NACC + Villanova University

NACC and Villanova University logos

Any Catholic who has earned their Certificate in Pastoral Ministry (CPE option) at Villanova University and has completed 500 hours of ministry can apply immediately to become a Certified Associate Chaplain (CAC) through the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC).

When the Holy Spirit leads you into a room it is with a divine purpose indeed.
– Deacon Jack R. Conrad BCC

What is a Certified Associate Chaplain?

Certified Associate Chaplains (CAC) are Roman Catholics who have formal education in Catholic theology and the competence to minister to persons in need, regardless of their faith tradition. Certified Associate Chaplains have an aptitude for caregiving and a gift for cross-cultural ministry. Certified Associate Chaplains work in a variety of settings including healthcare facilities, correctional institutions, social agencies, and parishes.

Individuals who earn CAC certification have demonstrated competency in 34 different professional and theological areas. The NACC offers this level of certification for those who are seeking a national credential for spiritual care ministry but may not meet the requirements for Board Certification. The CAC is encouraged for permanent deacons working in a pastoral ministry setting or part-time or full-time ministers in areas such as prison ministry, long-term care/rehab facilities, shelters, police/fire stations and seaports.

Why get certified?

Certification through the NACC raises your level of professionalism in chaplaincy through increased accountability and proficiency. The certification process will deepen your pastoral ministry skills and better equip you to:

Assess an individual’s spiritual needs and tailor interventions accordingly.
Minister to people of diverse cultural and faith traditions.
Support people facing trauma, grief, addiction, dementia, and more.

CAC certification provides a professional credential for employment in health care facilities, correctional institutions, social agencies, parishes, and other fields of service. It is a significant stepping stone for those working toward Board Certification. Membership in the NACC offers you a community of fellow chaplains who will support you in your work and who will journey with you to grow your chaplaincy skills.

To have the heart of a Chaplain is to connect to the mystery of Christ.
– Charles Barnes, SJ, BCC

What are the prerequisites?

The prerequisites for CAC certification are simple.

  1. Be a Roman Catholic.
  2. NACC membership.
  3. 18 graduate-level credits of theological study or equivalent graduate credits from an approved pastoral or permanent diaconate formation program, diocesan ministry training program, or professional ministry program such as Villanova University’s Certificate of Pastoral Ministry.
  4. Two units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).
  5. 500 hours of ministry within 3 years prior to the application date.

How can I apply for CAC Certification?

To begin your application for certification, visit and follow the instructions on the left side of the page to prepare and submit your application materials.

The application will require you to reflect deeply on your personal faith journey, relevant pastoral ministry experience, and your understanding of Catholic theology.

The application window is open twice per year; view our application timeline.

For more information about certification, please contact Anita Houghton, Director of Pastoral Care and Certification, at [email protected].