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.
Spring is finally underway, and that means one thing: it’s time to clean! People all over the world take spring as an opportunity to get rid of their old clothes, repair broken keepsakes, and clean their house from top to bottom. However, did you know that there are ways you can help charity while spring cleaning? Some of these options are quite common, while others are often forgotten. Still, these are a few of my favorite ways to help charity, especially in the spring.
Donate Old Clothes
Donating old clothes is not a new concept. Many families pass clothes between children as hand-me-downs, and others will donate to charity organizations. Most people hoard their clothes without thinking about it, so take the time this spring to go through your entire wardrobe. Realistically consider how often you wear that sweater or those shorts. Some people find that turning their clothing hangers the opposite way when you wear something gives an idea of which clothes you neglect. No matter how you go about your cleaning, make sure your unused items end up in someone else’s hands.
Yard sales are common across the country, and this is a perfect opportunity to donate to charity. Many families find themselves with a random assortment of old objects, from furniture to DVDs and beyond. If you live in a busy, yard saling area, you may find that all of your items are sold after a weekend. So, after you’ve made back some money, how does this help charity? You can give your proceeds to an organization that needs them. Think about it: the point of a yard sale is usually to make a few bucks off of unwanted items, not to earn a substantial income. Unless you really need the cash, consider making the generous choice and donating whatever you make to a charity.
Offload Your Pantry
Many people spring clean because they are looking to move this year. This gives you a great reason to go through your pantries and get rid of any moldy or expired food. However, if you are moving sooner rather than later, you may also want to get rid of some extra non-expired cans of food or other non-perishable food items. Food pantries are always looking for supplies, and they would be more than happy to take the burden off of you while you move. Plus, this may be the only time you give to a food pantry without having to run to the grocery store.
If you plan to spring clean this season, consider whether there is some way you could donate in the process. These are just a few quick and easy ways to make a difference, but there are many other options you could choose to pursue. Although spring is a lively time of the year, keep in mind that people still need your help. Why not give back with your spring cleaning?
For many years, I have served Chairman of the Department of Youth and Parish Ministries, which includes overseeing Teen SOYO, an organization of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America that aims to teach teens how to live a spiritually fulfilling life with God. One of our biggest commitments is to show teens how to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. In the late 1970s, Teen SOYO formed a partnership with the Pennsylvania Special Olympics, through the good work Dr. Anthony Bashir’s relationship to Eunice Kennedy Shriver (the founder of the Special Olympics). Today, I would like to highlight some facts about this partnership, as well as the work our teens have done, all in the name of Christ and the Church.
In 1979, teen leaders in our Youth Movement felt a strong urge to reach out and support the community. The teens themselves recommended providing a week of camp to the Special Olympic Athletes of the state of Pennsylvania. Through the desire of the teens to serve and gift this opportunity to the Special Olympic Athletes and the good work of Dr. Basir and the openness of the Shriver family a relationship that has last all these years was born, and we quickly established the partnership that has lasted nearly 40 years.
The SOYO youth movement, along with leaders of Special Olympics, decided we would host a week-long training camp that would cater to participants of the various events. Our teens would provide all of the financial costs of the one week camp, and most importantly, our teens would serve as counselors and other staff members, collaborating with the camp staff already in place. Although our teens were all eager to begin this camp, we had to wait until 1980 to officially begin hosting.
Throughout the years, we have worked hard and overcame struggles with hosting. There were times where our fundraising efforts (necessary for the camp to continue) were not producing the results we needed. At first, our church planned to fundraise as Teen SOYO without mention of Special Olympics. However, after we made our partnership clear, we quickly began to raise enough money to operate. For Special Olympics Awareness Day, our teens created a video asking for help, which was shared with several parishes. Our organized efforts worked much better than they had before.
This past summer, Teen SOYO hosted its 36th Special Olympics training camp, and in October we held our 37th Special Olympics Awareness Day. Every year, we are blessed to have a group of volunteers who eagerly anticipate to reaching out to others and sharing the love of Christ through their acts. We look forward to continuing this tradition this year, and for many years to come.
Please check out https://teensoyo.org/special-olympics/ for more information.