Prison Ministry Training Begins for Freshmen Seminarians

07–08 November 2011 • On-campus Program

Freshman Seminarian Monk James (left) with Fr. Nicholas Solak, who is conducting prison ministry training at St. Vladimir's.Freshman Seminarian Monk James (left) with Fr. Nicholas Solak, who is conducting prison ministry training at St. Vladimir's.Under the guidance of alumnus and priest, Fr. Nicholas J. Solak, our first-year seminarians have begun their annual training for prison ministry. For the second year in a row, Fr. Nicholas is preparing our freshmen students for their Prison Ministry Field Experience, which will begin in earnest in January 2012.

In November and December, Fr. Nicholas will meet with students on our campus and will accompany them to an orientation at the Westchester County Department of Correction in Valhalla, New York, to acclimate them to the institutional climate. In January, our students will head up to that correctional facility each Friday morning to lead a small group Bible study among inmates.

“All together, throughout Spring semester,” noted Fr. Nicholas, “we will present seven Bible studies at the prison, each one of which will be followed by small ‘breakout’ groups between inmates and seminarians, and a debriefing session upon our return to campus.

“At the close of the semester,” he continued, “we will invite a representative from the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) to our campus to speak with the freshmen students. In this way, we hope to build a bridge between the seminarians and OCPM, so that our graduates will have a resource to turn to once they leave St. Vladimir’s.

“I attended the board meeting of OCPM this past August,” he concluded, “and their board is excited about and supportive of our efforts here at St. Vladimir’s.”

No stranger to prison ministry, Fr. Nicholas worked for 10 years in correctional systems prior to his priestly ministry, both in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and in the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Connecticut. He currently is the rector of Holy Trinity Church, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and he leads a local Bible study at Monroe County Correctional Facility. Not only did he earn his M.Div. (’02) at St. Vladimir’s, but he also earned his D.Min. (’08).

NOTE: The seminary’s Prison Ministry Field Experience, like its Hospital and Parish Placement Field Experiences, is required of all M.Div. students; the Director of Field Education here at SVOTS for these programs is newly appointed Fr. J. Sergius Halvorsen.

Read an expanded reflection by Seminarian Adam Horstman about his prison ministry experience in the “Seminarians Speak” section of our Website, here.