Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Sunday, May 21, is designated as "Prison Awareness Sunday." On this day we take note of the commandment from our Lord to minister to those who are in prison. He calls them, among others who suffer deprivation and isolation, "the least of the brethren. " And "the least of the brethren," Jesus says, is him. God often comes to in disguise.
About seven years or more ago Deacon Jeffrey started a Prison Ministry program at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Concord under the title "Praying With Icons. " Roman Catholic and Orthodox prisoners (and some Protestants) were attracted and began to attend the program on Monday evenings. Not long afterward, Mitrophan Chin, seminarians from Holy Cross, and I joined in the ministry. Presently, our team consists of Mitrophan, Yianno Pantazelos, and myself. We have two pen pals, Andrew Bargoot and Jack Souweha. Another beautiful addition to our ministry has come through the "Angel Tree Project" headed in our parish by Kate Arnold which provides Christmas gifts to the children of inmates.
The program has evolved. We have joined forces with the Roman Catholic chaplain Dn. Thomas Anthony and meet in the Catholic chapel at the prison. (I have also begun to visit "The Farm," the minimum security prison just across the street from MCI.) We pray and meditate together, sing together, and study the Bible and books on spirituality. Our prison community has become strong. Inspiration, joy, and love characterize our gatherings.
We emphasize to every volunteer that our only agenda is to share the love of Christ with every inmate we meet. We are not there to convert anyone, unless an inmate expresses a desire. We go to love. For this reason every meeting ends with the singing of the Ukrainian Orthodox hymn, "A New Commandment."
If you are interested in becoming a part of this vital ministry at St. Mary's, please let us know. Specifically, we are looking for more volunteers to join us on Monday night, for more participation in the "Angel Tree Project," and for people to become pen pals. Come join us or find a way to contribute in any way you can.
With great affection,