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Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry

Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) is the official prison ministry the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.

Prison is a very different world from the one those of us on the outside know: the lifestyle, the vocabulary and the rules of behavior are unique to prison culture. This distinct prison culture has developed because prisoners, by definition, are isolated from the outside world. Prisoners’ families, however, are similarly isolated from society by the economic difficulties, social stigma and overwhelming grief that attend the incarceration of a loved one. Every day of time a prisoner serves, his family serves with him.

Christ called us to proclaim the Gospel to all people (cf. Matthew 28:19). Many Christians in North America have accepted this charge with zeal, supporting missions and traveling to the far corners of the world to proclaim the truth of Christ in strange cultures. The prisons of North America are populated by millions of people desperately in need of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this enormous mission field is largely ignored by those of us who proclaim Christ. Like all of us, prisoners and their families need the love of God. Unlike most of us who live in this wealthy and secular culture, many prisoners and their families, by virtue of the horrifying circumstances of their lives, experience their need for God's love in a profound and direct way and are searching for some means of knowing Him.

In 1991, Metropolitan PHILIP, primate of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, asked Father Duane Pederson, a highly experienced prison minister, to establish a prison ministry for the Archdiocese.  In 2005, His Eminence graciously offered the Archdiocese’s prison ministry to SCOBA.  Shortly thereafter, OCPM was chartered by SCOBA.

OCPM continues to build on Father Duane’s vision of ministering to prisoners and their families by mobilizing the Church to work in this important vineyard of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Quick Facts:

  • Through 2009, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) has ministered to more than 700 prisoners and former prisoners, many of whom have embraced the Orthodox faith.
  • OCPM is currently ministering to more than 250 Orthodox catechumens in prisons across America.
  • Many of the prisoners with whom OCPM has worked have been released from prison and are now living productive, Christ-centered lives as active members of their local parishes.
  • OCPM has published eight books, more than 1,000,000 copies of which have been distributed in prisons.
  • OCPM prints and has distributed more than 2,000,000 icon prayer cards to prisoners.
  • OCPM ministers monthly to more than 300 homeless or needy former prisoners, as well as the spouses and children of current prisoners.
  • OCPM receives hundreds of letters each month from prisoners seeking direction and help. Prayerfully, each letter is personally answered, offering these men and women spiritual guidance and hope in an environment where they are almost completely absent. Many of these prisoners receive no other personal mail. OCPM writes more than 5,000 personal letters to prisoners every year.
  • Through the work of OCPM, five men have been tonsured Orthodox monks in prison, and several prisoners have become iconographers.
  • Approximately 275 prisoners per year participate in intensive Orthodox study courses through the St. Athanasius Academy.