Religious Studies

  • World Religions
  • Sacred Scripture
  • Church History
  • Christian Ethics
  • Systematic Theology
  • Bioethics
  • The Ignatian Way
  • Native American Spirituality


REL 101 - World Religions

This year-long religious studies course is an exploration into the different living religious traditions of the world. Religions covered during this year include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism. Christianity and Islam. Students will learn to distinguish and appreciate the various ways people define their relationships with the divine and with the world itself. Students will also have the opportunity to read foundational texts from the major world religions and to visit both Christian and non-Christian places of worship. Goals for students enrolled in this course are to develop the ability to think both empathetically and critically about conflicting religious claims and to gain knowledge of the history and culture of several major religious traditions. The ultimate goal of the course, though, is to enhance the student’s understanding of his own beliefs by better understanding the myriad approaches to spirituality and the divine.

Prerequisite: None    

REL 201 - Sacred Scripture

The sophomore year is devoted to a yearlong study of sacred scripture. Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament will be studied from the perspective of modern biblical scholarship. Using available secular, historical, and linguistic scholarship, students will study the essential underlying message contained in the scriptures in an attempt to deepen each student’s spirituality and introduce students to a mature awareness of divine revelation. In addition, students will also consider the Christian community’s rituals of worship, the sacraments, focusing on the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The sacraments will be viewed as personal encounters with Christ as well as institutional rituals that have developed over the course of the church’s history.

Prerequisite: None

REL 301 - Church History

Students will develop a mature sense of the history, evolution and continuity of the Roman Catholic Church as a community of believers in Jesus and His way of life. In addition to institutional changes in the church’s history, major theological developments which have affected the life, beliefs and ritual practices of Catholics are considered, including special challenges faced by the church, both internally and in its relation to the world. The course is intended to help students locate their roots in the Christian community, give them a sense of how the church came into being as an institution, and help them appreciate the role of the church in shaping today’s world.

REL 302 - Christian Ethics

Students will examine the process of Catholic Christian moral decision-making. Topics will include the methods of decision-making, Christian principles derived from Scripture and tradition, conscience, sin, and Jesus as the model of moral behavior. These concepts will be applied to specific areas of moral concern including bioethical and sexual issues, with a major concentration on social justice issues such as poverty, capital punishment, business ethics, the environment, discrimination and warfare.

REL 401 - Systematic Theology - 1/2 Credit

This course examines and explains fundamental Catholic beliefs, their origin, meaning and purpose. Special attention is paid to the developmental character of these beliefs and the need for a personal response by each student.

REL 403 - Bioethics - 1/2 Credit

Within the context of the Roman Catholic moral tradition, students will examine contemporary medical-moral issues, especially as they impact both the student’s life and society at large. In addition to shaping informed and responsible personal conclusions, social policies will also be evaluated. Early in the course, students will acquire an understanding of key concepts necessary for analyzing issues clearly and comprehensively. Issues treated include abortion, treatment of handicapped infants, death and the dying process (including physician-assisted, or rational, suicide), care for the elderly, organ transplants, genetic engineering/reproductive technologies, and health care reform. A final theme will be holistic health care and the internal, natural capacity for self-healing.

Prerequisite: None

REL 407 - The Ignatian Way - 1/2 Credit

This course seeks to provide students with an intellectual awareness, heart-felt sense, and personal experience of the various facets of the Ignatian charism. It proposes a way of life that is learned primarily through practice. The course covers the life of Ignatius of Loyola, the graces and dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises, the gathering of the First Companions and the founding of the Society of Jesus, early and contemporary expressions of the Society’s apostolic mission, the lives of notable Jesuits (Francis Xavier, Mateo Ricci, Roch Gonzalez, Walter Ciszek, Ignacio Ellacuría, Karl Rahner, and Pedro Arrupe), and various themes associated with Ignatian Spirituality.

REL 408 - Native American Spirituality - 1/2 Credit

In this course, students are introduced to the spirituality, culture and history of Native Americans with a focus on the Lakota nation. Major elements of Lakota religion will be compared to aspects of Catholicism. Students will examine the Lakota view of God, creation stories, and other myths and rituals. Issues of justice in relation to Indian reservation life will also be analyzed through the lens of Catholic social teaching. As part of the class experience, students have the opportunity to attend an, optional, eight-day immersion trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservations, at which students will participate in Lakota ceremonies and community service, visit historical sites and hear from residents of the reservation. The trip is limited to 12 students who enrolled in, and completed, the class. Those seeking to attend the trip must go through the application and be formally accepted.

St. Joseph's Preparatory School
1733 West Girard Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19130
tel: 215.978.1950
fax: 215.765.1710
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