“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’” Matthew 25:31-36
Diana had almost no connection to religion, but when Diana first heard this Gospel reading, something changed in her. She felt a deep longing to serve Christ, to be one of the sheep at His right hand. And because God had taken all of her “left turns” in life and embraced her anyway, of all “the least of these” Christ identifies with, Diana felt especially drawn to visiting the prisoner.
So Diana found a program to begin visiting prisoners through the mail. “For someone in prison,” she says, “there is nothing more humanizing than receiving a personal letter in the mail from a faithful friend in Christ.” As Diana’s own spiritual journey led her to Orthodoxy, she immediately sought out what the Orthodox Church, specifically, was doing for those in prison. That was when she found OCPM.
“I was so happy to find that the Orthodox Church had a prison ministry, to see that there is an open door for those in prison to the fullness of life in the Church, lasting human relationships, and a pathway to the sacraments.” By the grace of God, Diana now works for OCPM, helping others find the ministry that has helped her answer Christ’s call.
At OCPM, we are so grateful that God continues to connect people like Diana, who are called to serve prisoners, with people needing to be served. At retreats and lectures, our staff are often approached by someone with a brother in prison, a wife in prison, wondering how the Church can help them in their deep isolation. This is why spreading awareness of prison ministry is so important.
As Orthodox churches all across the country prepare for Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday on July 31, remember just how many people you are serving simply by speaking about prison ministry. Talking openly about this issue is itself a form of ministry, as families near you are suffering from shame that a loved one is in prison. You never know who in your parish may have someone they love behind bars—and you never know who, in your sharing of this ministry, Christ may call to serve.