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Dr. Maureen R. O'Brien has worked since 1997 in the Department of Theology at Duquesne University, where she is currently Associate Professor of Theology, Director of Pastoral Ministry, and former Chair of the Department. Previously she served for nine years as Associate Director for Academic Affairs at Boston College's Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, where she earned her Ph.D. in Theology and Education. She teaches a variety of courses at undergraduate, Master's and Ph.D. levels. She has published numerous articles in areas related to practical theology, religious education and theological reflection for ministry. She has served professionally in several positions in parish ministry.

Dr. O'Brien is a native of southwestern Pennsylvania, and currently lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband and two sons.


Ph.D., Theology/Education, Boston College, 1990
M.A., Pastoral Ministry, Boston College, 1982
B.A., Theology/English, Univ. of Notre Dame, 1979

Dr. O-Brien teaches at undergraduate, Master's, and Ph.D. levels. She regularly teaches the following courses:

  • UCOR 142, Theological Views of the Person;
  • Theo 230, The Church;
  • Theo 539, Theology of Ministry;
  • Theo 577, Introduction to Catechetics;
  • Theo 579, Catechesis of Adults;
  • Theo 596, Human Development: Theological Perspectives.

Dr. O'Brien also designed an online course on theological reflection in ministry for global mission as part of the Duquesne University program, "Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation" (

  • Association of Graduation Programs in Ministry (President, 2000-01)
  • Association of Practical Theology
  • Catholic Theological Society of America
  • College Theology Society
  • Religious Education Association:Association of Professors, Practitioners and Researchers in Religious Education (President, 2009-10)
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Commission on Certification and Accreditation (Board of Directors 2000-04, Board Chair 2004);

Dr. O'Brien's recent research has focused on the intersections between practical theology, religious education and the theological reflection of ministers, especially Catholic lay ecclesial ministers. This has included qualitative, narrative-based studies using interviews and self-reflection by these ministers. She is currently involved in Emerging from the Vineyard, a two-year funded project with a select group of lay ecclesial ministers through which they engage in online journaling and dialogue, as well as collaborative essay writing. The project will culminate in a published essay collection as well as articles for scholarly journals.

Review of Bert Roebben, Seeking Sense in the City: European Perspectives on Religious Education. In Religious Education 106/1 (2011): 115-118;

"Practicing in the Presence of Mystery: Responses to the Divine in Practical Theology and Religious Education," Religious Education 105/4 (2010): 358-373.

"Reconciling Identity: Emerging Convictions in Religious Education and Practical Theology," Religious Education 104/3 (2009): 233-238.

"A Continuing Dance," Religious Education 103/2 (2008): 142-43.

"A Study of Ministerial Identity and Theological Reflection among Lay Ecclesial Ministers," International Journal of Practical Theology 11/2 (2007): 212-233.

"A Meal on the Shore: John 21 as Resource for Theological Reflection in Ministry," New Theology Review 20/3 (2007): 68-77.

Entry, "Maria Harris," Christian Educators of the 20th Century (2006);

"Practicing New Convergences: The REA and Religious Education into the Next Century," Religious Education 100 (2005): 366-369;

"Education as Ascetic Practice: Teaching Theology in a Post-9/11 Context," Horizons 31 (2004): 355-374.

Review of Bernard J. Lee and Michael A. Cowan, "Gathered and Sent: The Mission of Small Church Communities Today." Horizons 31 (2004): 454-455.

"Theological Reflection for Transformation, with Dianne Bergant et al. Center for the Study of Religious Life, 2004. 'Women and Papal Teaching," New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. New York: Thomson/Gale; Washington, D.C., in association with the Catholic University of America, 2003: vol. 14, 823-28.

"Lay Ministry in the United States and the Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry," Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture 37/2 (Spring 2002): 111-20.

"Disciplined Conversations, Faithful Practices: Practical Theology and the Education of Lay Ecclesial Ministers," Religious Education as Practical Theology (eds. Bert Roebben and Michael Warren; Leuven: Peeters, 2001) 275-308.

(with Hugo Kamya), "Interprofessional Education in Theology and Social Work: Postmodern and Practical Theological Dimensions," Teaching Theology and Religion 3 (February 2000): 20-32.

"Theology That Is Practical: The Model for the Next Millennium," Theological Explorations 1 (1999). Online at

"Practical Theology and Postmodern Religious Education." Religious Education 94 (1999): 313-28;

"How We Are Together: Educating for Group Self-Understanding in the Congregation," Religious Education 92 (1997): 315-21;

"The Public Church as a Model for Religious Education," Religious Education 88 (1993): 394-414;

"Christians and the Public: A Challenge for Religious Education" (two-part essay), Professional Approaches for Christian Educators (1993-94).

Review of Allen J. Moore, ed., Religious Education As Social Transformation. In Religious Education 86 (1991): 479-80.