Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday is May 20
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and South America has designated May 20 as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. Antiochian Archdiocese member Kory Warr is Chairman of the Board for the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM). He explains: "The sixth Sunday of Pascha was selected as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday because the prescribed epistle reading (Acts 16:16-34) describes the experience of Sts. Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail. This story is a clear reminder of the truth that the light of Christ shines in even the darkest of places, pouring forth healing and salvation. All of us who participate in the work of OCPM have, like Paul and Silas, encountered the transforming grace and power of God in places where despair and hopelessness seemed to have erected impregnable strongholds. By obeying His command to visit Him in prison, we have personally experienced the reality of Christ's decisive and eternal victory over sin and death. We invite every Orthodox Christian to experience the joy that comes from going into some of the darkest places on earth, and there meeting Christ face to face." (Download OCPM's bulletin inserts and posters for Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday.)
On May 3, 2012, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and South America released a statement about Prison Ministry Sunday:
I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
+Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom
May 20, 2012
To all of the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Churches in North America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
We, the Hierarchs of the Assembly of Bishops, are by the grace of God blessed to designate the Sixth Sunday of Pascha, which this year falls on May 20, as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. We embrace the diakonia of prison ministry in keeping with the example of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, Who in His earthly ministry preached His message of love and forgiveness to all sinners, even consorting with publicans and harlots, and saying that when we visit people who are in prison, we are visiting Him (Matthew 25:36).
As we prepare to partake of Christ’s Holy Body and Precious Blood at each Divine Liturgy, we pray a prayer in which we identify ourselves, as did the Holy Apostle Paul, as chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Many of those in prison have come to the same realization, and see themselves as the worst of sinners. The ministry of OCPM strives to guide them to the way of true life found in the Church, and to introduce them to the reality that, while they are indeed sinners, they can be set free from bondage to sin and death through the saving work of Jesus Christ. In so doing, we not only help these men and women who are exiled from the citizenship of this world to become better members of society, we also give them the opportunity to become citizens of heaven, opening to them the pathway to repentance and abundant life in Christ.
The Assembly of Bishops encourages the faithful to learn about prison ministry, to become involved in prison ministry, and to encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ who bring the Gospel of hope and salvation to the incarcerated.
Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) is the official prison ministry of the Assembly of Bishops. We ask all of our parishes to support OCPM, both financially and in other ways, as it carries out the work of the Church by visiting Christ in prison.
With paternal blessings and love in the Risen Christ,
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America