Faculty members at Aquinas Institute of Theology want students to accomplish more than mastery of course content. They want them to develop practices that will sustain them after graduation as people who embody what Christians are called to be.
Two faculty members in pastoral theology – Celeste Mueller and Ann Garrido, D.Min. – developed a course that first-year students must take. It introduces them to practices necessary for success in academia and beyond.
The course so impressed representatives of Yale Divinity School in Connecticut that they awarded Aquinas Institute a $5,000 “Faith as a Way of Life” project grant. Aquinas Institute was among four schools awarded the grant, which seeks to explore and build the relationship between faith and daily life. Garrido and Mueller teach the new course, which is required for first-year students.
“Students entering graduate theological studies are entering an ancient and broad conversation,” Garrido said. “It is a conversation that has spanned centuries and continents. We want our students to be full partners in that conversation.”
The course focuses on five practices important to preparing students for that dialogue. Garrido and Mueller call on students to achieve excellence in written and spoken communication, read texts closely, analyze social context of readings, reflect theologically, and collaborate.
As they read, for example, they should examine their own presuppositions and consider the historical era and culture of the writer. As they conduct themselves in their studies and lives outside of academia, they should reflect theologically, or practice interpreting life’s experiences in light of God’s purpose and applying the Christian story to daily events.
“Many of our students will not become preachers from the pulpit,” Garrido said, “but they will preach through speaking, writing or sitting at the bedside of a hospice patient. These practices will make each of them better as they pursue their ministries.”