Institute of Catholic Theology to offer college credit courses through Franciscan University

University credit for theology courses is now as close as a central Phoenix parish.

The Institute of Catholic Theology, housed at St. Thomas the Apostle since its 2009 inception, entered into an innovative agreement with Franciscan University of Steubenville. Faithful across the Diocese of Phoenix can take four undergraduate and eight graduate theology courses at Institute rates and have them fully transferable to Franciscan University.

Dr. Eric Westby, director of the Institute of Catholic Theology, interacts with students in this undated photo. Students can soon register to take college credits there. (Courtesy of the Institute of Catholic Theology)

Institute staff also managed to ensure credits will transfer to Benedictine University at Mesa, Grand Canyon University, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University as well — though an additional fee applies. For students of any age, these courses can be taken individually or grouped to receive a Certificate of Catholic Apologetics. Trent Horn, who is originally from the Diocese of Phoenix and received his master’s degree in theology from Franciscan, will develop practicum projects. Horn is currently a “Catholic Answers” apologist.

Students are accepted on a rolling basis and can start at any semester. Each 14-week course meets Monday evenings. Applications open Jan. 15 for courses starting in the fall. Pending availability, courses can also be audited.

Interest and discussion about bringing Franciscan University classes to the Diocese of Phoenix has reportedly circled among alumni, friends of the university and parents of students for about 20 years. Dr. Eric Westby, director of ICT, submitted a proposal earlier this year to offer such courses at his facility. The partnership was welcomed with open arms at both a private reception for ICT supporters — that included Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Dr. Scott Hahn — and a sold-out Southwest Biblical Conference in November.

Institute of Catholic Theology

2312 E. Campbell Ave., Phoenix

ICT housed at St. Thomas the Apostle, is expanding to offer undergraduate and graduate courses through Franciscan University of Steubenville for enrichment or degree-seeking students at affordable rates.

(602) 954-9089, ext. 5207

Westby said the partnership fosters enrollment a little more affordably than online and gives students an “opportunity to build community through prayer and spiritual formation experiences.”

Dr. Jim Mello, Franciscan University’s executive director of institutional effectiveness, also noted the benefits of learning within a local community. “This element of personal encounter is core to our Franciscan identity and the distinctive experiences that flow through the university,” he said.

Students who pursue graduate theology work would be able to complete half of it at ICT and then complete the other half online.

Many Franciscan University alumni live within diocesan boundaries and bear witness to Christ through faithful marriages and families, Bishop Olmsted said. Some teach in parishes and schools.

“Now many more will be able to deepen their understanding of the faith through new opportunities offered at the ICT,” Bishop Olmsted said.

As it is, the ICT has seen some 2,200 students take more than 5,025 continuing education courses in the last two-and-a-half years alone. Franciscan University has a similar mission to educate, evangelize and send forth joyful disciples.