“I was in prison, and you came to me.” Matthew 25:36
Rt. Rev. Duane Pederson, 83, the beloved founder of the Archdiocese’s prison ministry, reposed in the Lord on July 20, 2022. He was known as a gentle, compassionate man who brought Jesus Christ to many prisoners and homeless people, and taught Orthodox Christians to understand that ministry to them was ministry to our Lord.
“He was the friend of all, and he never had any agenda,” His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph told the ongoing Clergy Symposium about Fr. Duane. “If you didn’t know Fr. Duane, you wouldn’t know the meaning of the priesthood. He may not have known most of the services, but he became like the prisoners he served. He served them and loved them to the best of his ability.
“Fr. Duane never complained about their behavior. He would say that these are good souls who want to be better people and to be saved. He prayed for them and cried for them. He adopted many of them as his spiritual children.
“Fr. Duane loved the prisoners. If you as priests don’t love your people, then you will not do well in your parishes. Fr. Duane spent countless years to minister to them to heal them.
Before he became Orthodox, Fr. Duane created a street ministry in Hollywood, California as a leader of the Jesus People Movement. He brought his God-given gifts to the Antiochian Archdiocese and His Eminence Metropolitan Philip of thrice-blessed memory ordained Fr. Duane to the priesthood in 1991. Eight years later, Metropolitan Joseph, when he was bishop of Los Angeles and the West, elevated Fr. Duane to the dignity of archimandrite.
In 2005, with Metropolitan Philip’s blessing, Fr. Duane founded Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry. OCPM considers him to be “the father of Orthodox prison ministry in the United States,” adding, “his founding influence is still essential to the current work of OCPM.”
OCPM adds in its tribute: "Many, many men and women in prison or on the street were touched by Father Duane. It is sometimes said that a parent is best known through the acts of his or her children. Father Duane did not have any biological children, so his children became the scores of men whom he served on the street and in prison, whom he affectionately called his 'sons.' Many of these men were forgotten, with no earthly family to love them, seen as the refuse of our society. But Father Duane sought these men out. He loved them, not merely through his words, but through his actions, building relationships with them that lasted many years. He showed them that they were valuable and that God values them.
"Father Duane’s 'sons' have since gone in many directions: some have families and live fairly normal lives, while some will die in prison or still struggle with their personal demons. One of Father Duane's 'sons' now works for OCPM, continuing his legacy. What all these men have in common is that they experienced to some degree the love of their Heavenly Father through the love of their adopted earthly father, Father Duane, who did whatever he could to be with them."
In addition to his ministry, Fr. Duane also assisted three churches in California: St. Nicholas Cathedral of Los Angeles, St. Matthew Church of Torrance, and Holy Cross Church of Palmdale. Fr. Duane had retired to his home state of Minnesota where he served at St. George Church of West St. Paul. In 2016, Fr. Duane was awarded the Archdiocese’s Silver Order of St. Raphael of Brooklyn.
His Grace Bishop Anthony of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest will preside at funeral services for Fr. Duane. Details will appear HERE when they are available. May Fr. Duane’s memory be eternal!