Catholic Studies

Catholic Studies

Candler’s Catholic Studies program prepares leaders and scholars for ministry in the Catholic Church and research in the Catholic intellectual tradition. In a time when the center of U.S. Catholicism is shifting to the Southeast, Candler offers cutting-edge formation in one of the most diverse and rapidly expanding Catholic contexts in the country. Exploring the Catholic tradition alongside students and faculty from other Christian denominations uniquely equips Catholic lay ecclesial ministers and scholars for service and research in the ecumenical reality of the 21st century. Whether your vocation lies in parish, school, or hospital ministry or you are seeking world-class preparation for doctoral study, Candler’s Catholic Studies faculty is committed to close mentorship of Catholic students from a range of backgrounds and interests to help you tailor your work inside and outside of the classroom to your vocational goals in service to the church, the academy, and the world.

Catholic resources abound in and around Candler. Immerse yourself in the archives of Flannery O’Connor, housed at Emory’s Rose Library. Explore the largest collection of John August-Swanson artwork in the world, which adorns the walls of Candler. Delve into the Thomas Merton Collection or the Father Thomas Keating Collection, both at Pitts Theology Library. Pursue contextual education opportunities at neighboring Jesuit parish St. Thomas More, Atlanta’s new Cristo Rey High School, or Our Lady of Lourdes, the Mother Church of African American Roman Catholics in Atlanta. Take a weekend retreat at Ignatius House or Holy Spirit Monastery. Join in prayer with over 30,000 Catholics for the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s annual Eucharistic Congress. And learn from some the finest Catholic scholars and practitioners in the world as guest lecturers and visiting professors, including M. Shawn Copeland, E.J. Dionne, Nichole Flores, Roberto Goizueta, Diana Hayes, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Timothy Matovina, Sr. Jamie Phelps, Andrew Prevot, and many more.

For more information on the Catholic Studies program, email Dr. Tony Alonso, Director of Catholic Studies, at

Candler students enrolled in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree program may select a concentration in Catholic Studies. The concentration requires 18 hours and provides students with a series of courses that will prepare them for leadership in Catholic parishes, schools, non-profits, and other contexts.

Considering an MTS, MRL, MRPL, ThM or a dual degree in theology and public health, bioethics, law, social work, development practice, or business? Whatever your degree program, Catholic students will receive close mentorship and one-on-one guidance from Candler’s Catholic Studies faculty to focus their coursework in ways that will prepare them well for future vocational endeavors in the church, the academy, and the world.

Tony AlonsoDr. Tony Alonso, Aquinas Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture; Director of Catholic Studies

Dr. Antonio Eduardo Alonso works at the intersection of theology and culture, with a particular focus on worship and ritual practices. In 2019 he was awarded the Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award from the Catholic Theological Society of America for his essay "Listening for the Cry: Certeau Beyond Strategies and Tactics" (Modern Theology, 2017). Alonso's first book, Commodified Communion: Eucharist, Consumer Culture, and the Practice of Everyday Life (Fordham University Press, 2021) was awarded the 2021 Hispanic Theological Initiative Book Prize. In addition to his scholarly work, Dr. Alonso is a Latin Grammy-nominated composer of sacred music.

Susan ReynoldsDr. Susan Reynolds, Assistant Professor of Catholic Studies

Dr. Susan Reynolds’ work examines ritual practice in contexts of difference, marginality, and suffering. Her current project analyzes the role of ritual in the formation of community in racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse Catholic parishes, drawing on a five-year ethnographic study of a diverse Catholic parish in Boston. Her other research interests include immigration and border studies, Latinx theologies, and lived ecclesiology. She also writes and speaks extensively on the topic of theology and prenatal loss. Prior to academic work, Reynolds taught middle school in Brownsville, Texas. She has more than a decade of experience in campus, parish, and liturgical music ministry.

Other associated faculty members at Candler

Dr. Anthony A. Briggman, Associate Professor of Early Christianity

Dr. Steffen Lösel, Associate Professor in the Practice of Systematic Theology

Dr. Marie Friedmann Marquardt, Scholar-in-Residence

Candler’s affiliation with the Aquinas Center of Theology further enhances the Catholic presence at Emory and provides rich resources for the formation of Catholic leaders and scholars. Partnering with the university to provide a range of programmatic and academic offerings that engage the Catholic community in the Atlanta area, the vision of the Aquinas Center is to transform lives through the search for God’s wisdom. In recent years, the Aquinas Center has invited some of the most significant Catholic voices in the world to campus for public lectures, including John L. Allen, Jr., Sr. Simone Campbell, Sr. Joan Chittister, Ambassador Miguel Diaz, Fr. Bryan Hehir, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Sr. Helen Prejean, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., and many more. Catholic Studies and the Aquinas Center collaborate closely on a wide range of projects and initiatives that enrich Catholic life on campus.

Learn more about the Aquinas Center.

Why would I choose Candler over a Catholic Institution for graduate study?

Atlanta is one of the most diverse and rapidly expanding Catholic contexts in the country. More than half of the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s 1.2 million Catholics are black or Latino/a. Catholics in the Southeast practice their faith within a richly textured ecumenical landscape. The Catholic Studies program at Candler offers students robust pastoral, intellectual, and spiritual formation in the Catholic tradition in a way that is deeply responsive to the complex lived reality of the Church in the Southeast and throughout the country.
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Will Candler prepare me for lay ecclesial ministry in the Catholic Church?

Yes. Candler has a long tradition of preparing students for ministry in the Church. Our Catholic Studies faculty are deeply involved in the ministerial life of the Church. They bring a wide range of expertise and experience in pastoral work, including liturgical music ministry, campus and parish ministry, Hispanic ministry, and Catholic education.  MDiv students participate in Candler’s unique Contextual Education program, which offers them two years of hands-on formation in pastoral contexts relevant to their vocations. Recent Candler graduates now minister in Catholic parishes, schools, and other institutions across the country.
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Will Candler prepare me for doctoral study?

Yes. Candler is one of the finest theological schools in the country. Candler students are served by an unparalleled faculty as well as by Pitts Theology Library, one of the premier theological libraries in North America. Additionally, studying in a richly ecumenical context makes Catholic students especially compelling candidates for doctoral work. Recent placements of Catholic students in doctoral programs have included Boston College, Fordham University, and Emory University.
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Will I receive funding?

Because we are committed to making a world-class theological education affordable, Candler’s scholarship program is exceptionally generous. In 2020-21, we awarded $6.3 million in financial aid, with 98% of all students and 100% of Master of Divinity students receiving scholarship assistance. In fact, students tell us that the financial support they receive from Candler is one of the top five reasons they decided to enroll.
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What is the difference between Catholic Studies at Candler, Catholic Studies at Emory, the University Catholic Center at Emory University, and the Aquinas Center for Theology?

In light of the robust and increasing Catholic population in the region, there are several organizations, programs, and schools serving Catholics at Emory. Catholic Studies at Candler serves Catholic leaders and scholars seeking graduate theological degrees: MDiv, MTS, MRL, MRPL, ThM, or a dual degree in theology and public health, bioethics, law, social work, development practice, or business. Catholic Studies at Emory serves undergraduate students seeking a minor in Catholic Studies. The University Catholic Center at Emory University serves the spiritual life of the entire Emory Catholic community. The Aquinas Center for Theology serves the wider Catholic community of Atlanta by offering a range of Catholic programming. Catholic Studies at Candler collaborates with all of these groups. Because the Aquinas Center is housed within Candler School of Theology, we collaborate especially closely to host speakers and create compelling Catholic programming of interest to a broad public audience at Candler and beyond.
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What is the liturgical and spiritual life at Candler like?

Candler has a rich worship and spiritual life. In addition to school-wide worship services multiple times each week, Catholic students participate in regular retreats, liturgies, and other gatherings that nurture Catholic identity and create community among students, faculty, and staff. The Director of Catholic Studies, Tony Alonso, is an internationally renowned composer of liturgical music deeply committed to the liturgical life of the community in general and of Catholic students in particular. And Candler’s Office of Spiritual and Religious Life offers rich opportunities for diverse spiritual practices, individual retreats, spiritual direction, and vocational discernment.
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What other Catholic resources are available around Candler?

Beyond our distinguished faculty and diverse course offerings, there are countless opportunities to engage your faith and study beyond the classroom at Candler. The archives of Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor are housed at Emory’s Rose Library. Candler’s walls are adorned with the largest collection of artwork by Catholic artist John August-Swanson in the world. Pitts Theology Library is home to two special collections of particular relevance to Catholic scholars: the Thomas Merton Collection and the Father Thomas Keating Collection. Diverse sites for prayer abound in the region: the University Catholic Center at Emory University; neighboring Jesuit parish St. Thomas More; Our Lady of Lourdes, the Mother Church of African American Roman Catholics in Atlanta; Ignatius House; Holy Spirit Monastery; and many others. Candler regularly hosts world-renowned Catholic scholars and public intellectuals as lecturers and professors. In coming years, we will welcome M. Shawn Copeland, E.J. Dionne, Nichole Flores, Roberto Goizueta, Diana Hayes, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Timothy Matovina, Sr. Jamie Phelps, Andrew Prevot, and many others.
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I'm pursuing an MDiv degree. Where would I complete my Contextual Education?

Atlanta-area Catholic parishes, schools, and social service organizations are eager to welcome Candler students seeking to pursue Contextual Education in the region. Candler’s Contextual Education and Catholic Studies faculty will work closely with you to identify a site that will help you to develop your ministerial skills and expand your experience of the life of the Church. Nearby possibilities include neighboring Jesuit parish St. Thomas More or diocesan parish Immaculate Heart of Mary; Atlanta’s new Cristo Rey High School; Our Lady of Lourdes, the Mother Church of African American Roman Catholics in Atlanta; Ignatius House retreat center; Saint Joseph’s Hospital; Catholic Charities; and many more.
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Byron Wratee"Because of its focus on contextualized learning, Candler’s MDiv program gave me the opportunity to work with Catholic ministries across the archdiocese. After working with world-renowned scholars, I feel prepared for further PhD studies in Systematic Theology." —Byron Wratee, MDiv ’18

sarah-kothe-catholic-studies.jpg"Being in the classroom with students from other Christian denominations is a rewarding experience that allows you to find commonalities in beliefs while simultaneously deepening your understanding of the Catholic tradition. In a pluralistic world, engagement with other faith traditions will be a part of any future career in the Church or the academy." —Sarah Kothe, MTS ’18

Theresa Milazzo"Candler provides opportunities to gain foundational knowledge from an ecumenical Christian perspective, while also engaging with the Catholic intellectual tradition. This combination provides a broad and rich background for me, as a Catholic, to enhance my contribution to my parish and diocese." —Theresa Milazzo, MRPL, ‘19

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