New Master of Catholic Studies program aims to be an academic attraction

Marco Carvalho

The Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy of the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) is preparing a new master’s degree in Catholic Studies, Father Franz Gassner, the director of the Faculty, tells O Clarim. The academic program, which will be taught in Chinese, is expected to launch in autumn 2023, after an intense process of internal and external scrutiny.

“We are now preparing the new Master of Catholic Studies degree. The necessary documents are being checked by USJ’s Quality Assurance Office and then by an External Quality Assurance Agency, together with a myriad of supporting documentation,” Father Gassner, an Austrian priest and  missionary of the Society of the Divine Word, explains. He goes on to add, “Only after this intense phase of scrutiny has been concluded positively, the new program can be submitted to the Government for approval. Hopefully, this new master’s program can take off in the fall of 2023”.

The master´s degree in Catholic Studies is the most recent venture by an institution that has made, over the last few years, a significant effort to reinvent itself and to answer the challenges that the Catholic Church currently faces. Last Saturday, about 70 people visited the facilities of the Seminary of Saint Joseph as part of the 2022 edition of the open day of the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy of USJ. For many of the visitors, the initiative was an opportunity to become acquainted with the academic programs currently being offered by the institution, but there were also those who did not want to pass up the opportunity to pay a visit to a building that helped to shape the history of Macau. “About 70 people showed up on the open day, from quite diverse backgrounds and interests, from young high school pupils to more advanced ages,” Father Gassner tells O Clarim.

He adds, “Many were interested in our programs, but a few were also interested in the location of the Seminary itself, which is at the heart of the historical center of Macau. Some elderly locals confessed that they had never been inside the building.”

The significant attendance that the open day registered is illustrative of the growing interest in the academic programs being offered by the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy. The number of people – particularly lay students – enrolled in the courses being lectured at the Seminary of Saint Joseph is increasing slowly but steadily. “There is an increasing interest in the programs we offer, especially in those related to philosophy. Some people expressed special interest in our courses in Latin or in the historical aspects of the site. In general, we observe a slow but steady increase of students at our Faculty,” the Austrian missionary informs us.

Father Gassner concludes with, “The number of lay students is definitely increasing, mainly due to the Master of Philosophy program, in which 12 students are currently enrolled, and to the Ph.D. program in Religious Studies with 6 students. The teacher training program offered in Chinese by the Chinese Department is another reason why we are sought after by lay students. Besides that, we also have some lay students studying in our flagship program, the Bachelor of Christians Studies. One of our dreams is that the Bachelor of Philosophy program can get off the ground.”