Franciscan University Will Launch PhD in Sacred Theology Program in Fall 2024
Doctoral program aims to educate teachers of the faith and add to theological research

January 16, 2024

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—Franciscan University of Steubenville is set to launch its PhD in Sacred Theology Program in fall 2024. With recent approval from the Higher Learning Commission and Ohio Department of Higher Education, the program will be the University’s first-ever doctoral program.


“At Franciscan University, we have a wonderful legacy of providing faithfully Catholic undergraduate and graduate programs in theology and catechetics,” said Dr. Stephen Hildebrand, vice president for Academic Affairs at Franciscan University. “The PhD in Sacred Theology Program builds upon our strengths and allows us to deepen and broaden our contribution to higher education, theological scholarship, and the Church.”

The PhD program has a threefold purpose. First, it will offer students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contemplate the mysteries of the Catholic faith at the highest academic level at Franciscan University’s vibrant, faith-filled campus. Second, it will equip students to form the next generation of Catholic leaders, to become faculty at universities and seminaries throughout the country and the world, and to serve at the highest levels of the Church and Catholic institutions. Third, it will advance important theological research and scholarship that deepens understanding of the Catholic faith, promotes the authentic development of doctrine, and addresses contemporary questions and controversies from the heart of the Church.

“We have this beautiful mission of Franciscan University to evangelize to the ends of the earth. In academia, one of the most significant ways to do that is by bringing the Gospel to the people who are going to teach the teachers,” said Dr. Jacob Wood, the director of the PhD in Sacred Theology Program at Franciscan University. “Franciscan University’s doctoral program emphasizes the studying of theology by returning to the sources of the theological tradition and encountering them anew for the service of the Church today.”

Students will earn a doctorate in sacred theology and can specialize in one of five concentrations: systematic theology, historical theology, moral theology, biblical theology, and catechetics. At the program’s outset, two doctoral students will receive complete tuition remission and an annual stipend; a limited number of additional students will also be accepted.

An average course of study will take approximately five years, with two years of coursework in graduate-level classes and doctoral seminars, followed by a comprehensive exam and a doctoral dissertation. A key component will be the mentorship for both teaching and research that students will receive from Franciscan University theology faculty, whose ranks include esteemed theologians and scholars in the theology of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, Theology of the Body, the history of biblical interpretation, and more.

“Doctoral students will receive an academic formation that is not only robust on a scholarly level but also integrated with a life of prayer,” Wood said. “Especially with the writing of doctoral dissertations, there’s an opportunity for the student to learn and do research not just from a textbook but from a person who is an expert with experience in that field.”

Theology was introduced as an undergraduate major at the then-College of Steubenville in 1976 and went on to become the largest undergraduate Theology Program at any Catholic university in the United States. In 1989, Franciscan University was also the first Catholic college in the nation whose theology faculty and priests publicly professed the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. In addition to the new doctoral program, the Theology Department includes on-campus and online associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs.

The application process will open on February 1, 2024.

For more information on Franciscan University’s PhD in Sacred Theology Program, visit, or contact the Admissions Office at 800-783-6220 or [email protected].

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