"Remember those in prison": Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry Update
The Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) is the official prison ministry of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. It was started in 1991 by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, who asked Antiochian priest Fr. Duane Pederson to establish a prison ministry for the Antiochian Archdiocese. The ministry continued unabated until 2005, when His Eminence offered the Archdiocese’s prison ministry to the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA). OCPM became an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops after that body was established in 2009.
On July 26, 2012, at the Fourth Annual National Convocation in Minneapolis/St. Paul, the board and the staff of OCPM awarded Fr. Duane Pederson the Matthew 25:36 award, recognizing his lifetime of dedicated service to those in prison, and to those among the homeless population. Award presenters noted Fr. Duane's forty-plus years of prison ministry outreach, as well as his role in the founding of OCPM.
Earlier this year, OCPM remodeled its website, allowing Orthodox Christians a fresh look at their work of outreach and consolation to those behind bars. Visitors to the site can access video and audio related to the work of OCPM, and read stories and first-person accounts of lives who've been changed by the ministry. The site also hosts resources for clergy and laypeople who are involved in prison ministry.
Their website reports these Quick Facts:
- OCPM ministers to nearly 1,000 men and women who are in prison or who have recently been released. Many have embraced the Orthodox Faith, while others who were already Orthodox found their way back to The Church.
- Five men have been tonsured Orthodox monks in prison and several others have become Iconographers.
- There are currently over 300 Orthodox catechumens in jails and prisons across America.
- Many of the men and women whose lives have been touched by OCPM are now out of prison and leading productive, Christ-centered lives as active members of their local parishes.
- OCPM has published 8 books and distributed more than one million copies to prisons.
- Over two million icon prayer cards have been printed and distributed.
- OCPM ministers monthly to more than 300 homeless and needy people, including families of those in prison.
- OCPM sends more than 5,000 personal letters to those in prison each year offering them spiritual guidance and hope.