Students admitted to the S.T.L. program in Church History must have earned an S.T.B. degree from a pontifical faculty, or its academic equivalent, as determined by the Ecclesiastical Degrees Committee. For admission to the program, applicants must submit an application, post-secondary transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a sample of academic writing, and either GRE or MAT scores, and, as required by University guidelines, TOEFL scores, taken within the last five years.  Applicants who are priests, deacons, seminarians or members of religious communities are required to submit a letter of endorsement from their Bishop or Religious Superior, as well as a separate letter from their Bishop or Superior attesting that their Diocese or Religious Community will provide funding for the applicant's studies.  The Church History area faculty reserve the right to require additional coursework, as needed for the student’s course of study.


Four semesters of residence are required

Course Requirements

At least 24 credits of coursework are required, all of which are normally to be taken in the Church History academic area.  With written permission from the Church History area director, 6 credits may be taken outside the Church History area.  The courses will be normally at the 700 or 800 level, and at the 600 level, with the approval of the student’s director.  Students are required to take the seminar, TRS 724, Methods in Church History and Historical Theology.  Students will receive an additional 6 credits upon completion and approval of the thesis.  

Language requirements

Candidates for the S.T.L. in Church History must fulfill the following language requirements by the end of the semester before the candidate takes the comprehensive examination.  Some exceptions may apply, at the discretion of the Church History academic area.

  1. Latin: The equivalent of two years of Latin, demonstrated by the successful completion of a Latin proficiency examination, administered by the Church History academic area. The Latin requirement should ordinarily be satisfied by the end of the first semester in the program.
  2. Greek: The student must complete a reading course in biblical or patristic Greek OR pass an examination in biblical or patristic Greek, depending on the student’s area of concentration.  The exam will be administered by the Church History academic area.
  3. Modern Language: The student must demonstrate reading ability in German or a Romance language (French, Italian, Spanish) either by the successful completion of an examination administered by the Church History academic area OR by the successful completion of a reading course (e.g., TRS 501 “Theological German”).


The thesis must consist of 25,000 to 35,000 words, define an original research question, analyze the relevant literature, and use sources in the original languages.

By the end of the student’s second semester in the S.T.L program, the student’s thesis proposal must be approved by the director and a reader, and then circulated to the Church History area faculty for consideration and further approval.  After such approval has been obtained from the area, the proposal is then forwarded to the Ecclesiastical Degrees Committee for final approval.

Comprehensive examinations

S.T.L. students must successfully complete both written and oral comprehensive examinations.  There are two four-hour written examinations, in which the student answers three out of four questions: 1) a general examination based on a list of books in the field of Church History, and 2) a specialized examination in the student’s field of concentration (e.g., Patristics, Medieval, Reformation, the Latin American Church, the American Catholic Church) based on a bibliography that the student develops in consultation with the student’s director.

The written comprehensive examinations will be graded by the director, the reader of the thesis, and a third member of the TRS faculty appointed by the area director. The candidate must receive an average grade of 3.00 (on a scale of 0.00-4.00) from the three examiners in order to proceed to the oral comprehensive examination.

The one-hour oral comprehensive examination tests the student’s knowledge of Church History as defined by the first, general written examination.  The oral examination takes place before the same three persons who grade the student's written examination. It is usually scheduled one week after the written examination. To pass the oral comprehensive, the candidate must receive an average grade of 3.00 (on a scale of 0.00-4.00) from the three examiners in a secret vote. A candidate for the S.T.L. degree may not continue in the S.T.L. program after two failures in the comprehensive examinations.

Final Grade for the S.T.L.

The three components of the S.T.L. degree program — coursework, thesis, and comprehensive examinations (written and oral) — will be graded on the 4.0 grade point scale. The average of the grades for courses will be one-third; the average of the two grades for the thesis (from the Director and the Reader) will be one-third; and the combined average of the final grades for the written and oral comps will be the last third. A student must have an average grade of 3.0 to receive the S.T.L. degree.

To be admitted to the S.T.D. program, a student must successfully complete the S.T.L. degree with a cumulative average grade of 3.3.