St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary's

Certificate Program in Prison Ministry

Effective Leadership, Uniquely Orthodox

Develop Your Prison Ministry

The Certificate Program in Prison Ministry provides clergy and lay volunteers that are interested in prison ministry with the necessary knowledge and experience to effectively lead and support people in prison. Join OCPM and St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (STOTS) to be trained by the most experienced leaders in Orthodox prison ministry in the United States.

The program covers all essential aspects of prison ministry and combines theoretical knowledge with practical skills to ensure participants develop an Orthodox approach to the unique challenges faced in correctional settings. Through this program students will also learn how to assist families in coping with the challenges of having a loved one in prison, as well as how to assist clergy by offering guidance to deal with the unique needs that their parish may face because of incarceration. Through the integration of Orthodox principles and practical skills, certificate participants will be prepared to engage in meaningful prison ministry.

Besides gaining experience, graduates will obtain a unique certificate, allowing them to more easily find volunteer or career opportunities  in correctional facilities.

Our Partner

St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary is a fully accredited institution of professional Orthodox Christian theo­logical education, affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America. In a rural environment conducive to spiritual growth and academic study, the Seminary nurtures the theological vocations of its students and faculty, who share the unique opportunity of learning and teaching Orthodox theology in the framework of their daily experience of a rich heritage of Orthodox spiritual and liturgical tradition

STOTS and OCPM have a longstanding relationship, because the seminary is uniquely close to a state prison, SCI Waymart, where seminarians participate in a semester internship under the direction of Fr. John Kowalczyk. Over the past four decades, these institutions have grown to a mutually beneficial relationship: inmates are consoled by the frequent visits and services led by the seminarians, and the seminarians are spiritually moved by their encounters with those in prison.

Program Overview

The Certificate Program in Prison Ministry is divided into five lessons, each covering essential aspects of prison ministry, followed by an on-campus residency.

Lessons are delivered through in-person sessions, online lectures, virtual discussions, and practical assignments, to be completed over the course of one semester. The Certificate Program also includes a residency component that lasts for 7-10 days.

2024 Spring Semester Schedule

Orientation and lessons 1-4 are completed remotely (online).
Each lesson includes reading assignments, a study course, and an online lecture and discussion.
Lesson 5 includes at home reading, followed by an in-person lecture and discussion conducted during a 7-10 day residency. The residency will be on the campus of St. Tikhon’s with daily visits to SCI Waymart to receive real-world experience in visiting people in prison.

Lesson 1: February – Introduction to the Prison Landscape

Lesson 2: March – The Broken Person Seeking Truth

Lesson 3: April – Pastoral Care in Correctional Settings

Lesson 4: May – Family and Parish Trauma from Incarceration

Lesson 5: June – Self-Care and Burnout Prevention (during residency)

(Residency): June 16-22, 2024  – Immersive learning experience designed to provide hands-on training, practical application, and in-depth understanding. See more details below.

Program Costs

Application Fee: $50 (non-refundable)

Tuition Fee: $2,800

Residency Fee: $1,000 (includes Meal Plan & Housing) for June 16-22, 2024

Financial aid may be available. Please indicate your need in your application.

Residency at St. Tikhon's and SCI Waymart

Located just 10 minutes from a Pennsylvania state prison, SCI Waymart, St. Tikhon’s Seminary has long been a training ground for prison ministry in the Orthodox world. This residency program will have stay at the seminary in June for in-person studies, giving students the opportunity to spend quality time with their instructors.

Students will enter the prison daily as volunteers and shadow instructors as they make rounds, have short Bible studies, and practice “the ministry of presence”, talking with inmates, praying with them, and learning from them.

During the residency, students will also have afternoon and evening discussions and lectures and the opportunity to pray at St. Tikhon’s Monastery, which shares the same grounds.  

The Instructors

Very Rev. Fr. Stephen Powley

Co-Director of Training and Spiritual Care, OCPM

Fr. Stephen began serving as a Prison Chaplain in January of 1985. He has ministered in every prison security level, including serving 12 years at, ADX Florence, the most maximum-security prison in the U.S., before retiring from the Federal Bureau of Prisons in August of 2010. He joined OCPM as a founding Board Member in 2005 and served as the Executive Director from 2014 to 2019. Fr. Stephen has written training manuals for prison ministry and correspondence volunteers, as well as other theological works on the state of the prisoner. Fr. Stephen is the Proistamenos at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Pueblo, CO. 

Very Rev. Fr. John Kowalczyk

Interim Chair and Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology, Director of Field Education at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary

In his many roles, Fr. John Kowalczyk is the Co-Director of Training and Spiritual Care at OCPM. He graduated from St. Tikhon’s Seminary (1975), Marywood University (M.S. in Religious Education) (1981), and the Moscow Theological Academy (Candidate of Science in Theology) (1996), receiving full Privileges for group psychotherapy from Farview Hospital and Medical staff (1994). He currently serves as the Contract Chaplain at S.C.I. Waymart’s Forensic Treatment Center and since 1987 has completed over eight thousand Preliminary Religious Assessments on forensic inmates for the Treatment Team.

Guest Instructors

Very Rev. Fr. John Parker

Dean and Chief Operating Officer, St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary​

Fr. John Parker is the Dean of St Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He earned his MDiv from Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. After serving for a brief period as curate at Holy Cross Episcopal Church on Sullivan’s Island, SC, He and Matushka Jeanette, along with their two sons, embraced the Orthodox Faith in 2002. Fr John earned his MTh at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY, in 2004, and his DMin in 2018. He served as rector of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Mt Pleasant SC from 2003-2018.  Fr. John has a passion for evangelization; his heart for Prison Ministry began during those years in South Carolina through many jail and prison visits, and continues to this day.

Nicholas Petrogeorge

Executive Director, OCPM

Nicholas has served as the Executive Director of OCPM since 2020. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 in Journalism. His career has been at the crossroads of ministry and creating the administrative structures necessary for good ministry to thrive. His prior experience includes being a development officer at Charlotte Rescue Mission as well as several Orthodox organizations. Under Nicholas’ leadership, OCPM has grown from a small ministry of a few charismatic individuals into an institution of the Church that is constantly striving for maximum impact, efficiency, accountability, and leading the discovery of best practices in this ministry.

Mark Santana

Church Programs Manager, OCPM

Mark has lead church and volunteer engagement at OCPM since January 2023. Under Mark’s direction dozens of churches around the US have begun successful parish-based ministries, utilizing several well-developed success models. Mark began volunteering in prison ministry in 2011. He is passionate about helping men who were raised in fatherless homes to know their self-worth and has mentored dozens of men through their incarceration and re-entry upon release. Prior to working at OCPM, he had a successful career in law enforcement and corporate investigations.

Check Back in fall 2024 for Spring 2025 Semester

Applications for the spring semester 2024 are now closed as of DECEMBER 15th. 

To apply, fill out the form below. At the time of submitting an application, candidates will additionally need to submit:

  • A cover letter
  • Letter of recommendation from your priest or spiritual father
  • Pay a $50 non-refundable application fee at the end of the application or by clicking below
"Prison ministry demands that we step out of our comfort zones to meet our brothers and sisters in their cells. It is our calling and responsibility.​"
Dn. Toby John
Graduate, Certificate Program in Prison Ministry

"The simple things we do are not so simple."

An interview with Fr. John Kowalczyk on the nature of prison ministry.