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Department of Theology & Religious Studies

A liberal arts education includes an academic understanding of human religious experience.  The Jesuit tradition of inter-religious engagement comes to life in the John Carroll TRS classroom and in wider campus life. Students can choose from a wide variety of courses designed to develop an engaged adult understanding of faith — their own and those of others.


Rabbi Noah Benjamin Bickart named JCU’s inaugural Jewish studies chair.


Earn your MA in Theology & Religious Studies TUITION FREE

Apply for a TRS Graduate Assistantship


Summer 2022 Courses

Fall 2022 Undergraduate Courses

Fall 2022 Graduate Courses


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Certificate in Theological Education

Learn more about John Carroll University's Certificate in Theological Education.

Programs of Study

Every walk of life brings us into contact with people who have a wide variety of religious perspectives, from devout advocates of one religion or another to "nones" and seekers. Academic study of theology and religion gives JCU students the language and categories to communicate across religious and cultural divides. Inter-religious engagement comes alive in the TRS classroom as students probe contested questions of human life and develop an adult understanding of their own and others' faith.



When you study the world’s religions, you will make an impact in more than just the classroom, the church, the mosque, the synagogue, or the temple. Gain the tools to understand and effectively respond to the religious forces that shape contemporary businesses, interpersonal relationships, our society, and the world.

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A minor in Theology and Religious Studies complements a wide variety of majors. You’ll have the opportunity to choose from courses in Scripture, the history of Christianity, theology, world religions, and religious ethics, among many other areas of study.

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The Certificate in Ecclesial Ministry (CEM) provides current and prospective ecclesial ministers the academic foundation necessary for a rich and fulfilling ministry in the contemporary Catholic Church.

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The Certificate in Theological Education prepares teachers by deepening their theological expertise and strengthening their classroom skills—specifically meeting the needs of Catholic high schools. The course builds on the U.S. Catholic Bishops high school curriculum framework, allowing participants to explore both the content of coursework they might be expected to teach and also pedagogical strategies and approaches effective with adolescents and young adults.

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The Master of Arts (M.A.) in Theology & Religious Studies graduate program is designed to provide master’s students with advanced knowledge of the content and method of various disciplines of theology and religious studies (scripture, Christian history, ethics, world religions, systematic theology, and sociology of religion).

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Department Highlights

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Why Study TRS?

Think religion is passé or theology is only for ministers and religious school teachers? Think again! Coursework in theology and religious studies provides a solid foundation for work in any field that involves cross-cultural communication, empathetic client relationships, critical thinking, ethical decision-making, careful writing, group collaboration, or social action. It makes great preparation for graduate programs in law, journalism, medicine, political science, sociology, and many other fields. A major in TRS integrates well with any other humanities or social science major; a minor complements any JCU major. Students who plan ahead can earn the TRS minor with only one course beyond the University's Core requirements. So, why not TRS?

When you study the world’s religions, you will make an impact in more than just the classroom, the church, the mosque, the synagogue, or the temple. As a student in the TRS program, you'll gain the tools to understand and effectively respond to the religious forces that shape contemporary businesses, interpersonal relationships, our society, and the world.

Many jobs in demand today did not exist a decade ago. How do you prepare for careers driven by technologies not yet invented? A well-rounded, liberal-arts-based Jesuit education provides the intellectual skills and mental agility to give you the leading edge in a wide variety of careers and entrepreneurial activities.

The Theology and Religious Studies program teaches you to think critically, communicate cogently, reflect thoughtfully, and engage passionately to address the needs of our contemporary world. If you're looking for a degree program that encourages you to become a fully rounded human being — mind, body, and spirit — the TRS minor, major, 5-year B.A./M.A., or independent M.A. program may be just the fit for you.

You'll have many special opportunities to engage in directed research with faculty and collaborative projects to provide you with the knowledge and skills to make a difference in your communities and chosen career.

Faculty within the TRS program teach you to think critically, communicate cogently, reflect thoughtfully, and engage passionately to address the needs of our contemporary world.

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Special Programs

John Carroll University TRS is home to three endowed chairs, each specializing in a different religious practice. These endowments support classes as well as lectures, special events, and unique programs to explore different facets of each religious experience. 

The Jack and Mary Jane Breen Chair seeks to foster a better understanding of the contemporary relevance and global dimensions Catholic theology.

The Bediüzzaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies at John Carroll University was established in 2003. As one of a growing number of institutes and centers dedicated to Islamic studies at universities in North America, the Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies aims to provide both the JCU community and the general public with balanced and responsible, academically rigorous, yet theologically sound information about Islam.

Under the auspices of the Tuohy Chair in Interreligious Studies, the University offers a series of courses and free public lectures on interreligious topics. This program is designed to bring scholars of major religious traditions to campus for dialogue with students, faculty, religious leaders, and the general public.

Group of students who participated in the Vatican City fall program, atop Rocca Calascio, a mountaintop fortress or rocca in the Province of L'Aquila in Abruzzo, Italy.

Beyond the Classroom

While having an internship is not a requirement of the TRS program, many of our students complete at least one internship during their four years at John Carroll. Student interns work at local churches, schools, and other not-for-profit organizations. Many students get job offers as a result of their internship work. We’ll work with you to customize an internship experience to meet your goals.

The religious communities in the Cleveland area are diverse and strong. You can build relationships with the people in the community, discover their needs, and then find ways to meet those needs through service and other activities. Through service-learning courses, you are able to connect this service back to your classroom learning, integrating real-life situations into your discussions.

We encourage our students to explore and learn from the world through one of JCU’s many study abroad programs. In addition to our occasional study tours, TRS students have studied in Ireland, Spain, and Rome, as well as less typical venues like the Semester-at-Sea program.

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Borromeo Seminary

The Borromeo Seminary is a house of formation in the Diocese of Cleveland. Men who have been accepted into the Borromeo Seminary program live at the seminary and commute to John Carroll, where they take most of their classes as they work toward their undergraduate degree.

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Faculty in the News

The Faculty in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies are often called to give their perspective on a various of current news topics.  Below are some articles where some faculty have been quoted in various news publications on current topics.

Rabbi Noah Benjamin Bickart named inaugural JCU Jewish Studies Chair.

Fr. James Bretzke, SJ, is quoted in USA Today on the McCarrick Report.

Fr. James Bretzke, SJ, has an essay on Moral Norms and Acts in the Christian Tradition in the newly released "T&T Clark Handbook on Christian Ethics.  Please click here for more information from the Publisher.

Fr. James Bretzke, SJ, quoted in USA Today on the Vatican's Statement of Same Sex Unions. Click here.


Dr. Edward Hahnenberg was elected to the Board of Directors of the Catholic Theological Society of America. The CTSA is the largest professional society of theologians in the world. Dr. Hahnenberg is chair of the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at John Carroll University, where he holds the Breen Chair in Catholic Theology.

Congratulations to Dr. Edward Hahnenberg, whose recent book, Theodore Hesburgh, CSC: Bridge Builder, received the third place award for Best Biography from the Associate of Catholic Publishers. Dr. Hahnenberg is Breen Chair in Catholic Theology and chair of the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at John Carroll University.

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Faculty Lectures

Rabbi Meir and the Danger of Revelationgiven by Noah Bickart, Ph.D. as part of "Tikkkun@Home," put on by B'Nai Jeshurun Congregation, and sponsored by the Tuohy Chair in Interreligious Studies.

Uppity Women in Early Christianitygiven by Sheila McGinn, Ph.D.

Signs and Wonders: The Shared Story of Passover and Easter, given by Noah Bickart, Ph.D.

Troubling Times for Universities: Lessons from Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC,  given by Edward P. Hahnenberg, Ph.D., Breen Chair in Catholic Theology and Department Chair Theology & Religious Studies.

Faithful Citizenship: What Would Augustine Say? Reflections on the Upcoming Election, given by Rev. James T. Bretzke, S.J., S.T.D, Professor of Theology, John Carroll University. 






News & Events

May 3

2022 Porter Scholarships Announced

Signs & Wonders Seder Plate

Signs & Wonders: The Shared Story of Passover and Easter

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January 13

John Carroll University Emerges as Regional Hub for Interreligious Dialogue with an Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies

February 8

Five JCU Graduate School Programs Highlighted for AmeriCorps Segal Education Awards