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Our Programs for Pre-Theology

Cathedral Seminary is affiliated with St. Josephs Seminary, St. Johns University, and Fordham University ? institutions that possess a complete curriculum of philosophical and theological studies, per the norms established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

College Program


Seminarians enrolled in Cathedral Seminary House of Formation who are also earning their undergraduate degree follow a double course of intellectual formation. They first pursue the liberal arts, through which they acquire a sense of the great human questions contained in the arts and sciences. They synthesize and organize their study of the liberal arts through the study of philosophy, which also serves as a preparation for the study of theology. This twofold college program initiates students to the study of theology that will, be pursued in greater depth in the theologate. (Program of Priestly Formation, no. 176)


College seminarians enroll in either St. Johns University or Fordham University. Students beginning their college career may also enroll in Queensborough College in their freshman and sophomore years. They take their classes and are involved in student life on these campuses while living at Cathedral Seminary. A college seminarian is expected to take 30 credits in philosophy, 12 credits in foundational theology and Sacred Scripture, and take Latin, Greek, and Spanish. Seminarians may pursue whatever major they desire, but it is expected that they at least minor in philosophy.

Pre-Theology Program


Men beginning seminary (having already earned a bachelors degree) are enrolled in the two-year Master of Arts in Catholic Philosophical Studies (MACPS) program, offered by St. Josephs Seminary, Dunwoodie. This M.A. degree program is designed to provide students with a graduate level understanding of philosophy in the Catholic tradition. The program focuses on the primary historical developments in philosophy and central philosophical concepts that have influenced the development of Catholic Theology. By providing an intense study and reading of original texts, the MACPS degree provides students with necessary philosophical background for the study of Catholic Theology. Classes are taken at the Cathedral Seminary House of Formation.


Visit the website St. Josephs Seminary, or read their School of Theology Bulletin for more information.

ESL Program


Cathedral Seminary House of Formation partners with St. Johns University to provide the necessary preparation for seminarians whose primary language is not English, so they can enroll in the college or pre-theology programs. Seminarians may take up to 8 levels of intensive English language education in preparation for undergraduate studies, or 10 levels in preparation for enrollment in the pre-theology program. Additionally, this program is available to seminarians who have already completed the formation needed for entrance into major seminary, but need to attain the required English competency for entrance into graduate level theology. Seminarians in the ESL program live at Cathedral Seminary, and fully participate in the houses formation curriculum while taking classes at St. Johns University.


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has outlined the courses that all college and pre-theology seminaries must provide (Program of Priestly Formation, no. 147-59). Therefore, as part of the academic program at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation, seminarians take courses in:

Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary Philosophy

The study of the history of philosophy helps seminarians understand philosophical issues as they have developed in the Western philosophical tradition and, more particularly, in the Catholic intellectual tradition that has been both shaped by and contributed to the shape of the Western philosophical tradition. The knowledge of philosophy, with its powerful impact on theology and theologians, is necessary in order to appreciate the richness of our theological tradition.


At the same time, it prepares seminarians for priestly ministry. By living more reflectively in the historical Catholic intellectual tradition, seminarians are better equipped for their ministry of teaching the faith and better prepared to engage contemporary culture, better prepared for the evangelization of culture, which is integral to the new evangelization. In this regard, some treatment of American philosophy or social thought is also helpful for seminarians in understanding the dynamics of contemporary society in the United States.


Especially in the courses on the history of philosophy, there is a significant treatment of St. Thomass thought, along with its ancient sources and its later development. The fruitful relationship between philosophy and theology in the Christian tradition is explored through studies in Thomistic thought as well as that of other great Christian theologians who were also great philosophers. These include certain Fathers of the Church, medieval doctors, and recent Christian thinkers in the Western and Eastern traditions.


The study of logic helps seminarians to develop their critical and analytical abilities and become clearer thinkers who will be better able rationally to present, discuss, and defend the truths of the faith.


The study of epistemology, the investigation of the nature and properties of knowledge, helps seminarians see that human knowledge is capable of gathering from contingent reality objective and necessary truths, while recognizing also the limits of human knowledge. Moreover, it reinforces their understanding of the relationship between reason and revelation. They come to appreciate the power of reason to know the truth, and yet, as they confront the limits of the powers of human reason, they are opened to look to revelation for a fuller knowledge of those truths that exceed the power of human reason.

Natural Philosophy

The study of the philosophy of nature, which treats fundamental principles like substance, form, matter, causality, motion, and the soul, provides seminarians a foundation for the study of metaphysics, natural theology, anthropology, and ethics.


The study of metaphysics helps seminarians explore fundamental issues concerning the nature of reality and see that reality and truth transcend the empirical. A philosophy which shuns metaphysics would be radically unsuited to the task of mediation in the understanding of revelation. As the seminarian confronts the questions about the nature of being, he gains a deeper understanding and appreciation of God as the source of all being and gains some sense of how profound is this truth. A strong background in metaphysics also gives him the structure and ability to discuss certain theological concepts that depend on metaphysics for their articulation and explanation.

Natural Theology

The study of natural theology, which treats the existence of God and the attributes of God by means of the natural light of reason, provides a foundation for the seminarians study of theology and the knowledge of God by means of revelation.

Philosophical Anthropology

The study of philosophical anthropology helps seminarians explore the authentic spirituality of man, leading to a theocentric ethic, transcending earthly life, and at the same time open to the social dimension of man. The philosophical study of the human person, his fulfillment in intersubjectivity, his destiny, his inalienable rights, and his nuptial character as one of the primary elements which is expressive of human nature and constitutive of society100 provides a foundation for the seminarians study of theological anthropology.


The study of ethics, which treats general principles of ethical decision making, provides seminarians with a solid grounding in themes like conscience, freedom, law, responsibility, virtue, and guilt. Ethics also considers the common good and virtue of solidarity as central to Christian social political philosophy. It provides a foundation for the seminarians study of moral theology.


Seminarians begin the study of theology, focusing on the fundamental beliefs and practices of the Catholic faith. In particular, attention is paid to those elements of the faith that may have been overlooked or neglected in the students earlier religious education and that stand as a presupposition for all forms of graduate theological study.


All seminarians study the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and take courses on Catholic doctrine, liturgy and sacraments, Catholic morality, Christian prayer, and Sacred Scripture.

Greek and Latin

Seminarians are introduced to Latin since it provides an access to the sources of Magisterium and the history of Church.


Seminarians take courses in Greek so that they may have a better understanding of Sacred Scripture. Greek is the biblical language of the majority of the New Testament.


In the New York Metropolitan area, nearly half of the Catholic population is Spanish speaking. Therefore, study of this language is mandated. Seminarians who are already fluent in Spanish are required to take another foreign language that will assist them in future pastoral ministry.