In 2017 Spring Hill College entered into a collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Jackson Mississippi to create a Permanent Diaconate Formation Program. Spring Hill College provides 9 credit hours of academic course work each year, for four years, while the Diocese provides non-credit pastoral, spiritual and personal formation The academic program consists of a 3-credit course and a 1-credit seminar each semester, as well as a 1-credit spirituality course (similar to courses in Spring Hill’s Summer Institute of Christian Spirituality). The program was launched in the fall of 2018.
The academic courses in the program total 33 graduate credit hours and are equivalent to Spring Hill’s Masters of Theological Studies program. The diaconate candidates, on completion of their Diaconate Formation program, receive the MTS degree from Spring Hill College. The first course is an introductory course (3 credit hours), which serves for all students as their prerequisite for entering the graduate degree program.
The schedule proposed by the Diocese of Jackson was to have a “semester” equal to 5 months, with one weekend meeting each month. The fall semester is September – January and the spring semester is February – June. The College offers courses over the first four months of these semesters: September – December and February – May. The months of January and June are given over to pastoral and spiritual formation, with Spring Hill offering one course in spirituality each year (see Diaconate Course Calendar).
Course materials and course interaction (Threaded Discussions) are delivered on Canvas, Spring Hill’s online learning platform. Most of the course work on Schoology is asynchronous, but there are also options for live interaction.
Class meetings in Jackson take place on the Saturday following the first Friday of each month. The academic courses meet from 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM (including one hour for lunch). The course meetings usually have the Spring Hill faculty present in the classroom, but at times the faculty may be present by live stream with a graduate assistant overseeing the classroom activities. All courses are offered in blended format, combining the classroom meetings with online delivery of materials, discussions and assignments.
Spring Hill also works with the Director of the Permanent Diaconate Formation program to train graduate assistants who are available in the classroom and between class meetings as local tutors for the candidates.
Diaconate Course Calendar
|Academic Course 3-credit||Academic Seminar 1-credit||Academic Spiritual Course 1-credit|
|Fall||Introduction to Biblical Studies (prerequisite)||Prophets|
|Spring||Vatican II||Philosophy for Understanding Theology|
|Fall||Eucharist||Theology of Sacrament|
|Spring||Christian Ethics||Catholic Social Teaching|
|June||Great Spiritual Master|
|Fall||Christology & Trinity||Letters of Paul|
|Spring||New Evangelization||Ecumenism & Interreligious Dialogue|
|7 (3-credit courses)||8 (1-credit seminars)||4 (1-credit spirituality)|
|Total||33 Graduate Credits|
Diaconate Course Descriptions
3-credit Major Courses
THL 430 – Introduction to Biblical Studies (3) An undergraduate introduction to Biblical Studies, designed to serve as the foundational course for the Master’s degree for the Permanent Diaconate Formation. The course examines Catholic biblical theology and interpretation, as articulated in Vatican II and subsequent Church teaching. It also introduces the methodologies and theories for studying the Bible, providing examples from selected sections of the Old and New Testaments. This course is a prerequisite for all courses in the degree program.
THL 621. Eucharist (3) The course examines the Eucharist as the central sacrament in the life of the Church, considered from its biblical, historical, theological and moral dimensions. It offers an analysis of the structural elements of the rite and a survey of the interplay of liturgical traditions, popular piety and theological reflections at critical moments in church history.
THL 631. Synoptic Gospels (3) A study of the literary and theological development that culminated in the written Gospels. An exposition of the historical-critical and literary tools for studying the Gospels and an in-depth study of each of the three synoptic Gospel’s unique context, style and themes.
THL 643. Christology and Trinity (3) The course uses classic and contemporary texts to study the historical and doctrinal development of the Church’s expression of its understanding of Christ as God and man. Concepts of Christian anthropology and the Trinitarian understanding of God are examined.
THL 644. Vatican II (3) The course focuses on the path-breaking work of Vatican II. It will present the history leading up to the council, the goals set by Pope John XXIII, and the role of Pope Paul VI in concluding and promulgating its documents. The major documents will be examined in depth, with a reflection on the ongoing implementation of the reforms the council inaugurated.
THL 651. Foundation of Christian Ethics (3) The course analyzes the fundamental themes of contemporary ethical theory, especially as expressed within the Catholic theological tradition. Also, dialogue/conflict between the Roman Catholic Church’s traditional teaching and contemporary ethical perspectives are examined.
THL 660. Patristics (3) The course explores the history and theology of the early Church by focusing on the careers and contributions of the major Fathers of the Church: Origen, Cyprian, Athanasius, the Cappadocians and Augustine.
THL 663. New Evangelization (3) The course will focus on the challenge of Vatican II for a new evangelization to a world struggling with unprecedented forces of globalization and secularization. The teachings of the most recent popes will be examined, reflecting on why the Church needs a “new” evangelization and how it might be embodied.
THL 635. Prophets (1) The course will be give an historical and literary overview of the major prophets in the Old Testament and methods for studying the prophets. Students will then pick one prophet to study in depth and present their research to the class using PowerPoint or Prezi.
THL 636. Letters of Paul (1) The course studies the authenticity, basic structure, integrity, life situation, chief problems and distinctive traits the major letters of Paul. The major themes of Pauline theology, such as faith, law, justification, new creation, eschatology and Christology, will also be examined. Students will present their findings in a presentation.
THL 645. Ecclesiology (1) The course provides an historical and systematic study of the Christian community: its structure, its nature, its mission and its historical development. Students will give a presentation of some aspect of the Church.
THL 646. Augustine (1) The course will focus on Augustine of Hippo, “the father of western theology” through the lens of his Confessions. The goal is to understand the deep and far reaching theological legacy of Augustine. Students will present on some aspect of that legacy.
THL 647. Philosophy for Understanding Theology (1) The course provides a basic survey of Western philosophical thought and how it has been used in Christianity. Students will present on the philosophical basis for the ecumenical councils, Christology, Trinitarian theology and sacraments.
THL 648. Theology of Sacrament (1) A study of the history and theology of individual sacraments and of sacraments in general. This course examines both classic views and recent developments, especially the teaching and reforms of Vatican II.
THL 655. Catholic Social Teaching (1) The course will study the Church’s effort to positively engage the larger world. The course offers a critical study of the Church’s official response to the developments of the Industrial Revolution, laissez faire capitalism, Marxism, consumerism and modern warfare, using Vatican documents. Students will present on one of these issues.
THL 665. Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue (1) The course will examine Catholic principles for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue as proposed by Vatican II and in subsequent Church teaching. It will explore key areas for dialogue with other Christian denominations and with the major non-Christian world religions.
1-credit Spirituality Courses
SPT 625. Prayer (1) The course examines different theories and practices of personal prayer in the Christian tradition through the centuries.
SPT 626. Discernment (1) The courses examines the theology and practice of discernment in the Christian tradition through the centuries, especially in the Jesuit tradition.
SPT 630. Biblical Spirituality (1) The course offers a study of a biblical text as a source for spirituality and prayer.
SPT 640. Great Spiritual Master (1) The course offers a study of the life and writings of one of the great teachers of Christian spirituality.