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Encyclical for Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday 2020 from Archbishop Mark, Episcopal Liaison, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry

Sunday July 26, 2020

Prison Ministry Awareness 2020

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who suffer evil, as though you yourself were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3)

To the Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Pious Faithful of our Holy Orthodox Church in the United States:

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings and blessings to you all!

We are blessed to observe the Sunday before the feast of St. Silas, the patron saint of prison ministry, as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. This year we remember this sacred ministry on July 26, 2020. 

Over the last several months, our communities have suffered from isolation and division as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and now, the backlash of the tragic racial injustices in our society. With so many people suffering from anxiety, seperation, depression, and anger, how will the Lord answer our prayers for peace? Usually, as men and women living in the world, we can most readily find the Lord’s answer  in small, personal acts of love and mercy. 

He tells us very clearly how we are expected to treat and heal one another in Matthew 25: 

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

This mandate, like so much of the scripture, instructs us to proactively serve those in our community in love. Each of us can be the solution to the anxiety around us by doing the little things that are in our control with humility, empathy, and patience. 

Part of this calling to serve includes those who are in prison, where true, deep isolation has enveloped our brothers and sisters incarcerated. In prison, the simple acts of kindness are magnified: a letter to someone serving a long sentence, a Bible Study in the local jail, making the wife of a prisoner feel welcome in church. These are the acts of proactive mercy our Lord calls us to that Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry and many of our clergy and parishes participate in every day. 

As the Episcopal Moderator of Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, I respectfully request you observe this day of awareness. The Holy Orthodox Church, through Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, brings the mercy, forgiveness, and love of Christ to those people who need hope and healing living in the darkness of prison. 

As Saint John of Kronstadt states, “the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement.” Please remember and help our brothers and sisters in jails and prisons across the United States on July 26th. We humbly ask that after passing a tray for the ongoing work of your parish, you please pass a second tray on Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday for the work of the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry. 

With much love and thanks in our risen Lord,

†Archbishop Mark of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, OCA

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Nicholas Petrogeorge Appointed Executive Director of Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry

The Board of Trustees of Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM), an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishop of the United States of America, has announced the appointment of Nicholas Petrogeorge as Executive Director. Board Chairwoman, Eugenia Ordynsky, stated, “We are blessed to have a talent like Mr. Petrogeorge join OCPM as we implement our strategic plan and move to the next level.”

Nicholas comes to Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry with a decade of experience in non-profit leadership, fundraising, strategic planning, and program development. Nicholas has served as a Major Gifts Officer with FOCUS North America and most recently with Charlotte Rescue Mission. The son of a priest, he and his wife, Stephanie, reside in Charlotte, North Carolina and are members of St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church.

“Our Church acutely needs this ministry as it not only enables care for the incarcerated, but also provides a healthy challenge to serve and embrace all who come seeking the Lord, regardless of background. I look forward to building on the immense work of my predecessors,” Mr. Petrogeorge shared.

Mr. Petrogeorge succeeds Fr. Stephen Powley, who retired as Executive Director, but continues on staff at Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry as a prison ministry trainer and spiritual advisor. Fr. Stephen has served in prison ministry for 35 years, with most of those years as a career chaplain. The OCPM Board of Trustees is extremely grateful to Fr. Stephen for all of his hard work over the years on behalf of OCPM and looks forward to working with him further as he continues to train priests across the country.

Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry serves those who are incarcerated and their families, and provides resources, training and support to our ministry partners and shares the love of Christ and His Church with them so that lives are transformed, and God is glorified. Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry provides in-prison ministry, church outreach and training, aftercare, and correspondence programs to more than 3,400 men and women across the United States.