Doctor of Ministry Degree (DMin)

recent graduatesThe Doctor of Ministry degree (revised Fall 2021) is an advanced, professional, terminal degree program for experienced clergy, religious, lay ecclesial ministers, and others in formal ministry. The program of studies focuses on pastoral theology and its application in the ministry context. The Doctor of Ministry degree program prepares people more deeply for religious leadership and pastoral administration in congregations and other settings. (ATS 5.6)

Please contact the Registrar to discuss your interest in this Doctor of Ministry Degree Program. A new cohort of DMin students will be admitted for the Fall 2024 semester. Admission process will begin in Spring 2024.


Doctor of Ministry Degree Program Goals

Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology established five institutional outcomes: Christian Discipleship, Formation, Theological Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration that over arch all degree programs. These outcomes define the reflective identity, and vocation as a seminary, and are linked to specific programmatic goals for the Doctor of Ministry Degree program. (See Catalog, p. 35 for the program goals.)

Application and Interview

In addition to the above materials, the applicant completes a four-part application packet that includes all graduate transcripts, biographical information, and synopsis of ministry involvement. (Click on the hyperlink and download a fillable version of the packet.) Upon receipt of all the application materials listed below, along with the letters of recommendation and theological reflection, a personal interview is scheduled with the members of the Admissions Committee which assesses the applicant’s suitability and readiness for the Doctor of Ministry degree program. The Admissions Committee may accept or decline the application for the program; or the committee may determine that additional course work in theology or more experience in ministry is required for admission.


Academic Requirements

A Master’s Degree from an accredited university in theology or a ministry-related area which includes studies in systematic theology, Scripture, historical studies, liturgical-sacramental theology, and pastoral theology.

Additional post-graduate courses in any of the above areas of theology or in a ministry-related field; e.g. lay ecclesial ministry, Catholic education, chaplaincy, etc. Applicants may be required to take additional graduate theology courses as prerequisite to assure sufficiently broad theological background to engage in doctoral studies and the pastoral project.

Official transcripts of all academic work that validates a “B” (3.0) cumulative GPA. Saint Mary Seminary has the right and responsibility to determine if it will accept credits completed at other accredited graduate institutions for admission to the Doctor of Ministry program. Credits must directly relate to theology or a ministry field, have been earned within 10 years of the application to the Doctor of Ministry program, and awarded a minimum of “B” (3.0) grade.


Professional Requirements

The applicant must have completed at least three years of full-time formal ministry in a Catholic parish, school, or institution. Preferably, the applicant should have demonstrated leadership skills and experience. The applicant must currently be assigned to a place of ministry that can serve as a field context throughout the duration of the Doctor of Ministry program.

Ecclesial Requirements

Letters of Recommendation: (At least two of the following)

  1. A letter of recommendation from one’s ecclesiastical superior* (e.g. Bishop, Pastor, Religious Superior, etc.) attesting to the applicant’s overall suitability for the academic, ministerial, and leadership expectations of the Doctor of Ministry program. (*required for all priests, religious, and permanent deacons)
  2. A letter from one’s immediate ministry supervisor attesting to the applicant’s personal qualities, leadership ability, academic aptitude, and spiritual motivation for doctoral studies.
  3. A letter from a former professor regarding the applicant’s ability to complete the Doctor of Ministry program.

Memo of Understanding

The applicant also presents a memo of understanding that informs co-workers of one’s intentions to pursue doctoral studies.

Writing Samples

Theological Reflection Writing Sample

The applicant presents a theological reflection of 1000-2000 words which briefly presents the applicant’s purpose, interest, and motivation to engage in advanced professional doctoral studies. Specifically:

  1. Select a Scripture passage which provides a theological foundation for one’s ministry. Interpret the passage in light of one’s theological tradition and pastoral and vocational background.
  2. Reflect on the cultural context of one’s ministry and its theological implications.
  3. Reflect on one’s personal ministerial identity.
  4. Reflect on one’s ministerial history that prepared him/her to engage with peers in doctoral studies
  5. Reflect on one’s readiness and motivation to engage in personal and spiritual formation for ministerial leadership.
  6. Reflect on one’s purpose and ministerial goals for undertaking the Doctor of Ministry degree program.
Academic Research Writing Sample

The applicant submits a research paper from previous academic work at the graduate level. which includes research citations and bibliography, preferably using Turabian (Chicago Style).

For students who apply to the Doctor of Ministry degree program ten or more years after their MA degree, an alternate writing sample will be substituted for the research paper.

Components of the Doctor of Ministry Program

Saint Mary Seminary serves as a center for advanced theological education. The Doctor of Ministry program is a 30-credit degree program in pastoral theology with a focus on advanced competency in pastoral administration, comprised of the following four areas: (cf. ATS 5.3)

  1. Advanced theological integration: to help the student engage their ministerial context with “theological acumen and critical thinking” (ATS 5.3) To this end, the program includes six doctoral level theology courses (12 credits) which integrate areas of spirituality, systematic theology, Scripture and liturgy with applications of pastoral theology in ministry (Peer learning)
  2. In-depth contextual competency: to give the student the ability to identify, frame, and respond to a significant ministry issue.
    1. To this end four research and writing courses (12 credits) (self-directed learning) under the direction of a faculty advisor assist the student to articulate a ministry issue, research Catholic both classical and contemporary theological insights, and formulate the theological foundation upon which the ministry issue is grounded.
    2. In addition, the student engages in research-based learning in the formulation of the project design, research methodology, data analysis and interpretation to be used in the study of the ministry context (field-based learning).
    3. Finally, the student completes a written project exploring an area of ministry, utilizing appropriate research methodologies and resources, and resulting in new knowledge in the practice of ministry. The written project, oral presentation, and evaluation reflect mastery of the program outcomes and the rigor of doctoral level theological integration. (6 credits) (ATS 5.4)
  3. Leadership capacity: to equip the student to enhance one’s effectiveness as ministry leaders. To this end, the Doctor of Ministry degree program places a special emphasis on ministerial leadership: through theological reflection, in research design, analysis, and interpretation, and in the formation of collaborative relationships with peers to hone one’s capacity for leadership. (Project forum)
  4. Personal and spiritual maturity: to enable students to reinvigorate and deepen their vocational calling. To this end, the Doctor of Ministry degree program aims to provide a transformative learning experience that opens the student’s mind and heart to new knowledge about the practice of ministry, hone competencies in pastoral analysis and ministerial skills, and integrate these dimensions into the theological reflective practice of ministry, all of which lead to continued growth in spiritual and personal maturity.To this end, the candidate will maintain an electronic academic portfolio for the duration of his/her Doctor of Ministry studies. The portfolio includes artifacts and theological reflections as follows: 1) Evidence of Advanced Theological Integration, 2) Evidence of Contextual Competency, 3) Evidence of Leadership Capacity, 4) Evidence of Personal Spiritual Integration, 5) the Project Symposium prospectus, 6) the Project Colloquium presentation, and 7) the Final Doctor of Ministry Project. (The artifacts are student-selected and must represent the requirements of ATS Standards 5.3.) The Doctor of Ministry Colloquium is expected to include evidence of the student’s growth in Christian discipleship and formation as well as theological integration resulting from the program of studies.

Class Schedule

The Doctor of Ministry degree program is intended to be completed in three academic years (six semesters, 30 credits). Students attend class on campus on Wednesday afternoons for the first three semesters. (Total: 12 credits.) A project forum is held three times a semester as a cohort to discuss research techniques and design, to develop the theological and bibliographic foundations of the doctoral project, and to create a strategic plan that provides the momentum for the completion of the Doctor of Ministry program.

Following the completion of the academic courses, students work with their advisor and the director of the Project Forum to develop the project.  Theological research and writing credits (8 credits) are designed to direct the student during this student-directed phase of the program. Students work with the Research Director to develop the research project, prepare and submit the plan for review by the Institutional Review Board for approval, and analyze and interpret the research results.

The student implements a research design in their place of ministry. This supervised ministry experience is designed to provide the context for both research, leadership, and theological integration. (4 credits)

Project Continuation

In the first semester of the third year, the student and faculty mentor may determine that an extension will be necessary to complete the project. In this case, the student registers for PAS 992-a, -b, -c, or –d, as a continuance of the academic program, but without additional credit. The student must complete the project in no more than four additional semesters, i.e. three years after the prospectus has been approved.

Project Forum

The Project Forum assists students in developing a solid Doctor of Ministry project. Students will meet three times each semester as cohort groups. These forums discuss techniques in research design, help individual learners develop their theological and bibliographical foundations, hone computer skills, and create a strategic plan for the project’s implementation and evaluation.

Institutional Review Board Compliance Review

All Doctor of Ministry research projects (and in some cases, Master of Arts projects) must be reviewed by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology has entered into an agreement with John Carroll University to conduct this compliance review. The IRB assists in a review of Doctor of Ministry or Master of Arts Project proposals along with surveys or instruments that will be used for specific research on human subjects. The John Carroll University IRB will issue a review of the project and forward it to the Academic Dean of Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology. The IRB process must be completed prior to the student’s scheduled prospectus symposium.

The primary goal of Institutional Review is to protect the rights and welfare of human subjects when they participate in surveys, interviews, or focus groups that result in systematized, gener­alizable knowledge intended for but not limited to publication or other public dissemination. The protocol for Institutional Review is based on federal regulation and Christian ethics, as well as informed consent.

The purpose of an informed consent is to help investigators protect research participants by in­forming them about the nature of the research, including the procedures to be followed and any associated risks or benefits to participation. In compliance with federal regulations, the IRB carefully reviews informed consent documents.

Project Review is generally required for the following:

  1. Survey, interview, focus group & observational research involving human subjects
  2. Evaluation Research, e.g. data is collected on a new course, technique, or pilot study to determine the effectiveness of the material or the manner in which material is collected, etc.
  3. Some oral history, especially if it is to be published, e.g. topics that might cause distress or breach of privacy, etc.


  1. Faculty and Students must participate in CITI Training (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) online.
  2. Students complete and submit their research proposal to IRB Office at JCU prior to Prospectus Symposium
  3. Students will receive a response: Does the project come under IRB jurisdiction or not? a. Exempt b. Expedited c. Full Board Review

The Doctor of Ministry project forum director will guide students through the IRB review pro­cess. Further information regarding IRB policies, procedures, and sample forms may be found at

Yearly assessment and evaluation

Students receive a letter grade at the end of each semester for each course. In addition, the faculty gives a qualitative summary of the students’ academic competencies demonstrated in the semester course work. At the close of the academic year, students should review their overall performance file with the Academic Dean. Students must maintain a “B” (3.0) average. Students who fail to maintain a 3.0 G.P.A. or who earn a grade of “F” in a course are subject to dismissal from the Doctor of Ministry program.

Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology reserves the right to require the withdrawal of any student at any time who fails to give satisfactory evidence of academic ability, earnestness of purpose, or active cooperation in all the requirements for acceptable scholarship in the Doctor of Ministry program.

The Doctor of Ministry Project

The Final Phase: The Doctor of Ministry Project (ATS 5.4)
Once the student has completed the required course work, he/she maps out a prospectus of the project with individual faculty mentors who direct student through the final phases of the doctoral project.

  1. Candidacy Symposium
    The official approval to implement the Doctor of Ministry project is given at the conclusion of this symposium. Successful candidates will have synthesized the theological basis of their projects with an annotated bibliography and final research design (including IRB approval). Students now prepare for project implementation, analysis, and evaluation.
  2. The Doctoral Project
    Students demonstrate the integration of their doctoral work through a final project implemented from their ministerial context as field research. The project focus evaluates and improves an existing area of ministry or develops a new program based on a ministerial need.
  3. Project Colloquium
    The colloquium allows students to present their completed project to the learning community. The faculty advisor, readers, and peers are able to support the candidate’s project and assess its overall contribution to the field of ministry.

Upon the successful completion of the colloquium and the submission of the completed manuscript, the doctoral candidate is eligible to participate in the Commencement ceremony, held on the first Thursday of May. At this time the Doctor of Ministry Degree (DMin) is conferred.


Course Design for Fall 2022 Cohort
Focus: Pastoral Administration

Core Courses – 12 Credits 

PAS 905 Theological Reflection on Ministry  (2)

SC 910 Pastoral Strategies in the Letters of Paul (2)

PAS 960 Pastoral Implications of the New Evangelization (2)

LIT 983 Eucharist: Mysticism and Mission (2)

TH 935 Augustine and the Theology of Love (2)

TH 937 Catholics, Science, and the Moral Life (2)

Research and Writing Classes       8  credits  

PAS 959 Studying Congregations: Methods and Research (2)

PAS 980 Review of Theological Literature (2)

PAS 982 Theological Writing (2)

PAS 984 Thesis Project Research (2)      

FE 910 Focused Field Experience        3 credits

Pastoral Project    2-2      4 credits  

Project Forum (Years I, II, III)    3  credits    

Degree Completion                                 Total  30 credits



Costs for the doctoral program are in keeping with generally accepted tuition and program fees for a degree on this level. Costs for the total program are calculated on six semesters. Tuition for summer seminars is included in the semester billing. Payment plans may be designed in consultation with the Academic Dean and Finance Office. Students are billed every semester with costs subject to change.  See for current details.

Those students needing more than the six semesters to complete the program are charged a continuation fee each additional semester in order to maintain active status in the program. Students may consult the Registrar for the current tuition schedule.