Challenging girls to become women of 
intellect, character, innovation, action, and faith

Religious Studies

Students reading from BibleThrough the study of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, contemporary Christian practice, cultural issues, and world religions, the Religious Studies Department aims to form young women of informed faith who experience the love of Jesus Christ and the place of prayer and service in their lives and in the lives of others.

In grades eight through twelve, students participate in an overnight retreat program. This much loved tradition, planned by the instructor and facilitated by student leaders, provides an opportunity for personal reflection, spiritual development, and community-building. The ultimate goal is for all students to deepen their personal relationship with God.

Middle School

Religion 5

In Fifth Grade Religion the students begin the year with an in-depth study of the Lord’s Prayer using the Talmudic model of study known as a Midrash. Classes start with a daily prayer and a discussion of the gospel reading of the day. Students use journals to compose a series of reflections based on each week’s story. We read stories ranging from The Guest retold by Uma Krishnaswami and The Three Questions based on a story by Leo Tolstoy to The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. In the second term, the students focus on their preparation for Advent through studying the prophecies of Isaiah. We examined how these prophecies are fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. The students continue during the third and final terms to follow the life of Jesus and the church calendar through the scriptures. Together with the continued training in the fundamental skills of writing, reflection, and discussion, students are given opportunities to express their ideas artistically.

Religion 6: Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures

Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures introduces students to major themes and characters of the Hebrew Bible. Through an examination of God's self-revelation to Israel, they learn to see God as the One who creates, nurtures, and calls all people to freedom. A study of morality is emphasized as students learn of the relationship between God and Israel expressed in the Covenant of Sinai. Through the study of the prayers and rituals of the Hebrew Bible, they deepen their appreciation of the roots of the Christian tradition.

Religion 7: Introduction to the Reading of Christian Scriptures

The theme of this course is Jesus as revealed in various New Testament narratives. Skills of interpretation, reflection, and the application of principles of Christian life to contemporary society comprise the core of the course. With special emphasis on the Mass, students also learn about and experiment with a variety of prayer forms.

Religion 8: Art and Religion (Combined class)

In 1999, Pope John Paul II wrote a public letter to artists celebrating the rich history between the arts and the Church. Among the many positive aspects of art, the Pope highlighted these three dimensions:

  • Art makes visible and attractive those features of God that are invisible
  • Art nourishes while it teaches
  • Art can be a source of theological thinking

Pope John Paul II invites artists of the world to “use your creative intuition to enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time into the mystery of [humankind].”

The course in Religious Studies for the Grade 8 combines the study of the Psalms with the visual arts. The book of Psalms is essentially a prayer book that has been used by Christians and Jews for thousands of years. The Psalms have assisted people as they approach God and seek deeper understanding of their relationship to the Divine. The Psalms remind us of our history with God, the covenant and call to follow God today.

By reading, praying, and artistically rendering the Psalms, the girls in Religion 8 experience “the beauty of the cycle of lament and praise, exile and return, pilgrimage and nationhood, wisdom and knowledge.” (The Art of the Saint John’s Bible.) Combined with lecture and reflection on selected psalms, the art to be created will lead their minds and hearts to a greater appreciation of the complexity and grandeur of God.

View photos from the 2018 Religion and Art Show here.

Upper School

Religion 9: Hebrew Scriptures and Judaism

Students investigate major themes of the Hebrew Scriptures and acquire skill in biblical interpretation through a close reading of the texts and the study of biblical scholarship, literary analysis, and historical research. Emphasis is placed on understanding the covenant between God and the Jewish people as a covenant still in effect, a precious legacy of symbols, spirituality, and Scripture that Christians reverence as related in a special way to the family of Jesus.

Religion 10: Christian Scriptures and Traditions

Intensive study of the Gospels promote students' understanding of internal diversity of Christian Scripture. Students examine the specific meanings and messages of these texts in relation to their historical, social, political, and cultural contexts in light of current biblical scholarship and contemporary challenges of faith. Special attention is given to the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, and to the development of a personal response to the question raised by Jesus, "Who do you say that I am?" Students cultivate a capacity to make connections between Scripture and their own lives by exploring the historical and contemporary meanings of the Reign of God and the challenges of discipleship. During the tenth grade, students also take a seminar on human development that complements the religious studies curricula by further cultivating skills in self-reflection and mindfulness.

Religion 11: Peace and Justice in the World

This class flows directly out of Goal III of the Sacred Heart educational tradition: educating to a social awareness which impels to action. Often referred to as its “best kept secret,” Catholic Social Teaching is the ongoing articulation of the Church’s comprehensive and dynamic understanding about what it means to be human and to live in community with others—with a particular concern for those who are poor, marginalized, suffering, and subject to violence, oppression, or dehumanization. Drawing on Scripture, church documents and practices, secular and political philosophy on human rights and social responsibility, and ongoing conversations with other traditions and faith communities, the Catholic social tradition promotes core values and commitments that seek human flourishing, full participation, and peace for all.

In this class, students are introduced to the principles and insights of the Catholic social tradition as we confront and examine several of the major social challenges of our time: domestic and global poverty, inequality, immigration, racism, and violence. Students will be introduced to and trained in the Circle of Praxis (see, judge, reflect, act) as an inductive method for bringing the fruits of the Catholic social tradition to bear on complex social challenges that require action.

Hesed, the NCDS community service program inspired by God’s “loving kindness” and “faithful love,” complements Religion 11. Through Hesed, students give life to the Sacred Heart Goals by engaging in direct service of forty hours during the summer leading into the eleventh grade or during the eleventh grade year. By choosing a site where they can serve on a consistent and continual basis, students form reciprocal relationships with the people with whom they work. This fosters the building of community and enables the students to respond to the Gospel’s call to work for social justice. Completion of the Hesed Program is a graduation requirement.

Religion 12: Major World Religions

This course introduces students to three of the world’s major religious traditions (Islam, Hinduism & Buddhism) and to the academic field of the comparative study of religions. With each tradition, we explore history, geography, primary texts and narratives, basic tenets, sacred spaces, rituals, practice, ethics, as well as cultural contributions. We also examine aspects pertinent to the evolution and relevance of each tradition in the contemporary world. In addition to gaining an awareness and literacy regarding differences and similarities across religious traditions, students gain an appreciation and respect for the lived religious traditions that help shape the personal and social identities of diverse peoples in the US and around the world.

This course flows directly out of the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart Schools – specifically, out of Goal 1: “Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a personal and active faith in God,” and the sixth criteria: “The school fosters inter-religious acceptance and dialogue by educating to an understanding of and deep respect for religions of the world.” In addition to engaging in sustained study and reflection on three of the world’s major religious traditions, students develop awareness and respect for how religious truth shapes human life and contemporary society.