Oct 31, 2020  
2019-2020 Academic Catalog 
2019-2020 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Theology and Religious Studies

Religion is a fundamental dimension of human life: vital, pervasive, richly complex and multi-faceted. Its traditions, values, beliefs and practices form the basic categories of meaning for both individuals and cultures. It helps us to ask and answer essential questions about our relationship to God, self, others and the world. The discipline of Theology approaches religion from the perspective of faith, as “faith seeking understanding”, , and asks: What is the nature of God, How is this revealed to us, What does it mean to believe in God, What is the nature of the relationship between us, and How is that relationship lived and experienced? The discipline of Religious Studies approaches religion as a fundamental dimension of human life, using a social scientific lens to investigate the religions (separately and in comparison) as well as religious phenomena in general to discover how it affect fundamental experiences of meaning for cultures and persons.

We offer courses that systematically and critically analyze a wide range of theological perspectives and ethical questions that are central in the formation of religious identity. As an integral part of the Catholic mission of Saint Mary’s College, we strive to provide students with an opportunity to know and intimately understand the Catholic tradition in all its richness and fullness: biblically, historically, theologically, ethically and aesthetically. We also offer courses in a wide array of world religions since it is crucial that future leaders and responsible citizens have an understanding of the ideologies and faiths of their dialogue partners.

Furthermore, the exploration of these essential questions occupies an important place in a liberal arts education which seeks to expand the mind and guide students to a deeper level of understanding. Our offerings continually charge students to think for themselves, to challenge preconceived notions and to remain open to learning from the perspectives of others. As part of our Lasallian heritage and our understanding of what it means to be a person in light of God’s love and grace, revealed especially in Jesus Christ, we join with the Christian Brothers in being concerned for the whole person and in fostering a genuine concern for justice in the world while integrating faith and service.


Thomas J. Poundstone, PhD, Associate Professor, Chair
Brother Michael Avila, FSC, PhD, Adjunct Associate Professor
Michael Barram, PhD, Professor
Anne Carpenter, PhD, Assistant Professor
Father David Gentry-Akin, STD, Professor
David Zachariah Flanagin, PhD, Professor
Paul Giurlanda, PhD, Professor
Brother Mark McVann, FSC, PhD, Professor
Brother Michael F. Meister, FSC, PhD, Assistant Professor
Father Thomas McElligott, Adjunct Associate Professor
Felicidad Oberholzer, PhD, Professor Emeritus
Marie Pagliarini, PhD, Associate Professor
Norris Palmer, PhD, Professor

The Theology & Religious Studies (TRS) Department plays a key role in the educational experience at Saint Mary’s College, offering not only a major and two minor courses of study, but also participating extensively in the College’s core curriculum-by providing courses designed to meet the Theological Understanding goal of the core curriculum. As part of the process of serious academic study, members of the department hope that, in addition to meeting specific core requirements, students will join us in taking pleasure in the study of theology and religion even as they learn to converse insightfully and respectfully about it. Moreover, we hope that students will develop an appreciation for the depth and breadth of the Christian tradition while gaining an increasing awareness both of the mystery of life and of themselves as called by that mystery.

Learning Outcomes for Theology & Religious Studies Majors

Majors in Theology & Religious Studies Will:

Core Curriculum

  1. MEET the outcomes for both “Christian Foundations” and “Theological Explorations” of the SMC Core Curriculum.

Major Content

  1. DEMONSTRATE an understanding of the biblical, theological, historical, and ethical components of the Christian tradition.
  2. DEMONSTRATE an understanding of the implications of the Catholic concept of the fundamental dignity of the human person.
  3. DEMONSTRATE an understanding of the worldview (e.g., beliefs, practices, etc.) of a non-Christian religious tradition.

Major Skills

  1. DEMONSTRATE an ability to employ contemporary theories and methods of biblical exegesis, systematic theology, and religious studies.
  2. DEMONSTRATE an ability to explain, analyze, and evaluate multiple informed perspectives in debates about theological and ethical issues.

Prerequisite Grade

TRS 097  (or its junior transfer equivalent, TRS 189 ) is a prerequisite for any upper-division theology and religious studies course; however, only a passing grade in TRS 097  (or TRS 189 ) is required, not a minimum grade of C-.


    Bachelor of ArtsMinor


      Theology & Religious Studies - Lower DivisionTheology & Religious Studies - Upper Division

      “Intensive Inquiry” courses (classes numbered 180 -187, below) are regularly offered in the various areas of study that make up the course offerings of the department. These courses give students the opportunity to engage in the kind of in-depth thinking and research that will best prepare them for graduate work in the field.