“I received a request to meet an Orthodox Christian inmate”
As I entered my office and I read my mail for the morning, I received a request to meet an Orthodox Christian inmate who had just arrived into our State Correction facility. I made a short walk to the unit he was assigned to and asked the officer in charge of the unit if I could meet this inmate in the day room. I waited in the day room until he had arrived and I greeted him and told him, “I’m an Orthodox Priest and chaplain and I’m here to meet your spiritual needs during your stay with us.” When I looked into his eyes, it captured for a moment his desire to want to change his life and his first words to me was; “Can you provide me with a Bible and a Holy Icon of Christ” The inmate began to tell me his story of attending the Divine Liturgy when he was young and how he would venerate the Holy Icons, and how this movement of making the sign of the cross, lighting a candle and kissing the Holy Icon would provide an enduring memory which was with him until this very moment. I promised to provide an Orthodox Study Bible for him and icons, both as a gift from our OCPM bookstore. When I told him, there was this organization; Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry and there were people who were committed to bring the Bible and Icons for him during his stay at this prison, he told me; “I can’t believe my ears, the Orthodox Church has not forgotten me in prison, in fact it has found me.”
I spent an hour with this new-found Orthodox inmate who was willing and eager to tell me his story of how he had drifted from Christ and the Orthodox Church and all the broken promises he has made and all the people he has hurt, it was a true moment in time I was witnessing, a beginning of a real repentance. “I was in Prison and you visited me” began to unfold again in my heart. Someone truly wants develop a new relationship with Jesus Christ and I became an unworthy witness of this new beginning. We ended the session with a prayer and a blessing over this child of God who is searching for forgiveness, meaning, purpose and direction in his life.
The challenge I present to you my dear reader, is when you support the mission of OCPM, your gift allows Holy Icons and the Orthodox Study Bible to be presented to the precious souls in Prison. When you make a commitment to OCPM you become a partner with us and you also will begin to take a spiritual inventory of your own life, realizing you also at different times have drifted from Christ and all the broken promises you also made, and all the people you also have hurt along the way. The real moment of commitment to OCPM is when you begin to realize how you take your Orthodox Church for granted and how the holy icons you venerate are always there for you, and how the Divine Liturgy unfolds before your eyes every Sunday and for some it is only a precious memory.
I spent sixty minutes with this new Orthodox inmate, your commitment and financial gift you can offer will only take you a few minutes. Allow Christ to open your heart today, and make a difference in the life of an inmate “who was lost and now is found” Join hands with OCPM and help us bring the light of Christ into the Prison Cell.
Fr. John Kowalczyk, (Chaplain)