Originally posted on Medium.
Joseph Purpura has been an Orthodox priest for forty years. After graduating from high school, Father Purpura enrolled in St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. While attending St. Vladimir’s, Father Purpura earned his B.A. in Philosophy from Iona College in New Rochelle, New York in 1976. After earning his Master of Divinity from St. Vladimir’s, Father Purpura was assigned to work in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Soon after moving to Connecticut, Father Purpura enrolled at Yale University and earned his Master of Sacred Theology in 1982. His thesis was entitled “Ministering to the Bereaved.” In 1980 Father Purpura began to serve as the Spiritual Advisor of the Society of Orthodox Youth Organizations (SOYO), in both the Eastern Region and the New England Region. He held this position for ten years. In 1999 Father Purpura earned his Doctor of Ministry from Pittsburgh Theological School. His final Doctoral Project was titled “Moral and Ethical Issues Confronting Orthodox Youth.”
Currently, Joseph Purpura holds three positions. Since 1990, he has worked as the Administrator to the NAC Teen Coaches for the Special Olympics Training Camp. He is the Co-Founder and Manager of the Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth, Antiochian Archdiocese Department of Youth (a position he has held since 2008). Since 2010 he has served as the Facilitator of the Committee for Youth for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.
His involvement with the church has enabled him to fulfill his desires to help the community, especially youth workers, and teach valuable skills and lessons to others. In fact, Joseph Purpura prizes the work he does with young people as a highlight of his life. He and his wife often teach young individuals leadership and communication skills, prompting them to be successful in their futures.
His appreciation for the work he does limits the number of challenges he must face. Joseph Purpura is a proprietor of forgiveness, especially in relation to children. Father Purpura’s experience has taught him that “bad” kids often act out because they are suffering in some way. Father Purpura says, “Our job as youth workers is to help heal that pain and bring back what’s good in them so that the young person can flourish.”
Over the years, one of the most important lessons that Father Purpura has learned is that all young people are able to become leaders and excel regardless of the mistakes and bad decisions they have made. Joseph Purpura is a strong believer of redemption and potential; when a young person makes a mistake, it doesn’t mean that he or she is “bad.” Their behavior may be flawed, but that does not mean the individual is irredeemable. Father Purpura enjoys helping young people find themselves and form a strong identity that will help them throughout their lives, as well as assisting young people to learn from their mistakes and become more involved in the Church.
In addition to teaching youth, Joseph Purpura has also traveled across North America to teach clergy, adult youth workers, and other community members, prioritizing methods of teaching and relating to young people. Ultimately, Father Purpura’s goal in teaching youth is to train strong Orthodox Christian leaders who will contribute to their communities and eventually lead and teach others.
Joseph Purpura’s experience and history with the Orthodox Church has guided his life, and his drive to help others learn and grow shows in his work and outreach endeavors.