New York, October 9, 2017
At present, there are more than 300 Orthodox catechumens in American jails and prisons, according to the Facebook page of the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM).
The OCMP is a an agency of the Assembly of Bishops with a mission “To bring the love of Christ to those who are in prison by providing encouragement, material support, transition and reintegration services, Christian education, spiritual guidance and the sacramental life of the Church.”
The site of the OCPM also notes that it ministers to nearly 1,000 men and women who have embraced the Orthodox faith, either through conversion or through finding their way back to the Church. Moreover, five men have been tonsured as Orthodox monks in prison, and several more have become iconographers.
The ministry consists of three programs: the in-prison ministry which provides Orthodox literature, icons, and catechism to those still in prison, and connects them with priests; the Church outreach and training program which educates and trains clergy and laity in prison ministry, provides ongoing guidance for such ministries, and disseminates publications to churches on public ministry; and the reintegration ministry which provides support and guidance to people coming out of prison.
The OCPM site includes many testimonials from those who have been touched by the ministry. One such testimonial reads:
Please accept this donation on behalf of xxxx. He was incarcerated on xxxxx for murder. This was devastating for him, the family of the victim, and for me. Out of this tragedy came a miracle when he decided to accept Christ into his life. He had always been intrigued by the Orthodox religion but had never been able to pursue it before. Reaching out to you to assist him during this difficult time has been such a blessing.
He wants to be a monk when he one day gets out of prison (God willing). The studies, Icons, and letters of encouragement have been getting my brother through each day. God bless you and all of the hands that have made this possible. We cannot thank you enough for what you are doing to help him grow spiritually and build his relationship with the Lord. I am excited that .... maybe he can be a light to other prisoners and I have you to thank for that.
For more information on the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, including how to get involved and how to support the ministry, see the OCPM site, and watch the video below in which OCPM Executive Director Fr. Stephen Powley shares the inspiring story of how he first got involved in prison ministry, and his several decades of serving, bringing the love of Christ to so many.