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academics departments theology


Chairperson: EJ Vieyra

The Theology Department at Verbum Dei High School lives into the dictum of “faith seeking understanding.” To that end, the Department of Theology provides students with an intellectually rigorous curriculum where they are expected to hone and utilize critical-analytical skills to move towards a deeper understanding of the Christian faith. As an archdiocesan, Jesuit school, the department has a commitment to the Roman Catholic Tradition, especially as it is manifested in the social teachings of the Catholic Church; however, intentional and consistent efforts are made in a genuine spirit of ecumenism.

Introduction to Catholicism (9th Grade, 1st Semester)

Introduction to Catholicism is a required introductory course for all ninth grade students entering Verbum Dei High School. This semester course is designed as an introduction to essential components of Catholic Christian faith and establishes the foundation for a comprehensive four-year program of theological study. Rooted in the Jesuit Tradition, this course is intended to embrace the diversity of our student community by emphasizing the universal call to holiness and engaging in emerging spirituality, faith as a life-long journey and social justice themes.

Hebrew Scriptures (9th Grade, 2nd Semester)

This course provides an introductory study of Hebrew Scriptures. The spring semester of freshman year introduces students to the central stories, characters, and themes of the Hebrew Scriptures. Students will study the development of the Bible, literary forms in Scripture, and critical reading and contextual interpretation of biblical texts. This course explores the rich tradition of the Hebrew scriptures, a tradition encompassing the historical encounter of individuals and communities with liberation and transcendence. In the Ignatian tradition, this course will emphasize the use of scripture for spiritual development and methods of prayer in spirituality.

Christian Scriptures (10th Grade, 1st Semester)

This course offers an introduction to the scholarly study of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). Students learn a variety of methodological approaches to the New Testament, including, but not limited to, the following methods: historical, literary, sociological, ideological-critical, theological, and spiritual methods of interpretation. With attention to interpretation we explore how various social contexts and historical events have had a significant impact on the formation of, and central issues within the Christian Scriptures. Further, through an examination of biblical interpretations stemming from voices on the margins students will understand Jesus as the Christ who exemplifies compassion for, and identification with, the most marginalized in society.

Ethics (10th Grade, 2nd Semester)

Through an examination of and engagement with key figures, differing ethical frameworks, major themes, and case studies, this course introduces students to a wide spectrum that has informed both traditional and contemporary approaches to Christian ethics. With attention given to the four classical sources of Christian ethics—Scripture, reason/science, tradition, and human experience—this course engages both seminal thinkers and contemporary voices. While classical thinkers and themes will be covered, this course pays special attention to the questions, concerns, and contributions to Christian ethics that stems from the experience of the marginalized, whether that be due to race, class, gender, or nationality.

Social Justice (11th Grade, 1st Semester)

This course leads students toward a deeper understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). The course starts by examining the foundations of social justice and CST in Scripture and Tradition. Students then explore that teaching as they analyze social issues and actively engage them. Early units explore specific social issues within the context of racial/ethnic and gender identity. Later units explore issues of social justice related to prejudice, discrimination, racism, poverty and work, crime and punishment, environmental justice, and peace making. Throughout the course, students will be challenged to reflect, analyze, synthesize and apply the principles learned in this course to personal and social moral concerns in order to participate in the creation of a more just society.

The Paschal Mystery: Suffering and Death (11th Grade, 2nd Semester)

Why do good people suffer? What is God's role in our suffering? What happens when we die? How do we die with dignity? How do we grieve? Students will explore, analyze, and integrate the theology and human experience that address these and other questions. Students need to be prepared to read theological texts, to write theological essays, and, most importantly, to think critically. Students will be encouraged to bring their own experiences and opinions into the classroom.

World Religions (11th Grade, 2nd Semester)

World Religions, a one-semester course, introduces students to the world’s major religions and explores what these religions teach us about ourselves and the challenges of living in the modern world. These religions are "wisdom traditions" that have been with us for the past 6,000 years, shaping our culture, history, and our understanding of divinity and humanity. By studying the world’s diverse religions it is hoped that students will have a better understanding and appreciation for how different religions deal with life’s big questions and the spiritual journey that is universally human. It is the belief of this course that the more we are able to look at the world from another perspective, the more open, tolerant and richer we become.

The world’s major religions that are explored are: Primal Religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Eastern Religions (Confucianism, Taoism, and Shintoism), Judaism, Islam, and our own Christian heritage.

Senior Synthesis and Theological Themes in Film (12th Grade)

Senior Synthesis is a one semester academic course in the department of Theology intended to reflect college-level rigor. It is also, however, a deeply personal encounter with one’s history and faith, and a tremendous opportunity for personal growth, evangelism and conversion. It is called a ‘synthesis’ because students will be called upon to draw from all they have learned from their faith development experience during their first three years of high school. The course is designed to be one long exercise in Ignatian reflection; to help students grow in knowledge and love of God, of themselves and others. This class will be a dialectical between many different theological voices so as to provide a wide spectrum of perspectives. This will be the landscape for grappling with the most fundamental human questions regarding existence, suffering, faith, and vocation. Attention to experience, listening to and learning from the wisdom of the Church and others, and articulation of deeply held faith convictions are necessary steps leading to mature choices for action. Ultimately, we want to graduate young men of faith who will change the world and change it for the better.

Theological Themes in Film

Students will analyze and study Christian themes as depicted in popular films. They will view films to find and analyze such themes as: Christology, Story telling, Resurrection, Liberation Theology. There will be interactive discussion and analysis of these themes. Students will come to realize that God can be found in all places. They will understand that even “secular” films often demonstrate Christian themes that can help develop our faith if we look past the superficial entertainment value of films and move to an in-depth understanding, critiquing and analyzing them through the lens of our Christian faith.