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Beyond the Bars Blog

“I Look at the Rays of the Sun, and I See Christ”: A Reflection from Roy Azar

As OCPM’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, and one of OCPM’s newest staff members, I was very fortunate to recently travel to Pennsylvania to meet with our Director of Training and Spiritual Care, Fr. John Kowalczyk, and see him in “action.” For two days we visited SCI Waymart Correctional Facility with Fr. John as he made […]

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Beyond the Bars Blog BTB

Needing Help on All Sides: Counseling a Priest and a Family Through Tragedy

Fr. Makarios had to manage an unthinkable crisis: a young man from his Florida parish, under the influence of drugs was arrested and sentenced for the attempted murder of his own father. The tragedy rippled throughout his parish, damaging the sense of community that Fr. Makarios had been working to foster in his church. He […]

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Seeing Our Lord Face to Face

On July 31, 2022, the Sunday after the feast of St. Silas, the patron saint of prisoners, hundreds of Orthodox churches in the United States from all jurisdictions recognized Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday in a national effort to better serve our incarcerated brothers and sisters in Christ. Different parishes came up with different ways to […]

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Beyond the Bars Blog BTB

The Ministry of Spreading Awareness

“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 […]

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Beyond the Bars Blog

Johnny’s Long Walk Home

Johnny was in the prison library, looking for answers to his deepest spiritual questions, when he overheard a conversation two tables over. An Orthodox prisoner named Jesse was talking about the early Church. Johnny moved close enough to eavesdrop, an uncomfortable, even dangerous thing to do in prison. Johnny started asking him questions, which led […]

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Beyond the Bars Blog

St. Dismas the Good Thief

“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at [Jesus], saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but […]

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#AscendingTogether Part 3: Dn. Seraphim, Volunteer Prison Chaplain

When Deacon Seraphim Blackstock began visiting men in a Florida prison, he started out, in his own words, “very arrogant”.  “I went into the prisons with the idea I was helping these guys. They’re felons. They’ve committed horrible crimes. I’m doing them a big favor.” Dn. Seraphim would soon find out that there was much […]

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Beyond the Bars Blog BTB

#AscendingTogether Part 2: What Can Prisoners Teach Us About Repentance?

“God is the life of all free beings. He is the salvation of all, of believers and unbelievers, of the just and the unjust, of the pious and the impious, of those freed from the passions or caught up in them, of monks or those living in the world, of the educated or the illiterate, […]

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Beyond the Bars Blog

#AscendingTogether Part 1: Together with Christ in Prison

Where there is real humility, all bonds are made free.” -St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent “These inmates put my prayer life to shame.” -Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, after visiting a prison with OCPM’s Director of Training and Spiritual Care, Fr. Stephen Powley  John was sentenced to eighteen months in a medium security […]

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Beyond the Bars Blog BTB

Mentally Ill Prisoners: Icons of Christ

For nearly three years, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) staff have been regularly writing to a prisoner, whom I will call Michael, who lives in a state mental hospital and suffers from delusions. The staff send Michael personal letters, cards with pictures of nature and wildlife, icon cards and even funny illustrations. Often, Michael’s letters […]