A Ph.D. in Record Time

In just two years, John Meinert managed to write and defend his dissertation, which he passed with distinction, score several publications in scholarly journals, and land a full-time faculty position—all while raising a young family.

Two years is generally considered fast given that doctoral students have five years to complete their dissertations.

How did he do it?

“I was driven by the strong desire to simply get it done so that I could get back to spending more time with my family,” says Meinert, the father of then two-year-old twin boys and an infant son. “And it didn’t hurt that I have a very supportive wife.”

And perhaps he might just have had the Angelic Doctor looking out for him. As a doctoral student of moral theology at the Catholic University of America, Meinert took a keen interest in St. Thomas Aquinas. In his dissertation, "Donum Habituale: Grace and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in St. Thomas Aquinas," Meinert argues “that in order to understand fully Aquinas’s thought on the gifts of the Holy Spirit or grace one must read them in light of each other.”

“We simply could not be more proud of John. In a few short years he established himself as not simply a student but also a peer from whom we faculty—especially myself—have learned a great deal,” says his dissertation director and mentor, William Mattison, associate professor of moral theology and interim dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies (STRS). “Watching him teach undergraduates and seeing him complete and defend his dissertation, both with joy-filled faithfulness and intellectual rigor, are included in the highlights of my time here at Catholic University as a professor of theology.”

In his quest to become a theologian, Meinert says he feels blessed that he found his way to Catholic University for doctoral studies.

“I knew the program in moral theology was one of the best. But I didn’t realize that at the university, the study of theology goes beyond scholarship. It permeates daily life. There are practical influences of Catholic teaching all over campus,” says Meinert, who served as the STRS Student Association moral theology representative.

In addition to the support of his professors, Meinert credits his success in the Ph.D. program—where he earned a GPA of 4.0—to the “grace of God and the work ethic I learned growing up on a farm.”

God’s grace, he says, has been at play throughout his academic life. As an undergraduate at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, he changed his major four times, including criminal justice and psychology.

“I knew I wanted to help people. So I chose majors that offered a way to do that. But along the way, I discovered that by studying theology, I could get at the root of why and how we help others as Christians,” he says.

Meinert graduated with a B.A. in theology. He went on to get a master’s degree in theology from the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, and earned his Ph.D. in moral theology from the Catholic University of America.

John Meinert's updated and revised dissertation is now available through Emmaus Academic. Discover the relationship between grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in The Love of God Poured Out: Grace and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in St. Thomas Aquinas.

This article was originally published in full by The Catholic University of America.

Photo courtesy of The Catholic University of America.