Department Detail

Religious Studies

A major or minor in religious studies offers an overview of the beliefs, practices, and values of Christianity and Judaism, as well as other religious traditions. While special attention is given to the Catholic tradition, course offerings are broad enough to benefit you in your own search for religious meaning.

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A sound concept of liberal arts education calls for the academic study of religion. In step with Marywood’s Catholic affiliation, the program offerings include the scholarly investigation of the Catholic theological tradition alongside a broad selection of courses in world religions and their spiritualities. Our department prepares our students to live responsibly in an interdependent world by encouraging and developing their critical and appreciative understanding of the fundamental human search for meaning as it is found in the world’s religious traditions.

The curricular objectives of the department are to enable students to:

• recognize the multiple dimensions of religion – from ritual, material, mythic, and experiential dimensions to the institutional, ethical, and doctrinal;

• analyze contemporary manifestations of religion with the theoretical and methodological tools of religious studies and theology;

• identify the ultimate questions that have engaged human beings for millennia and engage both critically and contemplatively with a variety of responses;

• evaluate their own religious positions and choices in a global religious context;

• develop a basis for making ethical decisions that promote justice, peace, and compassion;

• articulate their viewpoints with clarity, accuracy, and respect.

The academic study of religion can be approached in two ways. First, the academic discipline of theology examines the way that a religious tradition explains and understands its beliefs using a variety of academic methods and tools. Second, the discipline of religious studies investigates religion as an aspect of experience that can be explored through a variety of disciplines. Following these divisions, the department offers two tracks to a major; these focus on Catholic theology or Religious Studies.

The first track has a focus on Catholic theology in dialogue with other religions. The student has the option of choosing a ministry preparation concentration or a concentration aimed at advanced studies in theology or other fields.

The second track has a focus on Religious Studies and is developed as an ad hoc major. It might concentrate, for example, on comparative religions. This major draws on the resources of the Religious Studies department as well as other applicable courses determined in agreement with the student’s advisor. (See description of ad hoc majors, catalog, p. 16.)

Course offerings are divided into four basic categories: RST 112 Modern Belief is an introductory course required before any other course is taken; 200-level courses—general studies open to anyone who has completed the Modern Belief course; 300 level courses—service and advanced courses, some requiring permission of the chairperson; 400 level courses—upper level studies for either majors or minors and other students with permission of the chairperson.

Justice and Peace Studies Minor 

The Justice and Peace Studies Minor, drawing courses from many departments, is housed in the Religious Studies Department. Its requirements are described below.

Degree Requirements

Credits required for Religious Studies

Major: 36
Core: 37/40
Electives: 44/47
Total to Graduate: 120

Core Requirements — All Students

Two courses are required in order to fulfill the Religious Studies requirement as stated in Category II of the Liberal Arts Core. They are RST 112 Modern Belief and one course above the 100 level. RST 112 is a prerequisite to all other religious studies courses.

Curriculum Requirements — Majors and Minors


For the B.A. in Religious Studies, 36 credit hours are required in the major, 18 of which must be earned at Marywood. Transferred credits are applied to the major with department approval. The maximum number of total credits needed to graduate with a B.A. in Religious Studies is 120.

The following courses are required for all Religious Studies majors:

RST 112 Modern Belief
RST 201 Introduction to the Bible
RST 213 Jesus in Contemporary Perspective
RST 214 The Church Today
RST 215 Foundations of Christian Morality
RST 225 Sacraments in Practice

Under faculty advisement, a Religious Studies major has the option of pursuing one of two areas of concentration:

Concentration 1 is for majors who, upon graduation, intend to engage in some form of church ministry (e.g., as directors of religious education, teachers of religion, and youth ministers).

Courses required for Concentration 1:

RST 340 Seminar: Religion and Education
RST 342 Seminar: Church Ministry
RST 443 Directed Field Experience

Concentration 2 is for majors desiring to concentrate their study in the Christian tradition.

Courses required for Concentration 2:

RST 205 Seminar; Readings in the Theology of Radical Human Existence
RST 340 Seminar: Religion and Education
RST 342 Seminar: Church Ministry
RST 444 Senior Research

In addition, nine credit hours in Religious Studies electives must also be completed in each concentration.

Both concentrations prepare a student for graduate work. Majors are encouraged to complement their studies with specific cognate courses from other departments that relate to their particular interests and needs; for example, majors in Concentration 1 are advised to schedule PSYC 251, Developmental Psychology; EDUC 311, Educational Psychology, and EDUC 414, Social Foundations of Education.

Students who are either majoring or minoring in Religious Studies and meet nationally established criteria will be invited to membership in Marywood’s chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa, National Honor Society for Theology/Religious Studies.


Students can choose to minor in Religious Studies or in Justice and Peace Studies, an Interdisciplinary Minor that is housed in the Religious Studies Department.

Minor in Religious Studies

For the minor in Religious Studies, 18 credit hours are required, nine of which must be earned at Marywood. Transferred credits are applied to the minor with department approval. The suggested course of study for minors includes:

RST 112 Modern Belief
RST 340 Seminar: Religion and Education
RST 342 Seminar: Church Ministry

In addition, 12 credit hours in Religious Studies electives are required.

A Religious Studies minor can be combined effectively with a major in many other fields (e.g., psychology, music, social work, etc.).

Minor in Justice and Peace Studies

For the minor in Justice and Peace Studies, 18 credit hours are required, nine of which must be earned at Marywood. Transferred credits may be applied to the minor with the approval of the director of the minor. The required courses for the minor include:

HIST 105 Ethnicity and Diversity in the Modern World 3
RST 230 Political and Liberation Theologies 3
RST 216 Social Morality: National Issues 3
RST 233 Christian Social Morality: A Global Perspective 3
Either of the following must include the service trip component:
RST 338 National/Local Service Program 3
RST 339 International Service Program 3

In addition, 6 credit hours selected from a list of approved courses are required. An updated list of courses is available from the Justice and Peace Studies program director, Sister Mary Ann Zimmer, ND. Typical courses may include but are not limited to the following:

RST 234 Women and Religion
BUS 380 Business Ethics
ENGL 485 Writing and Cultural Studies
ENGL 490 Feminist Writing and Rhetoric
HIST 440 Contemporary History of Latin America
HIST 443 Contemporary History of Africa
HIST 454 Contemporary History of the Middle East
PHIL 328 Environmental Ethics
PHIL 340 Animal Ethics
PHIL 345 Race, Class, and Gender
PHIL 415 Climate Justice
PHIL 431 Global Justice
SPAN 332 Hispanic Literature of Social Protest
SW 230 Analysis of Social Welfare Policy
SW 250 Contemporary Social Work Practice
SW 425 Children’s Rights and Societal Response


CAPSTONE REQUIREMENT: Because the ability to integrate interdisciplinary resources is essential to the program, a capstone paper is required in the last course the student takes to meet the program requirements. The parameters of this capstone paper will be negotiated by the student to the satisfaction of the course professor at the beginning of the course.

Religious Studies Website