History of SAT

The School of Applied Theology, which began as the Institute of Lay Theology in 1960, celebrated its golden anniversary in 2010.  Here are a few highlights as well as a few short Oral History Videos of Frank Nieman, Bernard LoCoco and Maureen-Therese McGroddy.

In 1960, before Vatican II, Eugene Zimmers, SJ had a radical idea that the Church would need trained lay ministers. So he founded the Institute of Lay Theology (ILT) which was founded at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit institution.

Gene realized, with the growing number of Catholics and the shortage of priests, lay ministers would be necessary for our church.

Purpose of ILT:  to prepare full-time lay ministers to be sent to parishes in California, Nevada, and Arizona.  Bishops from these dioceses supported this idea and agreed the lay ministers would be paid salaries upon completion of the program.

First class included:  six lay men:  a former insurance broker, a copy editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, a former paratrooper, a graduate student in philosophy, a youth counselor and a high school teacher.

This innovative idea was covered by Time magazine in 1961 In a feature article written by John Blair Kaiser with John F. Kennedy on the cover.

ILT continued to do this ministry until 1968.        

The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley was formed as an association of nine (9) seminaries – three (3) of which were Catholic.

ILT was invited to join the Graduate Theological Union and became the School of Applied Theology and moved from the University of San Francisco to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

As Vatican II closed, many religious sisters and priests had a great desire for renewal and up-dating to implement the call of Vatican II and understand the implications of its documents. SAT responded by accepting religious sisters and brothers and priests.

This added a new dimension to GTU where the seminaries did not have any women or laity at the time.

Another development was that Fr. Bill Levada, who was in charge of continuing education in the Los Angeles archdiocese, requested that SAT send their staff to Los Angeles on the weekends to do presentations dealing with post-Vatican II and its implementation.

As you probably know, the former Fr. Bill Levada became William Cardinal Levada who replaced Pope Benedict after his election as head of the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith. 

To our knowledge, SAT is the oldest sabbatical program in the United States.

SAT moves to St. Albert’s Priory from the GTU in order to have more space.

Residence at St. Albert’s Priory began (prior to this students were housed in apartments, convents, and rectories)

Until 2003, there was a credit option at SAT.  People could receive a Master’s degree in applied theology. In 2003, with the encouragement of the Dean of the GTU, the SAT Program adapted to the needs of the time once again.  There was less demand for credited degrees so the decision was made to eliminate the degree option.  So the Core Team made the decision to focus completely on sabbatical with the three components of sabbath, renewal, and transformation, in a holistic environment, without credits, papers, exams, etc., which were antithetical to the sabbatical spirit.    

Program continues to evolve.  In 2010 -11, because of challenges to enrollment in the sabbatical program, SAT once again reviewed its vision and mission.  The decision was made to initiate some additional experimental programs which focused on serving those ministering in the local Church, especially laity.  In some ways, this was a return in part to the original mission when SAT was ILT.

Local folks were invited to attend several selected courses in the regular sabbatical program on a limited enrollment basis; a June Summer Sabbatical and Spirituality Series was inaugurated in 2013; a series of one-day workshops was also begun in 2013.  

We are more aware than ever of the need of all people for opportunities for Sabbatical.  SAT offers a holistic Sabbath experience in the San Francisco Bay Area to those who live locally and who come to us from around the world, seeking attentive rest, theological renewal, and spiritual transformation, for a day, a week, a month, or one or two semesters.


SAT' mission to provide a holistic Sabbath experience of attentive rest, theological renewal, and spiritual transformation continues through the JST Renewal Program at the Jesuit School of Theology (JST)-Santa Clara University (SCU), Berkeley, which offers quality, holistic Sabbaticals and renewal programs to clergy, men and women religious, and laity.