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Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry Convocation Meets in Denver

On July 28, 2009, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, the official prison ministry of SCOBA, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, convened its first convocation for Orthodox prison workers in Denver, Colorado.

In attendance were 52 Orthodox prison chaplains and volunteers representing 22 states and many Orthodox jurisdictions.

Beginning on the evening of the 28th with a vespers service, the convocation featured presentations from Fr. Duane Pederson, founder of OCPM, Fr. Stephen Powley, chaplain at the federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, Fr. Emmanuel Mantzouris, correctional chaplain in the New York State correctional system, and Fr. John Kowalczyk, director of pastoral field education at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Also presenting were Carla Thomas, M.D., who provides medical care to prisoners in the Alabama state correctional system, and Dennis Dunn, who runs a re-entry program in Atlanta, GA. Of particular interest to attendees was the presentation made by Chaplain Patrick Tutella, Executive Director of OCPM, about the Lazarus Project, a mentoring-based re-entry and reintegration program he developed in Berks County, Pennsylvania. A highlight of the convocation was a presentation made by Jason Irwin, a graduate of the Lazarus Project and a convert to Orthodoxy. 

In addition to these presentations, attendees were given the opportunity to share their own ministry experiences. The exchange of ideas that flowed from these presentations was remarkable.

Also in attendance at the convocation were Fr. John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and Jeff Citro, Director of the Office of Social Ministry at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological Seminary. OCPM was particularly honored to have in attendance Soren Johnson and Peter Walker, representing Prison Fellowship International, an organization with whom OCPM has had a long and fruitful relationship.

The convocation culminated with a Divine Liturgy celebrated on the morning of July 30, the feast of the Holy Apostle Silas, patron saint of OCPM.

OCPM brings the light of Christ to those who are in prison in North America by providing encouragement, material support, transition and reintegration services, Christian education, spiritual guidance and the sacramental life of the Church to prisoners and their families. OCPM is a tax-exempt, 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization. Donations to this vital ministry may be sent to P.O. Box 468, Fleetwood, PA, 19522-0468, and are tax-deductible.