Encyclical for Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday 2022

Thursday, July 21, 2022

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Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday 2022
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25)

To the Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Pious Faithful of our Holy Orthodox Church in the United States:
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings and blessings to you all!

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States has blessed us to observe the Sunday after the feast of St. Silas, the patron saint of prison ministry, as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. This year we remember this sacred ministry on July 31, 2022.

In Acts 16 it is recorded how St. Paul and St. Silas were beaten and thrown into prison. By the world’s standards they had every justification to resent their situation. One might almost expect someone wrongfully imprisoned to be filled with hate for their captors or angry at God for allowing this to happen, hopeless to make it out alive.

Rather than be filled with these negative emotions, the two great Saints stayed up all night “praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Their determination to praise God and trust in His Will no matter moved the Lord to cause an earthquake, “so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s fetters were unfastened” (Acts 16:26). Their witness, hope, and faithfulness spiritually freed everyone around them, inspiring the jailer himself, as well as his entire household, to repent and be baptized into Christ.

Through God’s grace, I, too, have witnessed how God’s mercy and power is spread throughout prisons. I have seen prisoners come to Christ, eagerly waiting months to receive the Eucharist. I have seen prisoners sentenced to life without parole transform their cell into a place of prayer. I have seen prisoners sentenced to death being baptized still in chains and then ministering to other prisoners on death row, joyfully sharing Bibles, icons, and prayer books without hope of one day outside of prison.

Like SS. Paul and Silas, these prisoners are taking whatever opportunity God gives them to love those around them, sharing the Gospel of Christ’s resurrection. Indeed, may we be inspired to do the same. Every day we can choose to serve those around us, no matter where God placed us. Like those who were listening to SS. Paul and Silas, who is to say how many you can reach and inspire simply by trusting in God and following His Will?

As the Episcopal Moderator of the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM), I respectfully request that you observe this day of awareness. Our Holy Church, through OCPM, brings the mercy, forgiveness, and love of Christ to those people who need hope and healing, living in the darkness of prison.

We humbly ask that after passing a tray for the ongoing work of your parish that you please pass a second tray on Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday for the work of Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry.

With much love and thanks in our risen Lord,

† Archbishop Mark
Episcopal Liaison to Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry