement. The MDiv Director will make this determination on the basis of a student's academic record.

Q: What are some of the factors that go into admissions decisions?

A: Since the number of tuition scholarships to the MDiv is limited, admission is a highly selective process. Before requesting a personal interview, the admissions committee looks for several factors in reviewing applications. These include:

  • A capacity for independent study and scholarship. Evidence of this is offered by (a) GPA, as attested by transcripts of study for the bachelor's degree and any graduate work; (b) GRE scores (at least 153- Verbal, 144- Quantitative, and 4.5- Analytical Writing; and (c) recommendations from three instructors.
  • One recommendation supporting the candidate’s ability for ministerial leadership.
  • Significant service experience, preferably in ministry in the Catholic Church
  • A personal vocation to ministry confirmed by experience and the confirmation of mentors and peers. In support of this, applicants are asked to compose an autobiographical statement written according to a form specified by the MDiv admissions committee.
  • A Statement of Intent stating one’s ministerial goals and how the MDiv program will help to meet them.

Q: What are you looking for in the Statement of Intent?

A: Unlike the autobiographical statement required of all Master of Divinity applicants, the Statement of Intent details with some brevity the nature of the applicant’s desire to pursue ministerial formation so as to engage in ecclesial ministry in the near future.  A detailed description of the areas of ministry an applicant wishes to pursue in the future is not necessary.  Nonetheless, successful applicants frequently give in broad strokes why they want to pursue ministerial formation now and why at the University of Notre Dame.  In so doing, applicants sometimes suggest why the Master of Divinity Program at Notre Dame is a good fit for them, perhaps detailing how the academic, pastoral, human, and/or spiritual formation offered will assist them in realizing their ministerial intentions.

Q: What is the admissions process? When will I hear whether or not I have been accepted into the program?

A: Before entering the admission process, a potential candidate should embark upon a journey of personal discernment as to whether he/she senses a call to serve the Church in professional ministry. Personal prayer and reflection are key ingredients here. In addition, enlisting the aid of family, friends, mentors, pastors, and a spiritual director may prove helpful during this phase.

The admissions process begins with the potential applicant filling out a pre-application form, which is available on our website. This assists the potential applicant and the MDiv Director in determining whether or not the necessary prerequisites have been completed, thereby identifying whether one is qualified to apply.

The applicant then submits the online application form found on the website of the Graduate School graduateschool.nd.edu. In addition to the references required by the Graduate School, the MDiv Program asks applicants for the following items: a) at least one additional recommendation supporting the candidate’s ability for ministerial leadership; b) the Autobiographical Statement written according to a form specified by the MDiv admissions committee; and c) a letter of intent specific to the MDiv Program which sets forth the goals of the candidate for Christian ministry, and a view of how the MDiv Program will address the candidate’s goals. Applications are due January 2nd.

During the month of February, the MDiv admissions committee reviews applications. Applicants may be invited to campus for a personal interview.

Following the interview process, invitations for admission are extended.

The process is usually completed by early April.

Q: I’d like to visit Notre Dame in order to get a feel for things. How might I go about doing this?

A: Campus visits are encouraged! The MDiv Office can arrange an itinerary for students, including class visits, meetings with professors, visiting the Lay Ministry Formation Program, and time with students. Many potential applicants stay with current students during their visit in order to get a better picture of life at Notre Dame. We are glad to help with the arrangements for a visit.

Q: Could I study part time?

A: No. The MDiv at Notre Dame is a three-year, full-time residential program. In preparing individuals for professional ministry in the Church, the MDiv Program concerns itself with the overall formation of students and their growing identity as ecclesial ministers. While this process necessarily involves rigorous academic courses, students also engage in field education placements (serving as ministry interns at a particular location), and the weekly formation program. Put simply, the MDiv at Notre Dame approaches ministerial formation and preparation as a full-time commitment. The MDiv staff, the Department of Theology faculty, classmates, and many local church leaders provide the formation and preparation needed to serve professionally in the Church through a holistic approach to education, which engages one’s entire person, and not simply the mind. The program’s flexibility in meeting students’ practical needs enables many individuals to consider full-time ministerial preparation. All accepted students receive full-tuition scholarships, thereby removing a major financial burden to full-time study. Additionally, some students locally employed in part-time ministerial positions continue in their jobs while studying at Notre Dame.

Questions about Field Placements

Q: What sorts of field placements exist? How often do students engage in field education?

A: One of the distinctive features of Notre Dame’s MDiv Program is that students serve in field education placements during all three years, which allows students to increase the breadth and depth of their ministerial experience through three different placements. This variety of experience is further enriched by good supervision and mentoring. During the first year, placements generally center on a position dealing with the corporal works of mercy or some type of social service ministry. Typical 1st-year placements include ministry to the homeless, hospital or nursing home chaplaincy, or hospice care. The second year typically finds students striving to improve their facility in articulating the faith. Many become involved in RCIA, marriage preparation, or catechesis. Finally, third year students serve in an increased leadership role at a field placement, often in campus ministry or parish adult faith formation. During all three years field education placements usually require between four and eight hours of time each week.

Q: Are paid ministry internships available?

A: While the vast majority of ministry placements are not paid positions, some Residence Life placements do offer financial support. In particular, students serving as assistant rectors in the undergraduate residence halls receive room, board, and a stipend. Ordinarily, MDiv students may apply for these positions only for their second and/or third years in the program after consultation with the MDiv staff.

Q: Do MDiv students have part-time jobs in addition to their course work? Are TA positions available?

A: Yes. Most students are employed as teaching assistants, in paid positions on Notre Dame’s campus, or in some off-campus businesses. Generally speaking, no more than ten hours per week of outside work is recommended.

Q: Are CPE internships available?

A: While CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) is not required for the MDiv, students are encouraged to seek CPE internships, serving as hospital and health care chaplains throughout the United States during a summer. Assistance in finding CPE opportunities is available. Many students have found health care chaplaincy to be an extremely enriching part of their overall MDiv experience. Students generally make application to CPE programs during the spring semester of their first or second year.

Q: What happens at meetings of the Lay Ministry Formation Program?

A: Weekly formation meetings provide lay MDiv students with an opportunity to explore and grow in their vocation. Generally speaking, lay students gather on Monday nights for a meal, prayer, and some sort of discussion, speaker or activity pertaining to current issues in the area of ministry. Once a month, the lay community celebrates the Eucharist together. Holy Cross seminarians also hold formation on Monday nights at Moreau Seminary. At least once a semester, seminarians and lay students gather for a shared formation night. In addition to the weekly formation meetings, lay students make a retreat at the beginning of the spring semester and participate in regular spiritual direction. Many other opportunities for various devotions and personal spiritual enrichment exist on campus, especially under the sponsorship of Notre Dame Campus Ministry.

Questions about Living in South Bend

Q: What is South Bend like?

A: South Bend is a diverse, mid-size city with a low cost of living. It features the accessibility of smaller-sized communities together with the resources of many larger urban areas. As a vibrant community, the South Bend area offers a wide variety of opportunities and resources to meet the needs and interests of MDiv students, coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The weather in northern Indiana is a typical Midwestern mix of warm summers, cool and snowy winters, wet springs, and glorious autumns.

Q: Where do students live? Is on-campus housing available? How can I find off-campus housing?

A: With a wide assortment of affordable housing options available in the area, MDiv students readily find the type of housing that meets their personal needs. Students live both on and off campus. The Office of Housing has on-campus housing for single students, married students, and students with children. One of the best resources for finding an off-campus apartment or house is the Office of Housing website. In addition to this practical guide, the Office of Housing can assist students in their search for housing.

Q: Do I have to have a car in order to survive?

A: It is possible to survive without a car.  Municipal bus and taxi services are available. However, because of the distance between campus and other local points of interest (ministry placements, grocery stores, entertainment venues), many students do have cars.

Q: I have a family. How feasible is doing an MDiv at Notre Dame?

A: Currently, the MDiv Program has a number of married students, many with young children. In some instances, both spouses are students in the program. While this requires flexibility on the part of families, students with families have been able to do well in our program and feel quite welcome. The diversity created by the inclusion of families in the program enriches the formation experiences of all students. In many ways, Notre Dame is an ideal place for parents to pursue an MDiv degree. The campus serves as a wonderful place for children to grow and develop, and many childcare resources are available both on and off campus. Additionally, the financial support for MDiv students ensures that parents can receive an outstanding education without a huge financial burden.

Q: Is health insurance available? How good is the student health center?

A: All Notre Dame students are required to have health insurance. Students without private health insurance generally sign up for Notre Dame’s student plan, which provides good basic coverage at a reasonably priced premium. The student health center on campus is a full service clinic. Additional medical needs are met through service providers in the immediate South Bend area.

Questions about Using Your MDiv Degree

Q: What do people do with this degree?

A: The vast majority of our MDiv alums serve with distinction in some form of Church ministry. Many serve in parishes as pastoral associates, directors of religious education, and youth ministers. Others serve in campus ministry at the high school or university level. Others are teachers, healthcare pastoral care ministers, diocesan leaders, social service advocates, liturgy directors and more. The Church has urgent needs in many areas, so a multitude of opportunities await our graduates.

Q: What is the difference between the MDiv and other alternative advanced degrees?

A. These are the alternatives:

Alternative Masters Degrees

The Master of Theological Studies is specifically designed to train graduate students for future doctoral work in the various disciplines within the study of theology, and to train students to be highly effective teachers of theology at the high school level. The M.T.S. is a 48 credit hour degree, designed to give students exposure to the full range of theological studies, while also allowing them to develop competence in an area of concentration. Along with two years of full time course work, the M.T.S. also includes participation in the Masters Colloquium, competency in one modern language, and a comprehensive oral exam to be given at the end of the second year of course work. Biblical Studies and History of Christianity also have ancient language requirements.

The Master of Arts in Theology Summer Session Program is designed to provide university-level training in theology through one of several areas of study within the department. It offers a well-defined yet flexible educational program, which allows for a diversity of goals of individual students. It is also sensitive to the professional and pastoral context of the educational interests of the candidates.

Students interested in pursuing doctoral studies should apply to the M.T.S. Program.

Doctoral Studies in the Department of Theology

The University of Notre Dame is one of the most important ecumenical centers in North America for advanced study in theology. Although situated within a major Roman Catholic university, the program attracts men and women from all the major churches. Clergy, lay people and members of religious orders mingle in the classroom and share their theological perspectives. Those persons seeking a Ph.D. in preparation for careers in research, teaching and church service are invited to apply for admission.

At Notre Dame, scholarship pertaining to religious and theological matters is actively pursued in many departments. Hence, the resources available to graduate students exceed what is offered within the Department of Theology. Faculty, courses and research in other sectors of the University are available in the departments of philosophy, history (with resources in church history), sociology (including sociology of religion), government (especially church-state issues), anthropology (with accents on Islam and Latin American Christianity), the Medieval Institute (with excellent library and micromaterial collections), the Center for the Study of Contemporary Society, and the Institute for Church Life.

The doctoral program offers six major areas of specialization:

A doctoral degree in theology and peace studies is available through the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.