Educational Opportunities for Incarcerated Students

“Do not be afraid to be saints. Follow Jesus Christ who is the source of freedom and light. Be open to the Lord so that He may lighten all your ways.” ~St. John Paul II

Catholic Distance University has served the incarcerated church since 1984 by offering paper-based courses that feed both the spirit and the intellect. A number of CDU’s incarcerated students have earned BA and MA degrees in Theology and Advanced Catechist Certificates. Many more have taken inspiring continuing education courses that have deepened their relationship with God and provided a new sense of purpose.

  • Many of CDU’s incarcerated students have used their education to evangelize fellow inmates, spreading the Word of God and knowledge of His great love to those imprisoned in an environment mired in hopelessness and despair.
  • CDU’s courses have helped inmates to become chaplains’ assistants who evangelize and minister to their fellow inmates when priests and chaplains are unavailable. In addition, many chaplains are not Catholic.

CDU offers a number of paper-based educational programs to incarcerated students. With opportunities ranging from continuing education to graduate-level study, there is an appropriate program or course for every inmate.

Non-credit Continuing Education Courses

CDU offers four non-credit continuing education courses in paper format. The only prerequisite is a letter of recommendation from the inmate’s priest or chaplain stating his or her ability to read and write at a high school level and a brief written statement from the inmate about how he or she plans to use the education to grow in faith.

Courses offered:

THEO N060 The Ten Commandments, Part A

THEO N061 The Ten Commandments, Part B

RELED N024 Christian Prayer

RELED N021 Profession of Faith

Tuition: Just $10 per course! (The Catechism of the Catholic Church is included with the first course)

Advanced Catechist Certificate

Learn to explain and communicate the content of Catholic Doctrine in a systematic way: profession of faith, liturgy and sacrament, moral teachings, and the nature of prayer for communication with God and others. Students must complete 11 non-credit continuing education courses.

Tuition: $10 per course (textbooks must be purchased separately)

Taking Courses at CDU

All courses are offered in paper format, and only one course may be taken at a time. To request an enrollment form, write to Marguerite, Prison Ministry Program, CDU, 115 W. Congress St., Charles Town, WV 25414; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

After students submit an enrollment form, all required materials, and tuition payment, CDU will mail a folder containing course materials, directions, assignments, self quizzes and tests to the incarcerated student. Return envelopes for mailing tests and assignments to CDU for grading are provided for your convenience.

If tuition payment is a problem, we encourage incarcerated students and their chaplains to ask a relative, friend, church, or organization to help sponsor the cost.

“Showing mercy to those who have strayed can be life changing. Mercy overcomes every wall, every obstacle, and can instill new life and hope in others.”—Pope Francis

“CDU courses are a marvelous resource that provides me with the knowledge needed to serve the Lord to the best of my ability.”—Pierre O.

For more information, contact Marguerite Trainor, 304-742-5000, ext. 719; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The achievement of one of CDU’s deceased incarcerated students is chronicled in a book titled A Different Kind of Cell: The Story of a Murderer Who Became a Monk, available from Amazon.


Undergraduate Program

  • Bachelor of Arts in Theology (undergraduate degree completion program)

Students who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree but have earned a minimum of 81 undergraduate credits, including general education credits, can complete their degree through this program, which is designed to expand one’s knowledge of the Catholic Faith. Upon successfully earning 39 credits in theology at CDU, students receive a BA in Theology degree. Candidates must apply to the program and meet all requirements to be accepted. Contact CDU to request an application form.

Tuition: $305 per credit hour (textbooks must be purchased separately)

Graduate Program

  • Master of Arts in Theology

Students who have earned an undergraduate degree can pursue CDU’s 36-credit graduate degree. Candidates must apply to the program and meet all requirements to be accepted. Contact CDU to request an application form.


Tuition: $450 per credit hour (textbooks must be purchased separately)