Licentiate in Sacred Theology of Marriage and Family (S.T.L.)

Modern man has “lost the soul of childhood.” So says the priest of Torcy in George Bernanos’s Diary of Country Priest. Yet, the priest continues, “God has entrusted the Church with rekindling that soul.” Perhaps paradoxically, this loss of childhood is felt most keenly at the heart of the marital and familial communities. Each of the issues confronting priests on a daily basis—lukewarm faith, the seeming irrelevance of a contemplative spirit to the pace of modern society, marital and familial strife, rampant consumerist attitudes, wide-spread contraceptive practices, the use of ARTs, “gay marriage,” and so forth—involves this loss of the “soul of childhood,” the ability to receive everything each day as a gift from the Creator, to sense the infinite significance of even the smallest fragment of God’s creation.

How can the Church’s pastors respond? The priest must himself recover childlikeness before he can help others. This task is accomplished first on one’s knees. But it is also an intellectual task that requires a careful and intelligent examination of the sources of our modern disaffection through serious intellectual engagement with the deepest roots of our social and anthropological maladies, which have suppressed and overwhelmed the soul of childhood.

St. John Paul II founded the Institute precisely to help priests and laity respond to the needs of the culture at the level of prayerful and intelligent profundity they require. His genius was to recognize that driving the issues du jour is a fundamental misunderstanding of the human person. The S.T.L. program offers precisely this rigorous formation in the theological tradition of the Church that will help recover the truth of the human person as a child of God.

The S.T.L. conforms in its specifications to the requirements set forth in Veritatis Gaudium.


Featured Alumni

Fr Andrew LaFramboise headshot square compressed v2
Fr. Andrew LaFramboise, '19

"Through my experience at the Institute, the munus docendi was strengthened and my passion for the beauty of the faith was deepened. It helped me see the importance of wonder in teaching the faith. It is not only about passing on what we believe. It is also about helping people ask the right questions, helping them appreciate the mystery. "

General Information

Admission to the S.T.L. program requires the pontifical Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.).

Application FormThe application form may be completed online or by PDF. Links to both options are available on the Apply page.
Application FeeThe application fee is $75 and is non-refundable.
References  At least three letters of recommendation from faculty members of academic institutions formerly attended. Please ask the professors to compare your achievement with that of other students at your level and to evaluate your readiness for graduate studies.

These letters must be sent directly to the John Paul II Institute by the recommender through our online portal, by mail, or by email to [email protected].

You will need to complete a waiver for each reference letter. If you are completing the application online, the waiver form is included in the online application form. If not, a copy of the waiver form must accompany the mailed or emailed letter.
EssayIn a 1500-word essay, explain your intellectual interests and their relation to the mission of the Institute relative to the current cultural situation. You may wish to refer to the brochure “The Nature and Purpose of the Institute.”
Your essays should be formatted in double-spaced, 12-point font, and may be uploaded as part of the online application or emailed to [email protected].
Transcripts and Graduation Documentation1. Official transcripts of all post-secondary education (sent by the institution).
2. An official copy of your high school diploma or transcript
GRE ScoresOfficial Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are required for admissions to all degree-seeking programs at the time of application.  Our institutional code is 3533, and we are listed as the Pontifical John Paul II Institute.
Identification1. Electronic photo (headshot). May be uploaded as part of the online application or sent to [email protected].
2. A copy of your birth certificate and driver’s license/state ID, or a copy of your passport.
TOEFL Scores and Admissions Supplement (International Students Only)1. Applicants for whom English is a second language must submit TOEFL scores. Our TOEFL code is 8751.
2. Applicants who are not U.S. citizens must submit a completed Admissions Supplement Form
Letter of Permission (Clergy and Religious Only)A letter of permission to study from your bishop or provincial.

S.T.L. students must complete 48 credits of prescribed three-credit courses, in addition to selected seminars as announced during the course of the school year, with a grade-point average of 3.0. S.T.L. students must write and defend a thesis and satisfactorily present a lectio coram in order to receive the degree.

Student priest reading philosophy book

Program Elements

Students are required to demonstrate reading proficiency in scholastic Latin by successful completion of a written examination administered by Institute faculty. This requirement is to be fulfilled during the first semester of residency.

Students must also demonstrate reading proficiency in a modern language from the following list: French, Spanish, Italian, German. Proficiency is ordinarily demonstrated by successful completion of a written examination administered by Institute faculty. This requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the third semester, but students are urged to fulfill it by the end of the first year.

Religious sister and priest listening in classroom

S.T.L. students must satisfactorily present a lectio coram during the final semester of study, following the completion and approval of the thesis. The lectio coram is a magisterial lecture, lasting a minimum of 45 minutes (20-minute lecture/25-minute question period) before a panel of three examiners, comprised of the thesis director and the two readers of the thesis. The lectio coram should demonstrate the candidate’s competence in theology and as a teacher. It should be a lecture on a specific theological issue taken up during the course of studies for the licentiate. It must be clearly and logically organized, manifest the candidate’s familiarity with a wide range of relevant literature, and exhibit soundness of theological judgment. The lectio coram is open to the public.

The thesis is an integral part of the S.T.L. curriculum, requiring several months’ planning, research, analysis, exposition, revision, and discussion. It entails both the independent investigation of some significant question arising from the work of the program and a defense of the conclusions reached. It should give evidence of training in research and make a contribution to theological knowledge involving a limited, yet significant, problem of investigation. It must prove the student’s familiarity with basic methods and techniques of research, mastery of the limited subject matter, and ability to exercise sound theological judgment and to formulate accurate conclusions. The thesis director, more a critic than a teacher, provides major assistance in defining the question to be examined. The student alone is responsible for working out the question and its resolution. The completed thesis must be judged worthy of publication, at least in part, in a scientific journal.

Directly following successful completion of the lectio coram, the student must defend the thesis in an oral examination of approximately 30 minutes, to be conducted by the thesis board of three professors (the thesis director and the two readers).