Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
Ministering to those behind bars, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministries (OCPM) was founded in 1991 by Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory, who asked highly experienced prison minister Fr. Duane Pederson to coordinate the effort. Now headed by Fr. Stephen Powley, OCPM is an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, and it continues to build on Father Duane's vision of ministering to prisoners and their families by mobilizing the Church.
Recently, OCPM launched a revamped website, theocpm.org. A recent post in the new "Latest News" column, for instance, shares a letter received by OCPM by a prisoner serving a life sentence.
Other features include:
The month of December every year is designated as Order of St. Ignatius month, in conjunction with the feast day of St. Ignatius on December 20. The Order is the philanthropic arm of the Antiochian Archdiocese and one of its most vital lay ministries, under the guidance of Metropolitan Joseph and the Archdiocese Board of Trustees. Currently, there are nearly 3,000 active members supporting approximately 38% of the Archdiocese's budget, as well as a host of other worthy causes including: camping and college conference scholarships, married seminarian assistance, Antiochian Village, Teen SOYO Special Olympics, theological and religious education, clergy retirement, Project Mexico, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), The Treehouse Family Ministry, and Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF).
Dr. Elias K. Hebeka, the North America Vice-Chair for the Order, wrote in December 2012's The Word magazine that the Order's Governing Council "is a group of volunteers, elected or appointed members of our Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, that has the responsibility to make many of the important decisions for the Order.
This reflection was written by Fr. John Chagnon of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in St. Paul, MN, about a missions trip in which he and Fr. George Dahdouh of St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, TX travelled to Africa to minister to the Ugandan Orthodox Church. The article was originally published on November 25, 2014, in the Orthodox Christian Mission Center News.
Uganda is an Oregon-sized country in East Africa, 20 hours away by air and nine time zones ahead of us, and yet, by Faith we are family. Since just after World War II, canonical Orthodoxy has been part of the life of Uganda, spread not by missionaries but rather by Ugandans themselves who sought out and found the apostolic Christian Faith they were seeking, a Faith they chose rather than accept the faiths of the colonial powers that ruled them until the early 1960's.
The Ugandan Orthodox Church is led by His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, himself the son of the leader of those who discovered Orthodoxy and brought it to Uganda. It is a young church, vital, and working in a culture where old and new are intertwined and some traditional brick houses have solar panels to make sure the cell phones are charged every night.
Every year, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America designates the Sunday before the celebration of Thanksgiving Day as a "Day of Sharing" to benefit the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). The official humanitarian aid agency of the Assembly, the IOCC is supported by generous donations from Orthodox Christians. Information about IOCC Sunday, including the Assembly of Bishops encyclical, Sunday bulletin inserts, a donation portal, and links for volunteering with the IOCC, are available on the IOCC Sunday landing page.
The IOCC has provided emergency aid, development tools, and resources to the needy around the world since 1992, and currently serves over 50 nations. The relief organization has been particularly active in recent years in the Middle East, alleviating the suffering caused by the ongoing strife in Gaza and in Syria, where people have lived for several years under civil war.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is working to promote literacy and learning for underserved youth in America. More than $773,000 in new books and reading materials were distributed by IOCC recently to children participating in tutoring, after school and early childhood education programs in four of the six states with the highest poverty rates in the United States – states that also rank near the bottom in educational outcomes for their children.
IOCC's U.S. Program provided brand new books and educational materials to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and New Mexico – states where nearly one in five families fall below the poverty level of $23,834 for a family of four. Books have also been provided for Detroit area children through the Council of Orthodox Churches of Detroit and for Alaska's underserved children through the Orthodox Church in America's Diocese of Sitka and Alaska. In Detroit, more than one in four families and a staggering 39% of children live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.
A ministry of FOCUS North America, the Youth Equipped to Serve program, or YES, provides opportunities for junior high and high school students to participate in formative weekends of service in urban environments across the U.S. and Canada.
Weekend service trips scheduled for the fall are as follows:
YES OTTAWA, ON- October 4th
YES DETROIT, MI- November 7-9
YES PHOENIX, AZ- November 21-23
YES AKRON, OH- December 5-7
YES PROVIDENCE, RI- December 12-14
A list of upcoming YES trips and information is provided on their website. For more information about the program, read an interview with North America Program Director, Katrina Bitar, or contact her via email.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) remind us that with the new school year, Syrian refugee students are in need of supplies and hygeine items. The notebooks and pencils in the IOCC School Kits provide tools needed to continue learning, while the items in the Hygiene Kits help children maintain their health and dignity. The following IOCC-sponsored kits are offered:
SCHOOL KITS — Imagine going to school without pencil and paper. Children in many of the countries where IOCC works don't have even the most basic of these school supplies. By putting together a School Kit, you can give a less fortunate child the tools needed to succeed in school.
HYGIENE KITS —Basic items like a bar of soap, wash cloth, comb, and bandaids may seem small, but putting them all together in a Hygiene Kit can make an instant difference in an ongoing development program or when disaster strikes.
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Living conditions for thousands of displaced families in the Gaza Strip are rapidly deteriorating as families uprooted from their homes and forced to find shelter now face a shortage of water as well as decreasing access to food. The recent escalation of the conflict has destroyed Gaza's power plant and civilian infrastructure, depriving vulnerable Gazans of the most basic needs and adding to the misery of more than half a million people displaced across the densely populated territory.
Many of the displaced families have sought refuge at schools, mosques, and churches, including St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Christian Church in the Az Zaitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. More than 2,400 displaced children and their parents are sheltering at the church, sleeping in the community center as well as outside in the church courtyard. International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) staff is on the ground in Gaza to provide humanitarian relief to families in urgent need of food and basic supplies.
IOCC distributed hot meals to hundreds of displaced families seeking refuge at the church, for many their first hot meal in weeks. "We were not able to provide meals like this," explained Hani, one of the church council members, who expressed gratitude for the critically-needed assistance. "With this support we are able to help feed these people who have come to us for help."
At the July 2014 Archdiocesan organizational meetings at the Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America (AOCWNA), represented by North American Board President Violet Robbat, and Vice President/Project Coordinator Dianne O'Regan, announced the total contributions received to date for the 2013-2014 Project: "Help the Orphans of War in Syria." On behalf of the Antiochian Women across North America, these women were honored to present a check to His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph for $283,055.55, the largest amount ever raised in a single year during the forty year history of the Antiochian Women!
The Children's Relief Fund (CRF), with Fr. George Rados as National Director, is a charity of the Antiochian Archdiocese that has been supporting the education of needy children in the Middle East through scholarships since 1983. In 2012 alone, the CRF assisted 420 young students with their schooling. Since 2012, the Fund has also been supporting the children of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The Fund facilitates sponsorships of individual children, and the entire donated gift amount is always distributed to the sponsored child. Sponsors may apply online, and will subsequently receive photos of their children, and information about their families and circumstances. Exchanging letters at Christmas time is encouraged, and for those who can travel to visit their children in Palestine or Lebanon, visits are possible.
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page of the recently remodeled CRF Website offers details on sponsorship, and points out that in addition to individual sponsors, groups such as SOYO may also sponsor children. Stirring testimonials and photos of children are also available.