Master’s in theology redesigned to service more students


With the institution of a new Online Master of Arts in Theology and Christian Ministry, the greatest educational assets that Franciscan University has to offer are now more accessible than ever before.

Said Thomas Weishaar, director of online enrollment, “People from all over the world can learn from Michael Sirilla, Scott Hahn, John Bergsma, Mark Miravalle, Don Asci, and just about all of our biggest names. That’s a great opportunity.”

The program, which constitutes a completely redesigned curriculum now offered in both on-campus and online platforms, will be made available for students during the upcoming spring 2017 semester. Before the program overhaul, the strictly on-campus MA was considered by many of the faculty to be outdated.

The program “was both designed and voted on by the entire theology department,” said Weishaar. “They took a look at their traditional curriculum, and the faculty decided that it was not serving students as well as it could be, so they essentially redesigned the entire curriculum.”

One of the facets of the program which qualifies it among the first of its kind is what Weishaar called “a hybrid model.” Unique to the new curriculum is the fact that students may elect to participate in some on-campus sessions and some online sessions for the same class, he said.

Interestingly, the curriculum at both the program and class level is entirely the same; regardless of the medium by which students enroll and fulfill their assignments, whether they be online or on-campus, they will receive an authentic Franciscan experience.

It is that experience which Weishaar understands to be so crucial in creating students who evangelize effectively.

“The program is great career preparation: it will prepare students to be a director of religious education, a director of parish faith formation, an RCIA director, a director of youth ministry, teacher, et cetera,” said Weishaar. The new method of delivery will succeed in conveying truths to students which will prove foundational in their respective future occupations, he said.

To advertise the new MA, the Franciscan administrative offices will first reach out to a wide range of alumni. “We also will be reaching out to a large number of (adult) conference participants,” said Weishaar. Press releases, Google AdWords campaigns, and a feature in the Franciscan University of Steubenville magazine have also been instrumental in fostering interest in the reinvented MA.

The program’s mission to evangelize, the faculty from which students learn, its post-graduation opportunities, and its widespread pull to students of all majors, said Weishaar, are four qualities which characterize the newly reformatted MA program as beneficial for students now and in the future.

The wide variety of students who wish to receive an authentic Franciscan University education includes “students from places as diverse as China, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Mexico,” said Weishaar. The redesigned program makes it a point to establish its audience as those capable of transforming the world.

The program itself is foundational in establishing evangelists worldwide. Said Weishaar, “Going through the program itself is transformative. It transforms the student into a disciple of Christ, who sets the world on fire with the Holy Spirit.”

Weishaar said, “This program is almost the epitome of what Saint Catherine of Siena said: ‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’”

With a more systematic, complete approach to theology and Christian ministry, Franciscan University’s newly redesigned MA program seeks to build in students, on-campus and all over the world, the desire to instill positive change into a desperate world.