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Deacon Noah on the Importance of Giving Monthly & Our Matthew 25:36 Fellowship

Dear Faithful Friends,

In the early 2000s I met Fr. Stephen Powley from Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry at a church college event and later we served together at the Antiochian Village Adventure camp. Hearing his incredible stories of prison ministry, my eyes were opened to the reality of Matthew 25:36, “I was in prison and you came to Me.” Until that time, I was always confused by this passage. I never knew anyone in prison, and being a naive young adult, I thought I never would. 

Fast-forward to a couple years ago and I heard a familiar voice on Ancient Faith Radio. It was Fr. Stephen, again talking about the importance of Matthew 25:36. He suggested that a monthly donation of $25.36, is a beautiful way to not only support prison ministry, but to also remember this verse each month and to pray for our brothers and sisters in prison. Liking round numbers my family and I chose a different amount to give each month, but the purpose remained the same. 

Our monthly Matthew 25:36 Fellowship gift to Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry is included in our monthly tithe. Under the direction of our spiritual fathers, most of our tithe goes to our parish community. But thankfully, we are also able to support some of the other important charitable ministries of our Church. By making smaller, regular donations it is possible to consistently spread our treasure to support Christian philanthropy. 

Having served as church treasurer, I know that monthly giving to OCPM is only too important. It helps them project revenue and cash flow and maintain good administration. Regular donations are the solid base of a healthy operating budget. From this foundation we look forward to seeing OCPM not only continue their good work but also grow in the years to come. 

In Christ, 

Dn. Noah Papas

Deacon Noah serves at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA where he lives with his wife Beth Ann and two young children Anthony (5) and Marina (3).

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Thank You For Your Support On Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday!

This past Sunday, Orthodox parishes all across the United States took part in Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. This day of awareness aims to inform Orthodox Christians on the ministerial work being done in prisons and how they can participate. 

The impact of this ministry is far-reaching and it transforms lives. Fully supported by the Orthodox faithful, we as a Church are able to meet the commandment of our Lord to “visit Him” in prison. We are so grateful to all the parishes that participated and passed a tray to support our work. The picture below is from our friend, Mark, who gave a talk at St. Ignatius in Franklin, TN – one of the many Orthodox parishes that took part in Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. 

And it’s not too late! Your parish can still do an awareness Sunday or you can still make a gift to support this vital work. Here are just a few figures to help show the importance of our ministry to those in prison.

Here are just a few figures to help show the importance of our ministry to those in prison.

Our 2020 Impact So Far

From January – July 2020, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry can report:

Mail & Replies Sent: 8,535
Packages of Spiritual Materials Sent: 498
Catechism Study Guides Sent: 219
Icons Sent: 8,638
Postcards/Weekly Letters Sent: 7,702
Bibles & Books Sent: 603

While Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday has passed, it is never too late to still support this ministry and play an integral part in ensuring that we as a Church are able to visit Christ in prison.

Give Now: https://theocpm.org/donate/

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OCPM Continues to Minister this Lent Despite COVID-19

First, thank you for your support throughout OCPM’s history. We continue to serve those who are incarcerated and their families, and provide resources, training and support to our ministry partners so that lives are transformed and God is glorified. Your support has made that possible.

As you may know, I was appointed as the new Executive Director of OCPM a month ago. In just a short, very intense time, this ministry has already touched me greatly and I feel humbled to be at the helm in this unusual time.

The coronavirus outbreak continues to rapidly evolve and expand, including in prisons across the country where inmates face dangerous confinement. In the midst of this stress, visitations from family and even chaplains have been cut off. Even so, OCPM is here providing comfort to our incarcerated brothers and sisters in Christ through our correspondence ministry.

OCPM maintains personal correspondence with over 3,000 Orthodox and inquiring inmates. To many, we are the only source of outside comfort and companionship in this time of quarantine.

One inmate who receives our correspondence shared, “I received your Bible study . . . I was very happy, excited, and grateful to receive it in a place where I am alone except with Christ.”

Your help is needed to ensure that this critical program will continue during this crisis.

Please consider making a gift to the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry at this time to help us meet these needs during this unprecedented time.

The most effective means of helping is both prayer and a financial donation. You can send a check or click the DONATE button at the top right corner of our website www.theOCPM.org. Your donation will directly ensure that people currently in deep physical isolation continue to receive hope and the unconditional love that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Again, thank you for your support.

In Christ,

Nicholas Petrogeorge

Executive Director

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Entering Lent Strong: 2020 OCPM Semi-Annual Board & Strategic Plan Meeting Complete

This year, from the 13th-15th of February, board members and staff met in person or by video conference in Houston, Texas working throughout each day towards implementing the vision of the OCPM mission: To serve those who are incarcerated and their families, and provide resources, training and support to our ministry partners.

Since last year, both board and staff members also began implementation of their strategic plan which intends to strengthen our ministry so we can better serve the men and women who are incarcerated and Christ.

Agendas pertaining to OCPM’s board and strategic plan were productive and successful. As we soon will start Lent and have a long year left, the OCPM is prepared to serve those who are incarcerated and inspire those who are not to remember them as Christ asked us to.

 

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Fr. John Kowalczyk delivers workshop at Drexel Medical College

For the third year in a row, Fr. John Kowalczyk gave a three hour workshop at the Drexel Medical College 27th Forensic Conference, held on Wednesday, December 4th 2019.

Fr. John Kowalczyk stated the following: “Working with mentally ill inmates who are in the (RHU) Restricted Housing Unit or Solitary Confinement, one will be confronted with inmates who have been isolated from the normal prison setting.” Fr. Kowalczyk stated, “One has to minister with compassion and unconditional positive regard with an open heart and become an instrument in restoring his humanity with kindness and dignity. This restoration will aid and help restore purpose, direction and meaning into his already broken life.” Fr. John has been involved in this “Out-of-Cell” program with inmates for the past five years in SCI Waymart.

During the Three Hour Workshop, Fr. John made the following five educational objectives:

  1. Examine the trauma of the mentally ill inmate who finds himself in solitary confinement.
  2. Explore the impact of a chaplain with a caring heart as a necessary tool to work through this isolation of the RHU.
  3. Analyze the concept of guilt and feeling of helplessness from a spiritual dynamic when the mentally ill inmate finds himself isolated, broken and separated from his familiar mental health unit.
  4. Recognize the importance of offering prayer when one appears out-of-control and the life of the inmate appears unmanageable.
  5. Integrate positive memories and family religious celebrations as a means of healing during this time of isolation and try to maintain this caring and pastoral relationship.

 

 

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Fr. Stephen’s Interview at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

Fr. Stephen Powley and Fr. John Kowalczyk recently visited St. Tikhon’s Seminary to present OCPM to the seminarians and minister at the local prison.

The St. Tikhon’s Seminary hosts an Ancient Faith Podcast series called “The Spirit of Saint Tikhon’s” where Fr. Stephen spoke about the powerful work of the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry. Listen to the  interview Father had with Subdeacon Maximos by using the following link:

https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/sost/meet_fr_stephen_powley_from_ocpm

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Fr. Stephen Powley and Fr. John Kowalczyk Visit St. Tikhon’s Seminary to Present OCPM & Minister

Every year, OCPM Fr. Stephen Powley and Fr. John Kowalczyk make a trip to St. Tikhon’s Seminary. This year Fr. Stephen was able to visit with his wife, Ashley. As always, it was reported that their “hospitality was beyond words” as they were kindly provided a room and meals. This year, the visit took place from October 1-5.

Fr. John Parker, the Dean and Chief Operating Officer of the seminary has been involved with prison ministry as a parish priest visiting death row among other security levels.

Fr. Stephen gave a PowerPoint presentation to the seminarians. He reported that:

“As always, it was a wonderful time of sharing with them and seeing their excitement for prison ministry. These are future parish leaders and they are receiving an excellent prison ministry field education experience while at St. Tikhon’s.”

Here is the write up on their website from one of their seminarians: https://www.stots.edu/news_191004_1

TALES OF MIRACLES IN PRISON MINISTRY: OCPM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VISITS STOTS

STM Refectory

10/2/2019

By: Subdeacon Peter Simko (‘21)


Saint Tikhon’s welcomed Father Stephen Powley, parish priest of Saint John’s Greek Orthodox Church in Pueblo, Colorado, and Executive Director of Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM).  He discussed the reality of incarceration in the United States compared to other places in the world, as well as his own story of becoming a chaplain. He explained the experience prisoners have with combating the “flames of hell” as they seek to ascend the ladder toward the embrace of the Lord.  The prisoners who seek Christ see His blood as extinguishing those flames.


Having been accepted as a chaplain, Fr. Stephen was told by a warden to “go do what chaplains do” (without much idea as to what that should be). The voice of Christ pushed him not to fear, but to engage the prisoners and embrace their personhood. Fr. Stephen explained that in ministering to those in prison, we are visiting and serving Jesus Himself.


Fr. Stephen noted, “the Orthodox Church has been on a collision course with people going into and coming out of prisons and jails.” He further explained how fallen men and women–terrible criminals, even–can and do become Saints. He used Saint Moses the Strong of Ethiopia as a prime example. Father spoke of the incredible transformations that he has experienced in his time working with prisoners–with both social and spiritual re-orientations. Fr. Stephen reminded the students that “a welcoming Church sees each individual as a person made in the image and likeness of God; it has unconditional love, trust, and realistic expectations.”
Fr. Stephen spoke about an encounter he had in the chapel of Hosios Loukas Monastery. While praying, Fr. Stephen had a vision of a man locked up in a supermax prison. He eventually found that man and told him about his experience. The man had never expressed interest in Orthodox Christianity before, but after being introduced to the Faith by Fr. Stephen, the prisoner embraced the Truth of the Church.


He told us about His Eminence, Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, tonsuring several life-sentence prisoners with developed spiritual lives into the monastic life. One prisoner, influenced by these new monks and their excitement for Great Lent, fasted for days and experienced a bright Woman as if in a dream, asking him to take her Baby. Father Stephen explained to the inmate that the Theotokos seemed to be asking the man to accept the Lord. Metropolitan Isaiah, after hearing the story, remained silent. He then turned to Fr. Stephen and said, “baptize him.”  The inmate also desired this, and he entered into the Holy Church.


Fr. Stephen showed the seminarians a photo of what a baptism looks like within a prison. The students asked Father about how a new priest can get involved in prison ministry.  He explained that the easiest way is to connect with a local incarcerated Orthodox Christian, but you can also connect with a local chaplain for a prison–and perhaps suggest teaching a course to inmates on Early Church history. Father reminded everyone that Saint Tikhon’s and OCPM have been working together for many years, and that Father John Kowalczyk is helping lead an exceptional program at the seminary. We are so grateful to the wonderful leaders who help lead the way for future clergy in ministering to those in prison.

Fr. John Kowalczyk, Fr. John Parker, and Fr. Stephen visited the prison where Fr. John Parker serves as Chaplain. Fr. Stephen reported back this wonderful story:

“We first met with the administrators of the prison, who all sang the praises of Fr. John’s work there. We made rounds and spoke with many of the men he ministers to each week. At one unit we visited with several men and one of them was a young man that I had met a few years ago. At that time, this young man was in trouble and it looked like he would have to do time in disciplinary segregation. Fr. John had been teaching him the Jesus Prayer and I was able to assist with that during my visit. When he appeared before the disciplinary committee, they asked him what he had to say. He bowed his head, made the sign of the cross, and said the Jesus Prayer. They did not punish him with segregation. Since that time, I am blessed to meet with him each time I visit there. This year was most humbling. Through his good behavior, he has moved to lower security. When we met, he opened our time with prayer…yes, the Jesus Prayer.”

We would truly like to thank Fr. John for his wonderful hospitality and for his beautiful ministry. He is a blessing to all the OCPM family.

 

In Christ,

The OCPM

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OCPM Attends Meeting Regarding the Homeless at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Last week, 10 pan-Orthodox ministries came together at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese for a two-day meeting addressing homelessness. Executive Director Fr. Stephen Powley and Director of Operations Paul Politis represented the OCPM.

There were three main objectives purposed:

  1. To learn from one another, highlight strengths and areas for growth, and create ties for greater collaboration by establishing a common language and approach when educating our faithful about and responding to homelessness and poverty;
  2. To develop and release a comprehensive report detailing the work of each organization, including information for parishes and the faithful on “getting involved”;
  3. To capitalize on the collective experiences and data of the organizations present and create educational resources for the faithful to learn about homelessness and poverty in the USA. The goal is to destigmatize those who live in poverty and create a foundation for more compassionate and knowledgeable service provisions.

The meeting was headed up by Nicholas Anton, the Director of the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical, and Inter-Faith Relations for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and by Spyridoula Fotinis the Programs Coordinator for this department.

Fr. Stephen and Paul were able to present what can happen to men and women coming out of prison when the Church is not there for them. As well, they also presented the great need that exists for families of those sent to prison. They also presented the positive side of what can happen to men and women when the Church is there for them when they are released from prison.

All the ministries provided a great deal of information and inspiration. They also shared some of the outstanding work with homeless folks going on across the country. OCPM may be able to place some folks coming out of prison with some of these ministries as we move forward.

Here is the common multi-faceted understanding that we arrived at:

“As Orthodox Christians, we are called to love our neighbors by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, etc. (Matthew 25:35-40) in a relational way that recognizes the humanity of each person. The value and dignity of each person must be recognized in every moment of serving another human being. Our theology and identity as Orthodox Christians inspires and informs our witness as opposed to witness for recruitment or proselytization. Instead, we must be the Church and shine Christ’s love in our service to others through Christ-centered empowerment, illuminated by the relational nature of the Eucharist. We recognize that we are each broken and are all spiritually homeless in need of Christ. Beyond a physical house to find shelter in, each person requires to be served as a whole human being in need of a home; spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally with dignity and respect.”

The results of the two days of meetings will be forwarded to the Church and Society Committee of the Assembly of Bishops USA for further review and possible adoption.

In Christ,

The OCPM

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Fr. Stephen Represents OCPM as Keynote for Youth and Family Conference in Dallas Texas

Father Stephen Powley was recently the keynote speaker for the Youth and Family Conference hosted this year in Dallas, Texas from July 25-27. Father addressed their younger-aged group of around 150 people aged 15-32 years old. 

The conference, which saw around 550 people, was themed “Celebrating the Abundant Life: The Orthodox Christian Way.” Father Stephen spoke three times additional times, hosted a workshop, and addressed the conference during the opening ceremony and panel discussion.

Father gave three talks with three PowerPoints which all dealt with what is or is not an abundant life in Christ and how people in prison are finding and living that abundant life in Christ. 

Here are the titles of the sessions with theme THE ABUNDANT LIFE:

Session #1 – IS IT ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE OR WHO YOU ARE IN LIFE?

Session #2 – IS IT ABOUT WHAT YOU OWN OR HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE?

Session #3 – WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GREATEST OBSTACLES THAT CAN HINDER OR DESTROY OUR ABUNDANT LIFE IN CHRIST? IS THE ABUNDANT LIFE ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW OR WHAT GROUP YOU BELONG TO?

For the workshop, Father Stephen used our new OCPM book: The Prison Diary of Saint Perpetua with a manuscript emailed out to all the attendees. This primed the many who attended the workshop. Father reports they “were so very attentive throughout each presentation. These young people continue to amaze me in their desire to serve the Lord and make a difference in this world.”

At the very end, the conference presented Father Stephen and OCPM with a check for $2000!

The OCPM is truly thankful for the gracious hospitality and generous donation to this ministry!

In Christ,

The OCPM Team

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St. Christopher Hellenic Orthodox Church Makes Significant Commitment to OCPM

This past Sunday was Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday (PMAS), a day where parishes and parishioners highlighted the powerful work of prison ministries. Many churches passed an additional tray on that Sunday and sent the donations to OCPM so we can continue in our mission of servicing the incarcerated and their families as well as providing resources, training, and support to our ministry partners.

We wanted to highlight the special commitment towards advancing prison ministry made by Saint Christopher Hellenic Orthodox Church in Peachtree City, GA. This Church, led by Fr. George Tsahakis, chose to help OCPM with generous donations for ALL Sundays in June!

This aid is provided by the Hands of Love Ministry, which is the outreach arm of their church that assists ministries that work with the poor, needy, and rejected people of our world.

We wanted to thank St. Christopher’s Church for this more than generous commitment. We look forward to how many more people will have orthodoxy and Christ made available to them because of this level of support.

Though PMAS has passed, it’s never too late to give or spread awareness. Below you can find links of materials used on that day:

Father Stephen’s Prison Ministry Awareness Letter

Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday Poster

Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday Homilies

 

You can also donate by sending checks to:

OCPM

P.O. Box 1597   

New York, NY 10025

 

Or online at:

Theocpm.org/donate

PayPal.me/theocpm