Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry will significantly increase one of its greatest resources this year, thanks to a new grant from The Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund. The grant enables OCPM to provide prison ministry training to Orthodox clergy in major metropolitan areas. The training covers important topics like what to do when a parishioner is arrested, how families and loved ones are affected when someone gets arrested or goes to prison, how parishes can reach out to parishioners who’ve been released from prison, and how to begin a prison ministry.
“Clergy are absolutely vital to OCPM’s work,” said Chaplain Patrick Tutella, OCPM Executive Director. “We receive letters from people in prison every day, many of whom are Orthodox and seeking repentance. They turn to OCPM for help in finding local Orthodox clergy. We also hear from many people in prison who want to learn about the Orthodox faith. More trained clergy means more imprisoned people can be ministered to, and the Orthodox who are serving time can participate in the sacramental life of the Church.”
OCPM hopes the trainings will lay a foundation for increased pastoral care and inspire new prison ministry teams of clergy and lay volunteers.
First Clergy Training Held in Houston
The first clergy training was held in Houston, Texas in February at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Clergy from four area parishes braved a tornado warning to attend the training, which was led by Tutella, OCPM Assistant Director Fr. Stephen Powley, and OCPM board member Fr. John Kowalczyk.
“The clergy training opened our eyes to a ministry that is often neglected,” said Fr. Daniel Payne, Associate Priest at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral. “We heard stories of transformation where the most hardened inmates had become Orthodox Christians, completely devoted to Christ. The Lord calls all of us to this sacred ministry of love. By visiting those who are in prison, we are actually visiting Christ.”
There are 26 correctional facilities in the Houston area where Orthodox Christians and those who would like to become Orthodox are incarcerated. “The presentations helped us to see the reality in which these men and women live and how to minister to them and their families while they are in prison and when they are released,” said Father Payne.
While in Houston, OCPM staff and board members met with dozens of clergy and laity from Orthodox parishes to discuss OCPM’s work. Interested volunteers signed up to join Houston’s prison ministry team, which now has more than 20 members.