CDU Blog

CDU Students Explore and Learn in the Holy Land: The Fifth Gospel

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Mon, Jun 05, 2017 @ 05:00 PM

holy landresize.jpegDr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Christina Steele, Sue Ellen Young and Mario Lanza at the Jordan River.

The holy places in the land where the Savior walked speak so powerfully of the work of redemption that the land is rightly called “the fifth gospel.”  CDU offers a course with Holy Land travel lead by CDU Professor and New York Times best-selling author Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio (Dr. Italy).  Faith and cultural lessons are shared on location for ten days in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Carmel, Cana, and Galilee. While in Isreal, students gain insight into the Bible that can only be captured by being in the land and learn about the Fathers of the Church, including Origen, Eusebius, Justin, Jerome, and Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived and wrote in the Holy Land.  Students also come face-to-face with the Crusades and Muslim-Christian relations as they learn about Church history and interreligious dialogue. CDU students who joined Dr. D’Ambrosio April 24- May 4 share some of their experiences and trip highlights.

listening to the speakers at the Church of the Paster Noster, or Our Fat....jpgChurch of Pastor Noster. Our Father prayer in hundreds of languages.

“This trip is a sacred pilgrimage, learning experience, and vacation all wrapped into one!  A spiritual journey leading to a spiritual breakthrough can also be fun and fascinating at the same time,”  explains Dr. D’Ambrosio.  CDU student Sue Ellen Young agrees, “It was an amazing adventure that continues to bear good fruit!”  The trip to the Holy Land includes experiences like sailing on the Sea of Galilee, climbing Mt. Tabor and walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

boat on sea of Galilee.jpgBoat ride to the Sea of Galilee.

“The trip was so much more than I imagined,” said CDU student Christina Steele.  “Dr. D’Ambrosio did an amazing job intertwining the Scriptural stories and insights with the local guide, Bader, who was able to bring the historical and cultural background to life.”

“I learned so much about biblical events and parables, it really has made reading the New Testament come to life!” exclaimed Christina, who made the trip into a family adventure with her mother, Joyce Bishop.  “It was great to experience the Holy Land together. Even my mom is now spiritually motivated to read the Bible more often and able to see ways she can improve her life as a disciple as well.”

2017-05-03 12.46.32-3.jpgChristina and her mother, Joyce Bishop, on Mt. Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean.

Christina shared her biggest surprise, “It was so much more spiritual than I expected!”  She continued, “Dr. D’Ambrosio really brings home the point that Jesus is still alive today in the people we encounter and people in need.  We witnessed this visiting an orphanage in Bethlehem and a store owned by Palestinian Christians. We traced His path, carried our crosses, and offered them to Jesus at the tomb.  We learned, asked a lot of questions and got answers on the spot, we sang, went to Mass, prayed for each other and above all, reflected on our lives.  It was the experience of a lifetime.”

Expanding on her trip experiences, Christina explains that each site offered the opportunity to renew one’s Sacraments; Baptism and Confirmation at the Jordan River, Marriage in Cana, Anointing of the Sick at the site of the Transfiguration, and Confession.  We arrived as strangers with 39 people and felt we were brothers and sisters with everyone on the trip.  “It was truly a mountaintop experience – a way to reignite the holy spirit in my life and assess my role as a disciple,” she adds.

renewing wedding vows.jpgRenewing vows

The next Holy Land adventure course to Israel and Palestine begins on December 27, 2017, and concludes on January 6, 2018, but it really doesn’t end.  Your return will mark a new beginning — you will never read the Bible or participate in the Eucharist in the same way ever again.


Students may take the trip to the Holy Land as part of a course at CDU. Prior to and subsequent to the trip, there will be some fascinating reading and online discussion, which will be the basis for a term paper to be submitted at the end of the 8-week class.

Group Picture from Mt. of Olives.jpgGroup at Mount of Olives

Learn more about future CDU course trips to the Holy Land HERE.

Learn more about future CDU course trips to Italy HERE.

Future Holy Land Pilgrimages by Dr. Italy:

Dates & info on Dec 2017/Jan 2016 HERE.

Dates & info on Spring 2018 Pilgrimage HERE.

DSC_0009.jpgDr. D’Ambrosio on the Mt. of the Beatitudes answering questions.

CDU Student Gets Creative to Earn a Catholic Art Education.

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Mon, Jun 05, 2017 @ 04:41 PM

Jacqueline Renee Del Curto’s higher education involved three schools and four countries.

She began her education in Liberal Arts at Holy Cross College and at Thomas More College in New Hampshire before adding a semester abroad in Rome.  Jacqueline had always desired a Catholic education for her mind, and a technical artistic education for her hands. Eying the art scene in Florence, she transferred to CDU’s BA in Theology completion program so she could enroll in the Russian Academy of Art Program in Florence.  Jacqueline studied drawing and painting, earning a program certificate before apprenticing for 6 months with a Catholic artist, James Gillick in England.   CDU gave Jacqueline academic opportunity to earn a Catholic degree while tecnically studying art around the globe.  She completed her studies in 2015 and is now teaching art and taking on commissions.  Jacqueline shares her vision on a recent commissioned painting for a mission parish in French Camp, California.  It is called “My Good Shepherd.”


  1. Coat of Arms, Vatican City 
  2. Immaculate Heart of Mary: family devotion of patron.
  3. Official seal of San Joaquin County
  4. Madonna lilies (Lilium candidum): symbol of purity and innocence. The Madonna lily is most likely the inspiration behind the fleur-de-lis symbol, and traditionally represents the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 
  5. Beaver: tribute to historic French Camp. Affiliated with the California Fur Rush, French Camp was also referred to as “castoria,” deriving from the Latin word “castor,” meaning “beaver.” 
  6. Peacock: symbol of immortality and the Resurrection. The ancient Greeks believed the flesh of the peacock did not decay after death, ultimately making the bird a Christian symbol of hope in eternal life. 
  7. California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica)
  8. Hand Gesture: sign of blessing. Originally derived from a gesture used in ancient Rome to indicate speaking (adlocutio), the gesture containing two raised fingers gained popularity as a Christian symbol in art after Constantine's issue of the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. 
  9. Palm Branch: symbol of victory. Awarded to ancient Greek athletes and used in ancient Rome as an attribute of Victory personified, the palm branch evolved into a symbol of victory over the bondage of sin.
  10. Coat of Arms, Florence, Italy: tribute to where artist Jacqueline R. Del Curto studied drawing and painting. The Florentine fleur-de-lis contains stamens interposed between its petals, in contrast to French fleur-de-lis, which contain only petals. 
  11. Sacred Heart of Jesus: family devotion of patron. 
  12. Official seal of the Diocese of Stockton
  13. Pomegranate (Punica granatum): symbol of prosperity and fertility across different cultures since antiquity because of its bountiful seeds and affiliation with the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone.

New Courses in Faith, Spirituality, Ethics and Salvation Expand Minds of the Church.

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Mon, Jun 05, 2017 @ 04:36 PM

DAmbrosio-1.jpgThe Catholic Theological Tradition | Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio

Ignite your passion, curiosity and appetite to learn more about the Catholic Faith with a survey of Christian theology as it developed historically from the end of New Testament times to Vatican II.  Examine several debated key issues in each epoch, meet some of history's most famous [and infamous!] theologians, and come to understand their sometimes contradictory, sometimes complementary, ways of thinking about God.  Master the chronological framework that gives coherence to all theological history and knowledge, while learning about critical moments in Church history.

This new course includes 58 compelling videos, interactive student Q&As, an interactive timeline, selected readings, class discussions, and assignments, researched and lead by Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio.  (To sample a video lecture, click here.  A comprehensive overview of the Catholic Faith, this new course is a pre-requisite for a graduate-level education and should be essential knowledge for all Catholics.  Explore courses for Summer II and enroll before July 3.

aaron.jpgEthics Philosophy Course | Dr. Aaron Urbanczyk

Students will explore moral philosophy and the concepts of good as applied to human action in the new undergraduate course Ethics (Phil 311). What does it mean for humans to live a moral life? Questions like this one will be considered as students read the primary texts of certain philosophical masters of ethics, including Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Kant.

cbrown.jpgApplied Catholic Spirituality | Dr. Carole Brown

 Learn to apply the practical skills needed to enrich your spiritual life! Applied Catholic Spirituality will begin with the teachings of Christ recorded in the Gospels and explore the three stages of spiritual life, St. John Paul II’s teachings on personal conversion, as well as the rich variety of Christian practices illustrated in the lives and teachings of the saints. This course is offered at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Explore courses for Fall.


Dr. Peter Brown.jpgScripture and Salvation History | Dr. Peter Brown

Journey through the Bible to understand critical interpretive issues.  Wrestle with disputed questions as you learn to view the Bible as a unified and coherent story with profound implications for today. Scripture and Salvation History covers the story of creation and the fall, through God’s promise to Abraham, the covenant with Israel at Sinai and Deuteronomy and the eventual collapse of the Davidic Kingdom under the Deuteronomic covenant. The course crescendos with the solution to the problems of the law in the Old Testament and the eventual fulfillment of God’s promises through the person and work of Jesus Christ and his Church.

Deacon Bill Smith Honored with Stephens Award

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Mon, Jun 05, 2017 @ 04:22 PM

Deacon Bill Smith, DMin., and CDU Master of Theology - 2008, has been awarded the first “Stephen Award” by Deacon Digest. The Stephen Award, named for St. Stephen, deacon and martyr, is open to all 16,000 deacons in the USA and is presented for diaconal service. Bill, a deacon serving the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was selected for his service as volunteer Chief of Staff of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (, which serves the prison inmate population of California and the juvenile hall inmates in Los Angeles County.

Why Do We Need the Church?

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Mon, Jun 05, 2017 @ 04:16 PM

This unique seminar will help you stand for Christ, learn to counsel the doubtful, and instruct the uninformed.

Many people today consider themselves to be “spiritual” but not “religious.” Surveys show that over half of American adults do not regularly attend church, and only 20% of Catholics born after 1970 attend Mass. Surprisingly, about two-thirds of those who do not attend church believe that God exists and consider themselves to be Christian, yet they see little value in attending Mass. This likely includes some of your own family and friends. Therefore, the need to equip Catholics to credibly, convincingly, and compellingly explain and share why we need the Church, the sacraments, and the Mass has never been greater.


Enjoy the online seminar “Why Do We Need the Church?” with instructor Steven R. Hemler, president of the Catholic Apologetics Institute of North America (CAINA) and author of The Reality of God: The Layman's Guide to Scientific Evidence for the Creator. 

This apologetics seminar will help us respond to this alarming and growing trend by exploring key reasons why active involvement in the life of the Church, especially the Mass, is Christ’s will for his followers. All Catholics will appreciate this unique seminar as an opportunity to strengthen their faith and learn valuable information for sharing with family and friends who do not attend Mass.

Weekly Topics:

Week One: Why does the Church still matter today?

Week Two: Why are the sacraments important?

Week Three: Why go to Mass?

Enroll today in this three- week seminar that starts on July 3 and runs each week through July 24, 2017.  Register now!    

Where Are CDU Graduates Today?

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Mon, Jun 05, 2017 @ 03:30 PM

CDU graduates hear God’s call.  More than nine out of ten of our master’s degree graduates are currently serving in Church-related roles, and additional graduates have expressed the desire to do so after they retire.  CDU’s MA graduates share their knowledge in a variety of roles that serve others.

Graduate Tara Star of Brockport, Pennsylvania, is a Director of Religious Education for her parish.  Tara said that CDU did more than prepare her for her role, “The theological and Church history background I acquired at CDU has helped in my position as a DRE by providing the knowledge I need to run a formation program more effectively, but CDU made me realize of the depth of faith that exists and has existed for 2000+ years, in not just my own heart, but in the Church.  I want to go out and tell the world and spread the Good News! The connections I learned and made within CDU have shown me the true charitable and missionary spirit of the Catholic Church. The Lord truly has opened my eyes, ears, and heart, to see, hear, and love like Him. My realization of that is all from CDU.” Tara represents the majority of CDU graduates who share in the ministry by teaching others. 

Melicia-Marie Antonio explains how CDU Master’s degree helped her teach others as a philosophy and theology professor for young, lay consecrated women preparing for their life of ministry in Monterey, Mexico. “I understate myself when I say that my CDU courses helped me become a better teacher: I often took my CDU notes into the classroom and taught from them! Even the writing and dialogue techniques I learned in the online classrooms were transferred to my real-life job.”

DSCN8884.jpgMelcia Antonio

Today, Melica is working towards a doctorate in moral theology at the Pontifical University in Rome.  She says, “I can still affirm that my CDU classes were among the best I have received in my life. The professors helped me to open up my horizons and have confidence in my ability to learn. They also stressed the importance of bringing theology to your knees, praying about what you have learned and letting it transform you. These are lessons I continue to transmit in a variety of small ministries I help with, from leading retreats for college students to editing a spirituality bulletin, and that I hope to pass on to my students once I have my doctorate and begin teaching again.”

Many graduates fulfill their mission through the written word and communications roles. Adrian Marcellus in Kuala Lumpur says, "As the guest editor of a Catholic publication in Malaysia for 2017, my MA from CDU provides the necessary theological knowledge which enables me to faithfully perform my role."  Adrian works for Catholic Asia News which is distributed in Malaysia.

Adrian2.pngAdrian Marcellus

Todd Nolan from Ada, Michigan, is a columnist for the international website Catholic Stand; 17% of CDU graduates work in Catholic media.  Some graduates create their own platform, like Diana Ruzicka from New Market, Alabama.  She authored the book Apostolate for Redemptive Suffering.

Paloma Cabetas of Silver Spring, Maryland, unites Christians as the co-director of the Focolare Movement of North America. Paloma emphasizes that “CDU has been an enormous help in my new role.  In a lay leadership position that puts me in contact with very diverse people, my studies at CDU have given me a solid basis in Catholic Theology, Philosophy, and Scripture from which I can dialogue with others with a new confidence, better able to explain the tenets of my faith.  I am grateful to CDU for the quality of the education provided and the flexibility that allows people with busy schedules like mine to advance their studies.”

Palaoma photo.jpgPaloma Cabetas

Robert Braswell of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, understands the Church needs the support and knowledge of volunteers.  He serves as a volunteer member of his parish executive committee and pastoral council. 

Not forgetting underserved Catholics, Dr. Araceli Lardizabal, from Atascadero, California, counsels Catholic post-abortive women, as well as incarcerated persons and their families.  John Alber, a director in the Austin Diocese’s Cursillo Movement, also reaches out to prisoners as an RCIA teacher in Texas.

CDU graduate Deacon Gerald Roersma shares his passion for Scripture with the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I learned a great deal in my studies, not only what is written in Scripture and what it means, but more in depth matters like how it was handed down, how it was understood when originally written, how it has been understood in the past and how it is understood today. I am grateful to my professors and CDU for the education I received … they have certainly helped me in preparing my homilies.”

jerry R photo.jpgDeacon Gerald Roersma

Statistics on recent MA graduates:

  • 61% are facilitating adult education, Bible study, or other parish ministries.
  • 28% are directors or coordinators of religious education or faith formation programs.
  • 17% are working in communications media for the Church
  • 17% of CDU graduates are pursuing doctoral studies for advanced Church positions. 
  • 14% teaching the Catholic Faith in educational institutions 
  • 8% are Deacons or living consecrated lives.
  • 6% are involved with prison ministries.

Email us about your life and career journey.   We would like to stay close to our friends and graduates.  Please email Annie at with your preferred email address or any changes in your contact information

If you are a CDU graduate interested in joining CDU Alumni Chairman, Dr. Angelo Giardino to serve on an Alumni Committee to engage graduates across the globe, please contact Annie at

Save the Date!

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Thu, May 04, 2017 @ 11:20 AM

CDU’s Gala and Graduation Celebration will be Saturday, November 4th at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel. 

CDU is proud to announce our 2017 Founder’s Award Recipient: Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D.


Father Robert Spitzer is a Catholic Priest in the Jesuit order and is currently the President of the Magis Center and the Spitzer Center. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to meet and help us honor Father Spitzer at CDU’s Gala.

Former President of Gonzaga University, Father Spitzer is an amazing leader, personality, writer, and teacher.  You may recognize him from “Father Spitzer’s Universe” or another of the seven series he produced for EWTN.  You have probably seen one of his many TV appearances on: Larry King Live (debating Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow), the Today Show (debating on the topic of active euthanasia), The History Channel in “God and The Universe,” a multiple part PBS series “Closer to the Truth,” and the Hugh Hewitt Show.

Father Spitzer published 8 books and wrote the online Encyclopedia of Reason and Faith. He has also authored many scholarly articles and made hundreds of presentations to learned societies and government agencies both nationally and internationally.

With his academic specialties in philosophy of science, particularly space-time theory and transcendent implications of contemporary big bang cosmology, and organizational ethics and its relationship to personal and cultural transformation, Father Spitzer had an award-winning teaching career at Georgetown University, Seattle University and Gonzaga University. 

Along his journey, Father Spitzer also founded seven major national institutes!

As a valuable contributor to the CDU faculty, Father Spitzer designed the graduate course Evidence for the Existence of God.

Look for your Gala 2017 invitation soon. Please email if you have new contact information. 

grads 2.jpg

Pierre, Loverde, Lori, Wagner, Bianco.jpg

Marianne and Muffy (1).jpg

CDU Is Grateful to Our Donors

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Wed, May 03, 2017 @ 04:53 PM

CDU understands that you have many charitable choices.  We are honored and grateful for your continuing support and friendship.  CDU strives to offer the most affordable and accessible Catholic education and to reach underserved Catholics across the globe. We cannot do it without you.  Thank you for your continuing support!

Please remember CDU in your will and estate plans so that your legacy and the mission of CDU can continue for future generations.

Give online at or contact Annie at today.

Learn How to Respond to Challenges in This Complex World.

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Wed, May 03, 2017 @ 04:29 PM


It is not too late to join other passionate Catholics in the new continuing education course, Living Mercy: Social Teachings of the Church. This three-week interactive seminar, offered May 8-29, will be led by Instructor and Faculty Chair, Dr. Matthew Bunson.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church reminds us “the fundamental questions that accompany the human journey from the very beginning take on even greater significance in our own day, because of the enormity of the challenges, the novelty of the situations and the importance of the decisions facing modern generations."

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching, what has been called the Church’s “best kept secret.” Students will encounter the four pillars of Catholic Social Teaching, trace the history of Catholic social thought especially the key Church documents and papal encyclicals from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 to Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ in 2015, and develop an ability to apply these teachings to real-world situations.

Enroll now to participate in the Living Mercy: Social Teachings of the Church seminar.


Plan ahead!

The need for Catholics to credibly, convincingly, and compellingly explain and share why we need the Church, the sacraments, and the Mass has never been greater. Join the July 3-24 seminar, Why do we need the Church?with Instructor Steven R. Hemler, president of the Catholic Apologetics Institute of North America (CAINA) and author of The Reality of God: The Layman's Guide to Scientific Evidence for the Creator.

Enroll today in this seminar.


Mission Possible! Scholarships to educate leaders in Mission Dioceses.

Posted by Catholic Distance University on Wed, May 03, 2017 @ 04:19 PM

3A00E894626D43C49BD75BD11E23CCB4.jpgMany of the ninety US Mission Dioceses do not have local foundations or Catholic universities to support the basic educational needs for faith development.  Knowledgeable lay leaders can help overcome resource challenges and faith formation obstacles.  Fortunately, Catholic Distance University’s renowned faculty has the proven digital and theological expertise to reach and educate geographically and economically isolated students.   CDU shares joy through the Truth by providing Mission Diocese Scholarships to meet the growing need for knowledgeable lay leadership.

Heather Kimmerly, a current CDU Scholar, is dedicated to expanding the resources in her Mission Diocese of Fairbanks.  She plans to share her Masters of Theology education with teachers and families.

Heather currently serves as the Director of Religious Education at the St. Nicholas Parish in North Pole, Alaska.  Yes, right next to Santa’s headquarters, Heather makes sure Jesus’s presence is known by delivering faith formation services to families, children and adults.  The area is decorated with candy canes and all the trimmings, but has limited internet, no cable and spotty satellite service.  She uses town hot spots and her mobile phone to study.  Challenges are common in the Fairbanks Diocese; where a plane or boat is essential to visit other communities.

People who settle near Heather are diverse, non-traditional and independent minded, they don’t usually take the well-worn path. “I am bilingual with a master’s in education, I never thought I would be studying theology.” After experiencing a strong calling during a Bible study about Moses, Heather turned over her life to God.  “That’s how I came to CDU," she recalls, "I have seen Dr. D’Ambrosio speak in Alaska before, and I can’t believe I’m in his classroom now.”  Well-educated leaders, like Heather are essential for taking God’s Word to Catholics spread across 410,000 square miles of rough Alaskan terrain.  Heather is studying at CDU to follow God’s plan in the Mission Diocese of Fairbanks.

CDU is committed to supporting underserved communities.  As a non-profit, we appreciate donors who will help underwrite graduate degrees in Theology to develop future educators and lay leadership in Mission Dioceses.  The scholarship awardees are chosen by each Mission Diocese to fill its greatest needs.

Mission Scholars will join the growing number of CDU graduates who are serving the Church throughout the world.  Success of this scholarship program will be measured by the number of people who will be transformed by our graduates during their service to their diocese.  Scholars are ready to enroll.  Please contribute to the Mission Diocese Scholarship Fund.  Contact Annie at or 443-257-6022 for more information today.