Friends Logo V2Summer/Fall 2009 Edition
The Newsletter of The Friends of Dismas
Summer Cross

Important Date 

Restorative Justice Conference 2009
This year's conference theme is: Building a Restorative Community.
Save the date:
Nov. 20-21
Trinity-St. Paul's United Church, Toronto 
For more information e-mail us at:

Charlie and Les


Friends New LogoYouTube

  Join us on the Friends of Dismas YouTube Channel
Interview with Harry Nigh

In June Harry sat down with Pedro of Salt + Light Radio to S+L Logotalk about Charlie. Click on the link below to visit our new YouTube Channel.  Learn about how the actions of a few people, who cared enough to extend a hand to a person many considered to be a modern day leper, lead to the creation of `Circles of Support and Accountability'.
Click Here for the Friends of Dismas YouTube Channel 

Jim 2

You can help us
Remember Jim
We are seeking donations for a picnic table in memory of Jim Anderson which will be placed at the Five Oaks Retreat Centre in Paris, ON, where Jim had many fond memories.
 Donations can be made to:
The Mennonite Foundation, 
50 Kent Avenue, Kitchener, Ontario N2G 3R1.
 Please specify that your gift is for Circles of Support & Accountability in memory of James Anderson.  
 Important Date
 Circles of Support Training in Toronto
Circles of Support & Accountability will be holding training for interested volunteers on October 17, 2009, at Danforth Mennonite Church.  
For more information please contact:
 Ed Vandenberg



 From the Retreat  A Poem by Lindsay D.
A journey never ending
So tired of pretending
Someone inside of me
That some will never see
A search that leads to nowhere
A heart filled with despair
Such anger, rage, and hatred
Is nothing sacred
Stripped of all her pride
A girl inside has died
What hurt, and pain we've known
Would chill you to the bone
A final revelation
Brings a peaceful, calm sensation
That God will surely save her
With the mighty hand that made her.       
       - Lindsay D.


Poetry Corner


This month we have added  a new poems from a Dismas Fellowship member
Don T.

Please take a moment to visit the Reflection Corner  at the link below.

Sr, Joe

Sr. Joe and Fr. John visit Dismas 

In June our community was visited by Sr. Joe and Fr. John who are both actively involved in prison ministry in their homelands in Africa. To read about their lives and their work please click on the link below which will take you to an article on them in the Catholic
Dismas Fellowship Logo dec08   
 Dates and information for upcoming Dismas Fellowship meetings can be found at:


 Tuesday Dinner at  Keele Program
Volunteer Faith Communities Needed 
Unleashed Hamilton 
By Harry Nigh 
 We gathered on a coffee house patio next to the soaring, abstract sculpture of a wind-filled sail beside Hamilton's harbour. The sculpture is called "Unleashed". It was here next to this sculpture that we scattered Charlie Taylor's ashes on the waters of Hamilton Bay after his death 3 years ago.
On this day we gathered to mark the 15th anniversary of Charlie's release from prison and to reflect on the all that has happened in its aftermath. 
In June, 1994, Charlie had just finished his seven-year sentence for sexual crimes against children. It was his fourth adult sentence for crimes against children. The tragic irony is that no one ever a served a day for all the times he was sexually assaulted when he was a child in care.
Earlier that winter I had received a call from Bill Palmer, psychologist at Warkworth Institution asking for support for Charlie on his return to the community because Charlie would serve every day of his sentence and would be released without any community supervision.
"Could you put him on a Mennonite farm?" Bill suggested as a new beginning away from the city in which he would always get lost. 
 The idea of a farm did not go anywhere so I responded to Bill by saying, "What if we created a Circle of Support for Charlie?" Members of my congregation and others volunteered their help in reaching out to Charlie. "We'll call our group "Charlie's Angels".

Twelve years after his release, I found Charlie dead in his apartment at Christmas time. He had not re-offended. (That is if you don't count pinching steaks from No-Frills and other little pinches here and there).
None of us had any idea of what the Spirit was giving birth to when Charlie stepped out of prison 15 years ago. We were scared and lost but maybe that's the way it is when
the Spirit is unleashed. 
I invite you to click on the link below to read the full story, of how a group of caring people opened their hearts and made a huge difference in the lives of many men trying to rebuild their lives.


God Bless,

Harry Nigh         Harry Nigh / Summer 2009
Jim A1
Bread for the Journey
Remembering our Friend
by Adrian (Ed) Vandenberg
We will miss Jim. Also known as James Anderson, Jim had become a special part of our "family" and community.  He had a brutal past, and lived for most of his life on the edge of society.  He was haunted by the demons of addiction and abuse.  But he had become a special friend to those who knew him.  Among Jim's qualities were his honesty, his quirky sense of humour, his love of animals, and his loyalty to the people on his "circle."  He was a hard worker and would give his full strength any work that needed to be done.  Jim regularly help set up for our Toronto Dismas gatherings.  And he could be depended upon to help in many other ways.
I was therefore shocked to learn early Wednesday morning, June 17, 2009, that our dear friend's body was found on the property of a furniture factory where he had been doing landscaping and yard maintenance.  He had been murdered. This day turned out to be an incredible roller-coaster-type of day, that led to some other unexpected events.  I will not go into the details, just that some of us who knew Jim well were also instrumental in talking the fellow, now wanted for killing him, to turn himself over to the police.  I want to tell you more about Jim and the days leading to his tragic death. 
I want to say more because there were some key signs that Jim didn't pass away alone.  When Jim met me at my office a week earlier, I knew he was not well.  He had what appeared to be symptoms of blood poisoning.  He was about to be homeless again.  I urged him to seek medical help, and we managed to get an appointment with his doctor for the next day.  Then we talked about other things.  Jim had just been to the food bank.  I also had something for him in the office refrigerator - a loaf of communion bread from my church that we had been given the Sunday before.  "Would you like some bread, Jim," I asked.  "It is communion bread from my church."  Jim gladly took it for the journey.  We had no idea that he had only a few more days to his life.  This was the last time that I would see Jim.
Jim was not a church-going guy.  But I had come to know him as a person of faith in Jesus Christ.   Jim's countenance would usually light up if we talked about faith issues or when I offered to pray with him.    One of Jim's favorite expressions was "holy luck," which was his definition of God's blessing.  He could point out to many experiences of "holy luck" in his life.  He had escaped death many times.  But he knew that his "luck" in this area was running out. 
Jim had committed his life to Jesus Christ several years ago.  He knew what communion was about because he had participated a number of times in communion at our gatherings.  One of Jim's favorite stories was that of the criminal crucified next to Jesus on Good Friday who asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom.  The Gospel of Luke records Jesus' response: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (See Luke 23:40-43.)
About 60 people from Kingston to Kitchener, Hamilton and Paris, Ontario gathered on June 23, 2009 to remember and celebrate Jim's life.  We also had communion together.  It was an amazing service.  We remembered how Jesus Christ broke bread with his friends before he gave his body and blood for our salvation, for our deliverance  
I know that Jim is also a recipient of that Bread of Life that we have in Jesus Christ.  The loaf of communion bread that I was able to give Jim the last time I saw him was for me a sign of God's presence during the last few days of Jim's life.  I do not regularly have communion bread in our office refrigerator.  That I had some for Jim I consider providential.
We would have liked to have kept Jim around with us a bit longer.  But we know that he is now walking in paradise with our Lord and Saviour.

Hope love stonesAnnual Woman's Retreat  
Five Oaks Retreat Centre
By: Eusebia da Silva 
 On July 10-12, 2009, community chaplaincy in partnership with Five Oaks Retreat Center and Trinity-St.Paul's United Church held the second  contemplative retreat for women. The group of twenty three participants was comprised of women presently on parole and others who have completed parole, as well as women from our Dismas Fellowship in Toronto.  A couple of our chaplaincy volunteers were able to join us as guests while others contributed their skills in a variety of ways, by offering transportation, spiritual direction, sandplay therapy, massage therapy, yoga and meditation. This year, one of the women on parole was invited to bring her eleven year old child. Five Oaks kindly offered mother and daughter their own cottage thus giving them the space for family time.  
The theme of this year's retreat was, "Seeing with the Eye of the Heart."  Throughout the weekend, we gathered in a circle to listen, to write, and to share what it means to see and be seen from a place of compassion.  We heard a dramatic adaptation of the Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42) and allowed ourselves to be touched by Jesus' redemptive encounter with the Samaritan woman who, like many of us in the circle, have been weighed down by a history of broken relationships.
We invited participants to consider new ways of seeing their relationship with self, with others, and with God. The women welcomed the opportunity to look both within their own hearts and to the community of faith which surrounded them. On Sunday morning, in the closing circle, we heard one woman describe how this time on retreat had allowed her to reconnect with the inner beauty she feared was lost. We heard another woman confess how she now had more clarity about the friendships it felt safe for her to cultivate. And yet another woman expressed her amazement that here, in the space of only a few days, she had found women of faith who could offer their emotional and spiritual support in the challenging months ahead for her .           
It was a time of grace, a time of caring for the soul - the soul of each individual and the soul of a fragile community of brave women whose thirst for God and for life-giving kinship was palpable and moving to witness.  

Dove Reflections from the Women's Retreat

  "I learned what is robbing me of enjoying the present. Maybe the war is over. I am stronger than I thought. I am one little light. I'm not in charge. I cannot be responsible for everything, not even my family ... set priorities.  I've been carried this far by the unimaginable Spirit." - Chris S.
"I learned to take time to step back and be silent. Only in that silence am I open to the Holy Spirit's direction. I feel like I won the lottery to be invited here."
- Dorothy B.
 "I learned to trust that everything is just what it is. I'm taking home with me the power of women's compassion, friendship, understanding."  - Michele C. 
"I'm taking home with me ... a willingness to forgive."  - Dawn O. 
"I learned more about myself and where I'm at spiritually. I feel even closer to my God." - Debra O. 
 "I learned about trust: it's alright to let others help me. They are not out to take something away from me." - Chris L.
"I learned sharing is possible when all are holding their candles with an awareness that we are all being held."    - Sonia D.
"I learned what my next steps should be toward my future and to put God first and foremost in my life. "   - Debra M.
"I had a moment on Saturday when I was alone, silent, down at the river's edge. This moment will stay with me for a long time. I found space for myself."    - Liz A.
"Thank-you for everything.  I feel closer to God." - Lindsay D.

Friends Logo V2

Tax deductible donations can be made by sending a cheque to:
Friends of Dismas
PO Box 117, Markham Station
Markham, L3P 3J5
or to donate on-line with a credit card visit the link below which will take you to our partner for on-line donations CanadaHelps.
CanadaHelps Logo 
Thanks to all our friends for caring.
 Daily Thoughts with Vanier
Three Vital Activities

There are three activities that are absolutely vital in the creation of a community. The first is eating
together around the same table. The second is praying together. And the third is celebrating
together. By celebrating I mean to laugh, to fool around, to have fun, to give thanks together for life.
When we are laughing together with belly laughs we are all the same.
Jean Vanier in "Living Gently in a Violent World,"