New Catholic Studies minor responds to student demand
A swell of interest in the Catholic faith among the Merrimack College students and prospective students has led the college to introduce a Catholic Studies minor.
The minor is designed to help students understand the Catholic faith and traditions through courses that concentrate on the church’s role in history and art history, as well as theology, said professor Joseph T. Kelley, director of the Center for Jewish Christian Muslim Relations.
“The student has the opportunity to get a broad overview of Catholicism from different academic perspectives,” Kelley said. “The minor gives students more, in a structured way.”
The new minor is timelier than ever. Past generations of Merrimack students were often Catholic and had basic foundational educations in their faith so a minor didn’t make as much sense. Plus, every student took three required Religious Theological Studies classes but only one such course is required now.
Even today, many students are familiar with their Catholic faith either through family tradition, weekly religious classes or parochial school. Other students were raised Catholic and have some experience in the faith but don’t have a significant religious education background. That isn’t enough for some students who want t know more about their faith history, Kelley said.
“We find students are interested,” he said. “They want to know more about Catholicism.”
The minor includes about five courses, at least some of which can fulfill core requirements, Kelley said.
“We’ve designed it to make it accessible and doable for students,” Kelley said.
The minor has a different focus than the Religious & Theological Studies Department’s theology major or religious studies major. Students with a theology major study the Bible, Christian history, Christian ethics and systematic theology; religious studies majors study religion in general, no matter the faith.
The Religious & Theological Studies Department also has minors such as Jewish, Christian, Muslim Relations; and Religion and Science.
The Faculty Senate approved the Catholic Studies minor last spring.