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Introducing Our PhD in Theology Program

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The Dean's List

Introducing Our PhD in Theology Program

Franciscan University’s doctoral program in theology anticipated to launch fall 2024.

Autumn 2022 | Dr. Stephen Hildebrand

In This Article

When I came to Franciscan University 21 years ago, the founders of our Theology Department—Dr. Alan Schreck, Fathers Dan Sinisi, TOR, and Dan Pattee, TOR, Dr. Andy Minto, Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Mark Miravalle, Dr. Regis Martin, Barbara Morgan, et al.—had built faithful and vibrant undergraduate and graduate programs in theology and catechetics. I was honored to join their great work.

Since then, we have built strength upon strength and added more fabulous theology and catechetics teachers, both in Steubenville and in Gaming, Austria. These scholars brought us to the threshold of a long-dreamed of doctoral program, but it remained just out of reach: We still needed a bit more faculty firepower and significant financial support for scholar- ships for students. Recently, these last two pieces have fallen into place.

First, over the last few years, Franciscan has cultivated a relationship with the Veritas Amoris Project (, a worldwide team of first-rate scholars organized around a noble mission to protect and advance a noble patrimony: St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, Pope Benedict XVI’s Theology of Love, and Pope Francis’ attention to human frailty.

And second, through the hard work of the Advancement Department and the generosity of donors, we have recently received a large portion of the support we need, along with the confidence that we can raise the rest.

Now, I’m happy to announce the launch of our PhD in Theology Program in fall 2024 (pending approval by the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Higher Learning Commission)! We hope the Lord will use our program to accomplish great goods for the Church and the academy.

First, we’ll contribute by teaching the teachers. This is an exponential multiplier. Graduates of our PhD program will become faculty at colleges and seminaries, both here at home and abroad. Imagine the ripple effect of Franciscan-trained faculty members teaching at other institutions!

The second significant contribution we will make is in scholarship. We’ve been doing this already, but the doctoral program will enable us to do even more. Sometimes, I think, it’s easier to appreciate the significance of research in fields other than theology. It’s impossible, for example, to overestimate the value of the discovery of antibiotics—countless lives have been saved. But research in theology can be transformative, too.

Orthodox theological research can revitalize our culture and offer souls a participation in the Good that will pluck them from paths of self-destruction, misery, and everlasting ruin, make them happy in this life, and bring eternal joy in the next.

Without theological research, we would not know or would not know so clearly or would not so well appropriate into our lives such truths as Christian marriage is an image of the Triune communion of persons, morality is not just a series of obligations but the way of authentic flourishing and happiness, and there is a moral remedy in ectopic pregnancy to save the life of the mother—to give just a few examples. Without our PhD program, meaningful theological research will remain undone, truths will remain or become obscured, and there will be an untold cost in the lives of countless Christians.

In addition, the great number of revisionist scholars—largely at Catholic universities, pontifical universities, and Catholic seminaries—will continue to produce theological scholarship that undermines the truth of the Gospel. We must, for the sake of the people of God, meet this scholarship head-on and address these mistakes with learning and charity.

We are humbled the Lord has brought Franciscan University to this point and trust he will bring his work to fruition. We’re mindful, too, of the faith and support of our thousands of students over many years. They responded to the Lord’s call to study theology as we did to teach it. Our Doctoral Program in Theology would be impossible without them. We’re filled with gratitude.

To learn more and support the PhD in Theology Program:


Dr. Stephen Hildebrand serves as theology professor and dean of the School of Theology and Philosophy at Franciscan University.

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