The Jesuit School of Theology in California, United States, would give full scholarships to women religious in India, China and Vietnam to earn advanced theological degrees.
The school has embarked on this pilot program due to a four-year grant of US$375,000 received by it from the Henry Luce Foundation, which focuses on American art, Asia, environment, theology and higher education.
“The program will focus on religious sisters in underserved communities in Asia, where the potential for supporting positive social change is extraordinarily high," said Jesuit Fr. Thomas Massaro, dean of the school, in a press statement.
The first group cohort of three sisters is expected to arrive at the school for the 2013-2014 academic year.
The school is currently raising funds to support additional students to bring the scholarship group to as many as six sisters at a time.
The scholarships will cover room,board and transportation in addition to tuition. Recipients will also receive follow-up support through the worldwide Jesuit network.
Religious communities in some Asian countries are experiencing significant growth, but there are few venues for their sisters to pursue advanced theological training or spiritual leadership development, school officials said.
Those selected to attend the school are expected to return to their countries to become leaders in theological education and social ministries that impact positive social development.
Two faculty members will travel to Asia in January to network with religious communities to assess the educational needs of their members and identify potential candidates for the scholarships.
They will be looking for sisters who did not have an opportunity for theological education outside Asia and who are qualified to earn Master of Divinity or Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree.
A committee of the school personnel and members of the wider community will make the final decision from the pool of qualified applicants, school officials said.
India: Intensive one-semester program will welcome between 15 and 18 applicants.