English and Culture Studies Program

As more and more priests and religious in the United States are foreign-born, and as English functions as a common language for international communication, there is a growing need for English instruction. Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology is meeting this growing need through its unique English and Culture Studies Program (English as a Second Language or ESL).


Sacred Heart’s program not only helps students become proficient in English, it also familiarizes them with American customs and culture. This program attracts people from many different backgrounds and includes seminarians, priests, brothers, sisters, and lay ministers. They seek to achieve English proficiency for advanced studies at universities, priestly formation in the seminary, pastoral work, professional advancement, or personal improvement. Please contact internationalstudents@shsst.edu for more information.


SHSST is a member of the American Association of Intensive English Programs, commonly known as EnglishUSA.

No prior knowledge of English is necessary for enrollment. Applicants must:

  • Complete the application form. There may be additional requirements if seeking housing and/or sponsorship

  • Secure the necessary forms for non-residency status in the United States. Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology can issue I-20s upon request

  • Take a preliminary assessment for placement into appropriate levels (beginning, intermediate, advanced) of reading, writing, grammar, and communication classes. Placements are not always at the same level for each area (e.g., a student may be intermediate for reading, but a beginner for writing)

Program Components

Accent Modification

Accent Modification (often called accent reduction) is available to high intermediate and advanced ECSP students, seminarians, and priests. This 15-week course in pronunciation results in at least a 50% accent improvement, with many achieving 80-90% elimination of accent issues. Taught either in person or online by an instructor certified in the Compton P-ESL method, this highly individualized training focuses on the student’s most frequently mispronounced phonemes.  The dramatic improvement by the end of the course enables participants to become effective communicators in ministerial, social, and educational settings. There is also an intensive seven-week summer option.


Bridge Program

For students in the ECSP program with the ultimate goal of enrolling into university or seminary studies, special curriculum components are built into their final semester in the ECSP program to ensure a successful transition to further academic studies.

  • Transitional students are simultaneously enrolled in ECSP and M.Div. or M.A. courses

  • Transitional students are placed in an “instructional support” course in which ECSP instructors assist students with their M.Div./M.A. class assignments by editing papers, previewing presentations, discussing course material, etc

  • ECSP instructors maintain regular meetings with the professors of the M.Div./M.A. courses to communicate about student progress and coordinate instructional efforts

  • Transitional students take the Introduction to Graduate Religious Studies course to learn English theological terms and academic skills (research processes, reading strategies, note-taking techniques, source citation, etc.)

“I give thanks to God for the fact that I am a true product of Sacred Heart Seminary. Everywhere I go I have to represent the school because without the school I don’t know where I would be today. I’m very grateful. And, I’m very proud of the school. I’m very proud of the school and I’m doing my best in ministry, even though it’s not easy but every day is a new day, and every day is a new opportunity, and every day is a new challenge. But, the fact is that I put God in my life, and Christ is in front of me and I am behind him, and he is guiding me. I am very happy in ministry. I give thanks to everybody from Milwaukee, first of all, you, teacher Dominic, Vicki that I had for English. You are very special to me and so are all of the teachers from the school. Thank you to everyone, and say hello to everybody from me, and also to your family.” – Fr. Wilbert Colas (Diocese of El Paso, Texas)