Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) FAQ

Sacred Heart Major Seminary is excited to offer a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) in the New Evangelization. The program blends online learning with a limited on-campus requirement.

Like the traditional format, the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) is a post-graduate pontifical degree in pastoral theology with a focus on the New Evangelization. The Pontifical University of St. Thomas (the Angelicum) in Rome confers the degree through Sacred Heart’s faculty.

What is the hybrid format for the STL?

What are the benefits?

What can a priest do with the STL degree?

What do our graduates say?

What is the program cost?

What about visas for international priests?

Can laypersons apply for summer/online program? 

What are the admission requirements?

What is the course of study?

What is the hybrid format for the STL?

The hybrid STL in the New Evangelization consists of four program elements: 1) online courses, 2) summer courses with an on-site requirement, 3) an off-site practicum, and 4) an off-site thesis direction, spread over a period of four years.

Online Courses: While serving in his home diocese or on another pastoral assignment, a priest takes one course online per semester (Fall and Winter semesters) from roughly September through April for four consecutive years. Online courses will begin in September 2014.

Residential/Summer Courses: In early spring, students receive syllabi and read short assignments prior to the program’s five-week summer residency component. Students are expected to complete all the reading for a course prior to the program’s five-week summer residency component and may be expected to complete some short writing assignments as well.

Living on-site in seminary residence rooms, the priest takes three intensive courses and participates in discussion. Summer courses run from July  - August. Longer assignments, including research papers, are to be completed and submitted six-to-eight weeks after the summer residency.

Off-site Practicum: The student works with a local supervisor approved by the seminary and communicates with a Sacred Heart faculty member via Skype or other electronic means.

Off-site Thesis Direction: The student works via the internet with his Sacred Heart faculty advisor to complete his thesis. He then returns to the seminary after his thesis is approved to give his lectio coram, a defended academic lecture.

A complete list of course requirements can be found here.

What are the benefits of the hybrid STL?

The hybrid STL in the New Evangelization degree is very attractive to priests actively engaged in ministries of evangelization, but experience has shown that many bishops and religious superiors may be reluctant to allow a priest time to spend two to three years away from the home diocese or apostolate to complete the degree, given personnel needs and shortage of clergy.

With the hybrid STL, priests blend online courses during the traditional academic year and then attend intensive classes on-site at the seminary during the summer, when parish work slows down somewhat. This alternative format will enable more priests to benefit from the program without sacrificing pastoral needs.

What can a priest do with the STL degree?

The S.T.L. degree can be transitional for priests planning to earn the Doctorate in Sacred Theology, or the degree can be terminal, meaning a final degree. The STL prepares graduates to teach theology in pontifical universities and major seminaries. Priests may also find it greatly benefits their work in diocesan administration, ministries or research.

What do our STL graduates say?

“Whether you are from Africa, India, China or America, the program teaches you principles you can apply in your particular cultures.”

Fr. Godswill Agbagwa, S.T.L. 2008

Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria

“If a priest has a heart for evangelization, it would be very important for him to come to this program.”

Fr. Tim Hepburn, S.T.L. 2009

Archdiocese of Atlanta

“After each class, I left Sacred Heart inspired.”

Fr. Matthew George, S.T.L. 2010

Archdiocese of Trivandrum, India

What is the cost of the program?

Tuition (2021-2022 academic year):

     $839 per credit hour

Room & Board (summer residency):


Registration and graduation fees:



      To be determined

Based on a four-year 48-credit hour program and annual increases in tuition, the estimated expected total cost is $50,000. This does not include travel costs or personal expenses.

I am a priest who lives outside of the United States. Do I need a special visa for the Online STL? 

Yes, you may need an F-1 visa even if you plan to only be in the United States for the five-week summer residency courses. For more information on the F-1 student visa, please visit the website. In addition, you must possess a passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States.

If you are an international priest currently in the United States on either an F-1 or R-1 visa, please call us at (313) 883-8792 to discuss U.S. immigration requirements.

I am a layperson. Can I apply for the Online STL?

Yes, qualified deacons and lay students are welcome to apply for the STL. Housing and other arrangements for the summer session may be different than those for priests in the program. Anyone who is interested should contact the Admissions office at 313-883-8696 or [email protected] to have their transcripts reviewed to see if they have the academic background necessary for admission, or if pre-requisite courses might be required.

What are the admission requirements?

Admission requirements for any student wishing to apply for the S.T.L. program include:

  • Online application
  • A letter of support from proper ecclesiastical authority (e.g. diocesan bishop or religious superior) attesting to character and good standing of priest applicant
  • An interview with the Director of Admissions; this interview can be conducted in-person, via phone, Zoom or other electronic means. Please contact our Admissions Office at 313.883.8696 to arrange an interview date and time.
  • Official academic transcripts from previous universities or seminaries
  • Two additional letters of recommendation or recommendation forms from a former instructor or supervisor
  • A 500-word essay or statement of intent outlining the student’s biographical and spiritual background, reasons for pursuing the degree as well goals upon graduation
  • A 15-20 page written sample from previous academic work demonstrating the student’s aptitude and capacity for theological research
  • Completion of Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (S.T.B.), Master of Divinity (M.Div.) or equivalent from an accredited Catholic institution
  • Reading ability in Latin and one modern language (e.g. Spanish, French, German)
  • International priests must also submit a copy of their current passport. If the priest is currently residing in the U.S. on an R-1 or F-1 visa, a copy of the visa should also be provided.


What is the Course of Study?

The basic program structure and required courses can be found here. Elective courses are listed in our annual Academic Catalog.

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