Clinical Pastoral Education - Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)?

CPE is experience‐based theological education and pastoral formation for seminarians, clergy, and lay persons of diverse cultures, ethnic groups and faith traditions. In CPE you join other women and men who are currently in ministry or are preparing for it. Some may be healthcare professionals who come to CPE to enhance their work pastorally. Most are Christian, but CPE welcomes qualified persons across faith traditions.

2. What does clinical mean in CPE?

First of all, clinical describes the basic methodology of CPE: reflecting on experience. You may call it process education; you begin with experience, reflect on it, and act. “What did you learn?” is a common question in CPE. Secondly, clinical refers to your ministry site, which is usually Mercy Hospital Springfield with some possibly at your own place of ministry. At your clinical site you provide pastoral care which is a key component of your learning.

3. Is the CPE program accredited?

CPE at Mercy has been accredited since 1974. The program is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), making it one of some 350 ACPE‐accredited CPE centers in the United States. The USCCB‐CCA (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—Commission on Certification and Accreditation) renewed Mercy’s accreditation through 2018. Mercy’s CPE program is accredited to offer Level I and Level II CPE as well as Supervisory CPE.

4. What is a unit of CPE?

According to Standards, a unit of CPE is at least 100 hours of structured group and individual education. Each unit shall be accompanied by the supervised, clinical practice in ministry. The combined time shall be no less than 400 hours.

5. What is meant by structured group and individual education?

Within any unit of Level I/Level II CPE you will be part of a peer group (minimum of three but usually more) who learn from case studies, critique and feedback on your practice of ministry. Peer groups also critique each other’s verbatims, which are word‐by‐word reviews of a pastoral visit. You work
with a qualified supervisor who is first and foremost a pastoral educator, a companion in your own pastoral formation process. This supervisor has pastoral experience and a Masters of Divinity or the equivalent. By certifying as a CPE supervisor, he/she has pursued approximately four‐five years of post‐graduate work.

6. What is individual supervision?

Students meet with their CPE Supervisor for about an hour during which they discuss ministry events, personal issues, theological questions, peer relationships, or any other experiences that might have an impact on their ministry and/or their pastoral identity.

7. What kinds of CPE programs does Mercy offer?

Mercy is accredited to offer Level I ‐ II and Supervisory CPE:

  • Level I CPE – addresses the fundamentals of pastoral formation, pastoral competence, and pastoral formation through one or more CPE units. Satisfactory achievement of Level I outcomes is a prerequisite for doing Level II CPE.
  • Level II CPE – addresses the development and integration of pastoral formation, pastoral competence and pastoral reflection to a level of competence that permits participants to pursue professional certification as a chaplain and/or admission to Supervisory CPE.
  • Supervisory CPE – addresses the development as CPE supervisor in integration of Supervisory theory and practice, following the educational contract and format of Mercy CPE.

8. In what formats does Mercy offer CPE?

Mercy offers CPE in three formats:

  • Extended unit, part‐time over nine months, designed primarily for persons exploring CPE as a possibility, seeking ordination in their denomination, desiring to hone their pastoral skills. One unit CPE.
  • Summer unit, fulltime over 11 weeks, designed primarily for persons seeking ordination in their denomination, but not limited to seminarians. One unit CPE.Residency, 12‐month, fulltime program, designed for persons preparing to become professional certified chaplains or planning to pursue supervisory education. Three units of CPE.

Occasionally, Mercy offers an off‐site program in places where an interest in CPE and a related need exist. In these cases, the calendar is tailored to the situation while honoring professional standards.

9. What is the Extended Unit CPE program?

Occasionally, Mercy offers an off‐site program in places where an interest in CPE and a related need exist. In these cases, the calendar is tailored to the situation while honoring professional standards.

10. What is the Summer CPE program?

This is a fulltime 10‐week program. Group and clinical work and individual supervision will be Mondays through Fridays, 8:00 a.m.‐4:30 p.m. Twice during the summer you will be working with a staff chaplain on a weekend day, evening or  night to provide to provide pastoral care throughout the hospital.

11. What is the Residency CPE program?

The Residency is a 12‐month, fulltime program. Group and clinical work and individual supervision will be Mondays through Fridays, 8:00 a.m.‐4:30 p.m. One weekend monthly you will be the day chaplain (8:00‐4:30) for the entire hospital. Pre‐requisite for entering the residency is a graduate theological degree or sufficient progress toward it that could be certified as a chaplain within 24 months of completing the residency. Strongly preferred is one previous unit of CPE.

12. How many positions are in the CPE Residency program?


13. Is an on‐site interview required for a CPE Residency?

Yes. Our experience is that it serves the applicant and the center best, when an on‐site interview is conducted. The applicant will have an opportunity to talk with current Residents and have a tour of Mercy Hospital Springfield so that they can make an informed decision.

14. Do I need to be ordained to be considered for a CPE Residency?

Ordination is not required. Since Clinical Pastoral Education is post‐graduate education, successful applicants will have completed a Bachelor’s degree, and preferably a Master’s degree (Theology, Pastoral Ministry, Divinity) or some program which will allow the person to become board‐certified as a Chaplain within at least 24 months of completing the Residency and/or will allow the person to enter supervisory education. For all CPE programs, the Center looks for applicants who are active and rooted in their faith tradition and who have been in service in some way in their local faith community.

15. Do you accept international applicants in the residency program?

We will accept international applications from persons who have resided in the U.S. for at least one year prior to the application and who have completed at least a single unit of ACPE CPE.

16. Do you offer a 2nd year Residency?

We do not currently offer a 2nd year residency. You may be able to find an offering through the ACPE website,

17. What kind of orientation do I receive if I do CPE at Mercy?

Allow four full days at the beginning of any of the programs. The first day you will join other new Mercy coworkers for General Orientation. The other days will orient you to CPE. At your clinical site you will have an on‐site mentor, one of the staff chaplains.

18. What is the cost of doing CPE at Mercy?

There is a $25.00 non‐refundable application fee to be sent with the application. Tuition for each unit of CPE is: Residency – per unit $400., Summer Unit - $500., Extended - $500., Virtual - $1200, Employee - $400.

19. Is there a stipend for CPE at Mercy?

For the summer and the extended unit there is no stipend. The CPE Residency pays a stipend, computed at $17.00/hr. subject to state and federal withholdings. CPE residents also receive benefits at the same rates as other Mercy coworkers. A person in Supervisory CPE receives Mercy coworker benefits and earns a salary in the range for chaplains at Mercy.

20. Do you have any scholarships available?

At the present time, we have none available. You may be able to find financial support through a seminary or church.

21. How can I learn more about chaplain certification?

The following websites provide information that can be downloaded:

22. How can I learn more about supervisory certification?

Information can be downloaded from the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) website at

23. How do I apply for CPE at Mercy?

You can download an application and directions from this website or from (Tab: Education and then Tab: CPE Application), the website of Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). Mail your completed form with attachments to:

Mercy Hospital-5H
Attn: Michelle Barone
Pastoral Education Center
1235 East Cherokee
Springfield MO 65804

If you have questions regarding the application process, you may call the Mercy Pastoral Services/CPE offices: 417-820-2735 or 405-752-3604

When your application has been received, it will be reviewed for completeness and quality. If deemed appropriate for the program, you will be contacted for an interview to:

  • explore further what you have written in your application materials
  • answer your questions about CPE and specifically about the program at Mercy
  • discern whether this program is a good fit for your learning interests.

24. Will you accept my application electronically?

Yes, we will. Address the application to Please follow-up by submitting a hard copy application, with your $25 application fee, by mail, or deliver it in person. Your application will not be considered complete until the processing fee has been removed.

25. Where do CPE participants at Mercy do their clinical work?

Usually participants in the extended or summer unit and the residency do their clinical work at Mercy Hospital Springfield, which is a Trauma I facility and a rich environment for learning.

26. Can I do some of my clinical work at a place other than Mercy?

At times it is possible to do some of the clinical hours at a place other than Mercy, provided certain conditions are met. These conditions include a site placement agreement, on‐site mentoring by a qualified individual(s), visits of the CPE supervisor to the site. The details of such an arrangement are individualized to the situation.

27. Do you provide housing for CPE participants?

Mercy’s CPE program itself does not have housing, but we will work with a person to identify area possibilities.

28. I am interested in chaplaincy certification but want to do it through NACC. Would your program help me?

The CPE curriculum at Mercy is designed with both APC and NACC Standards in mind, as well as those of the accrediting body, ACPE. When you successfully complete a residency at Mercy, you have at least four units of CPE, which are required for certification. Alumni of Mercy’s program have successfully achieved both NACC and APC chaplain certification.

29. Are there chaplain jobs?

As in most fields, the answer is mixed. If you are willing to relocate, you will have more possibilities. People who complete Mercy’s residency program have a good track record on employment.

30. Are there supervisory positions after graduation?

Very definitely, but you may have to relocate. Currently there are more supervisory openings than there are available supervisors nationwide. In addition, according to an ACPE 2006 survey, about 50% of the CPE supervisors in the United States are over 55. We have currently an opening now and receiving applications.

31. How is Mercy’s CPE program accredited?

Mercy’s CPE program is accredited through

The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.

55 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, Suite 835
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 320-1472

CPE Links