Serving the Church Through Prison Ministry
I was in prison and you came to Me. (Matthew 25:36-41)
Youth Ministry, Parish Council, Philoptochos… there are many ways one can assist the Church. However, a most unique way is by working as a volunteer with Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM), a program of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States. The mission of OCPM is to serve those who are incarcerated and their families, and to provide resources, training and support to our ministry partners so that lives are transformed and God is glorified.
Jim Giokas, a steward of Saint Mark Greek Orthodox Church in Boca Raton who has served the Church for many years in various ways, searched for a new way to serve the Church. With the guidance of parish priests Fr. Mark Leondis and Fr. Alex Kamilaris, Jim realized a “calling to delve into Prison Ministry in our Greek Orthodox Church in a way to pursue Christ’s Work.”
Jim connected with Fr. Stephen Powley, former Executive Director of OCPM, who patiently explained the ways one could volunteer for the program and connect with Orthodox Christian inmates who have requested contact with an Orthodox Christian mentor. After studying the prepared Training Manual compiled by OCPM and working closely with both of his parish priests to complete the preliminary training, Jim was assigned an Orthodox Christian inmate to work one-on-one with. Now, more than three years later, Jim feels extremely fulfilled by reaching out to someone who is in need of a personal, one-on-one written connection.
Working closely with Fr. Mark and Fr. Alex, Jim wanted to grow the Prison Ministry of St. Mark Church, educating the parish of Saint Mark of the extreme need for other volunteers to be matched. There are more than 2000 prisoners nationally who have requested to be contacted by an Orthodox Christian volunteer. Fr. Mark and Fr. Alex, along with Jim, began an outreach to encourage more participants from the Church community. An article was written for the parish newsletter giving an overview of the training needed and the responsibilities required. More outreach occurred and soon the small group grew. Now monthly meetings are held for the volunteers which include guest speakers and discussion and brainstorming in order to enhance the work of their local Prison Ministry members and the team overall.
Fr. Mark, Fr. Alex and Jim are eager to offer their generous assistance to help form additional Parish Prison Ministry groups in parishes across the country. The need is great and the reward is greater! Jim states that the interaction with the prisoners has touched him very deeply. Working hand in hand you will find true fulfillment while taking a unique path to serve Christ! For more information please contact Fr. Alex Kamilaris at [email protected] or Jim Giokas at [email protected].
OCPM is an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States. For Orthodox Christians who have been arrested for crimes, OCPM helps them return to the Faith, offering forgiveness and reconciliation with Christ. For both Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, OCPM provides spiritual care, enabling prisoners to find hope and purpose in their lives.