NEW! Great Books Graduate Certificate in Theology

Jul 12, 2022

Offered by St. Bernard’s and the Aquinas Institute

Rochester, NY & Green Bay, WI: Through a special collaboration, St. Bernard’s School of Theology & Ministry (St. Bernard’s) and the Aquinas Institute are pleased to announce a new “Great Books Graduate Certificate in Theology” educational opportunity beginning this Fall 2022!

This unique online program will provide students with a Graduate Certificate that builds on the rich pedagogy of the Aquinas Institute, which aims "to form a new generation of Catholic theologians and philosophers through direct contact with the sources of Catholic doctrine, faithful to the teaching authority of the hierarchy of the Church, and in a community that has the Incarnate Word of God as its center,” while simultaneously encompassing St. Bernard’s mission of “addressing both the mind and heart in coming to know and love Our Lord and His Church” in the context of graduate education and formation.

“Nowhere else can we find a complete program of distance education that engages students and teachers in real-time seminar discussions of Great Books. This approach to education continues to change lives in radical ways, since it allows students to ask their own questions in dialogue with a great mind.”

- John Mortensen, President, Aquinas Institute

The Great Books Graduate Certificate in Theology consists of 18 credits taken over six 3-credit graduate courses in:

  1. GB311 Commentary on the Old Testament
  2. GB312 Commentary on the New Testament​
  3. GB321 Church Fathers​
  4. GB331 Existence and Attributes of God
  5. GB341 The Mystery of the Holy Trinity
  6. GB351 The Mystery of the Incarnation

One of the unique aspects of this collaborative certificate is its emphasis on both an encounter with primary sources, and the invitation to share these encounters with peers and professors through conversation. As the Aquinas Institute's website so beautifully states, "the best way to join this great conversation is precisely through conversation: real-time back-and-forth with teachers and fellow students. Many minds working on a great text together place that text back in its element as part of an exchange between real people." In this way, direct conversations can be had not only about a primary source, such as Aquinas or Augustine, but with the primary sources themselves: "what a student misses when reading a textbook about Augustine rather than reading Augustine is Augustine himself. A textbook can teach about the great authors, but it can’t give us the authors themselves."

“It is such a gift to see the Great Books approach to education take root in graduate theological studies; may the return to the sources of our faith always lead us into a more sustained and more impactful encounter with the Source of all things! The Great Books Graduate Certificate has the potential to play a central role in the renewal of theology and thereby in the renewal of the Church.”

Matthew Kuhner, Vice President & Academic Dean, St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry

While there are many opportunities to receive a theological, philosophically, and/or liberal arts education in the Great Books tradition at the undergraduate level, there are few – if any – opportunities to do so at the graduate level. This format enables a student to take a specific cluster of graduate, credit-bearing courses for an accredited credential in its own right, while also preparing for the possibility of continuing one’s education and utilizing the credits earned in the Graduate Certificate towards a Master’s degree either immediately or at some point in the future. It will serve well those that wish to pursue education and formation in authentic leisure, just as it will serve well those that are pursing formation for catechetical, diaconal, or priestly ministry.

This partnership program between St. Bernard’s and the Aquinas Institute provides a pathway for students to receive a Great Books and liberal arts education at a distance, through a live online discussion, thus making it accessible to students across the country (and around the world!) through an approach to distance education that features streamlined technology, live class sessions, engaging professors, and expert guest lecturers.