Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity


OCPM Reflection: "The Legacy of Metropolitan Philip"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Together with our Orthodox brethren, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry reflects on the legacy of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip. He was instrumental in the development and growth of OCPM and has always been close to our hearts.

When OCPM Founder Fr Duane Pederson was ordained into the Orthodox Church in 1991, he had already been active in prison ministry for more than 25 years. It was with the blessing of Metropolitan Philip that Fr Duane continued to work in prison ministry after his ordination. "Usually you're ordained to an altar, to a parish," said Fr Duane. Yet His Eminence ordained Fr Duane to continue ministering to people in prison and on the streets. "His Eminence had the foresight to step out and include the incarcerated as part of the Church."

It was with Metropolitan Philip's blessing that men in prison were catechized. The Virginia H. Farah Foundation played a timely role by funding the costs of Orthodox books and icon cards that were sent into prisons. As a result, said Fr Duane, "All these prisoners started to become Orthodox. We began to find cradle Orthodox who had been hiding in the prisons as well."

Seeing that there were men in prison who wanted to be received into the Church, Metropolitan Philip gave Fr Duane a parish-one without walls-and named it Holy Apostle Silas. He gave Fr Duane an antimins (a consecrated altar cloth necessary for celebrating the Eucharist) to use when celebrating the liturgy in prisons. With his new parish Fr Duane was able to baptize men in prison. "His Eminence was willing to care for those who had no parish," said Fr Duane.

Interview Highlights Ongoing Efforts for Syria's Christians

The Website LevantReport.com with Managing Editor Brad Hoff published an interview on March 5, 2014 with The Very Rev. Joseph Huneycutt, pastor of the St. Joseph Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Houston, TX. Titled "Syrian Christians in a Time of Conflict," the interview comes over two years after Fr. Joseph traveled to Syria as part of an official delegation of American Antiochian Christian pastors and leaders sent to assess the situation of Syria's Christians. 

In December, St. Joseph in Houston sponsored a benefit concert, "Hope, Humanity, Healing,"  which raised $18,000.00. The proceeds were distributed to the suffering Syrian people through the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America's Sister Diocese of Bosra-Hauran, Jabal al-Arab, and the Golan in southern Syria, as well as through the St. Gregory Orthodox Society for the Elderly and Orphans in Damascus. In the interview, Fr. Joseph soberly notes that "...the Christian presence in southern Syria has diminished, the charitable support of refugees continues; those who remain live in danger every moment. It will take heroic hard work to rebuild – the land and the people – once this war comes to an end." Read the full text of the interview

 

House of Studies Alum Launches Affordable Counseling Ministry

Thanks to the distance-learning courses of the Antiochian House of Studies, the pastor of Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Anderson, South Carolina is a Certified Counselor and has opened an office for a marriage and family counseling ministry called "Teleios." The Very Rev. David Randolph was certified as a therapist after successfully completing the two year course in Pastoral Marriage and Family Counseling at the House of Studies.

"The course provided a solid academic foundation for professional of pastoral counseling and therapy," notes Fr. David. Following graduation and with the blessing of his bishop and the support and encouragement of the parish, Fr. David opened the counseling center. Ministry services include premarital counseling; assessment and treatment for children, adolescents, individuals, couples, and families; therapy to deal with marriage, parenting and child development issues; and help for substance abuse and emotional disorders. 

The ministry is designed provide therapy to those are not able to pay the fees of a state licensed therapist and the fee structure will be based upon a sliding scale. Any client whose needs are beyond the scope of "Teleios" will be referred to a licensed agency. For further information call Fr. David at: 864-224-7478 

"Blessings Beyond Bars" is New OCPM Lenten Youth Project

The Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) has launched "Blessings Beyond Bars," a Lenten youth project that teaches children and young adults about prison ministry. An organized lesson plan and do-it-yourself craft activity helps students turn shoeboxes into mock prison cells.  The lesson plan and step-by-step craft instructions are available at OCPM's Website.

Youth can also collect donations in the shoeboxes to help OCPM fill prisons with Bibles, prayer books, icons, and Orthodox books. This project can be done with your parish, Sunday School, youth group, family or friends during Lent.

Metropolitan Philip Inaugurates 2014 Food for Hungry People Campaign

Great Lent 2014

Beloved in the Lord:

Greetings and blessings to you as we enter this most holy season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

It is with the greatest joy that I write to you today to inaugurate the 2014 Food for Hungry People campaign. This year marks the 40th anniversary of this charitable drive. When reflecting on the past 40 years, I call to mind the countless charitable organizations and individuals that we have helped because of this fund. Through the efforts of our dedicated and long-standing chairlady, Miss Robin Nicholas, and by your generosity on the parish level, this drive has grown into a strong witness of our Holy Orthodox faith on this continent and throughout the world.

This year holds special significance as we continue to raise funds through various means to help those affected by the war in Syria. Through your contributions to FFHP over the years, we have helped many of the orphanages and other charitable organizations within Syria and throughout our Patriarchate and the entire the Middle East, in addition to our domestic charitable contributions. As we continue to witness the horrors of the war in Syria, please make a special effort this year to use FFHP to raise funds and awareness to the tragedy there so we can help those in need even more.

We urge you, during this season of prayer, self-discipline and fasting, to be very generous in your contribution to this campaign. As we practice the virtues which cleanse our souls, let us not forget or refrain from what St. John Chrysostom calls the “greatest of the virtues," giving to the poor. As important as prayer and fasting are, they are of no avail to us if we fail to give to those in need.

IOCC is Assisting in Evacuation of Syrians Fleeing Homs

February 12, 2014 (Baltimore, MD) Syrian civilians evacuated from the embattled city of Homs under a UN-negotiated cease-fire are being aided by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) as they flee to safety. IOCC and its church partner in Syria, The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), are in Homs assisting in the evacuation that began this weekend and are providing emergency relief to the Syrian people fleeing the city.

Among the evacuees were ten youths who were immediately taken to the nearest medical facility for needed vaccines and medical attention. IOCC/GOPA also assisted in providing the young evacuees with food, clothing, shoes, hygiene kits, and blankets.

Nearly 400 residents from the Homs neighborhoods of Alaqrabas, Jouret Shiah, Khalidiya, Karabis, and Bustan Al Diwan fled the city today on foot flanked by UN humanitarian vehicles for protection. Those who were not too weak from months of malnutrition walked for more than two hours before reaching safety.

New FOCUS Video Features Inner-City Food Program

A new video from the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) produced by award winning filmmaker Kevin Bryce, sheds light on American children who are hungry. Children in needy communities in America sometimes go a day or more without eating because their families can't afford groceries, and FOCUS is working to address that situation.

"For the Sake of Others:" Interview with Katrina Bitar

Katrina Bitar is the North America Program Director for YES, or Youth Equipped to Serve. A ministry of FOCUS North America, 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. A lifetime member of the Antiochian Archdiocese, Katrina began working with youth during her college years and eventually was tapped to head the YES program after graduating from St. Vladimir's Seminary in 2009. A look at her busy calendar for the first half of 2014 reveals that she will be involved with outreach efforts in Philadelphia, Montreal, Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids, Houston, Austin, and St. Louis. Antiochian.org asked her to introduce the work of YES and explain the impact it is having on the Church's youth.

What is your background, and how did you first get involved with YES?

I was born in Burbank, California, but spent most of my life in Little Falls, NJ. I discovered my youth ministry gifts while serving at the Antiochian Village as a counselor during my college years. In 2001, I took a job as a youth director for a parish in Phoenix, AZ that began my full-time youth ministry work. It was through my work as a parish youth director that I was introduced to the YES Program.

PBS Highlights IOCC Syrian Work and Refugee Plight

A January 24, 2014 story on the Religion & Ethics Newsweekly program, "Jordan's Syrian Refugees," was produced by the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS). The report featured the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) humanitarian response to Syrian refugees living in Jordan. A PBS team visited Syrian refugees living in a refugee camp and in the city of Amman and offered a firsthand look at the struggles and the heartaches of the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled their country's civil war.

IOCC Country Representative for Jordan Dimitrije Djukic, spoke with PBS reporter Kim Lawton about IOCC's role, and about the difficulties faced by the refugees, arriving at a rate of some 300 a day. "According to the UN High Commission for Refugees," noted Lawton, "almost 600,000 Syrians have officially registered as refugees in this nation of 6.6 million. But aid workers say at least the same number have not registered, largely out of fear of retaliation from Syria. The UN and international aid agencies have been working to meet the dire needs. Faith-based groups are actively mobilizing as well, and many religious leaders say they provide a unique contribution in the midst of the crisis." The United Nations, pointed out Lawton, has described the situation as “the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of modern times.”

Watch the program on PBS.

Help the Orphans of War in Syria

from the January 2014 edition of The Word:

Syria! The name itself inspires awe and wonder. Archaeologists have proven that Syria was the cradle of civilization, and where agriculture and trade routes appeared for the first time. Its capital – Damascus – is widely considered to be the world's oldest city. Antioch was also part of early Syria and was invaded by the Roman armies in 64 B.C., making it the third-largest city in the Roman empire. Syria continued to grow and become a major center of trade and industry in the ancient world.

After the ministry, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ, it was in Syria where a young man named Saul (who later took the name Paul) was converted on his way to Damascus. It was in Antioch where St. Paul set off on many of his journeys to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Antioch, "the disciples were first called Christians" (Acts 11:26).