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Greetings!

Christmas JesusPlease accept our wishes for a blessed and holy Christmas season from the Friends of Dismas.

It has been a busy few months and we missed our Fall Newsletter - please accept our apologies. But we are still going strong and we wanted to update you on some of our activities and our stories from the past six months.

May you and your family have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas and best wishes for a great 2011.


Blessings,

Rev. Harry Nigh and Deacon Mike Walsh

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              "My name is Jesus and I'm an alcoholic"

                            By: Rev. Harry Nigh


Christmas Skit 2010 AngelsIt's become a tradition at Dismas Fellowship to put on a skit at our Christmas celebration. The Christmas story always comes across in a loving though somewhat "twisted" way as some have called it. We like to have as many people involved as possible and to act like kids again.


If your memories of Christmas include your father pulling down the Christmas tree in a drunken rage, this may be the first time you've ever acted in a Christmas pageant and who cares if you're entering middle age.


This year Marie suggested we give the Dismas twist to the Huron Christmas Carol. Some of the guys at Keele got busy making angels wings and a portable moon. We bought plastic bows and arrows at the Dollar Store for the "wandering hunters (who) heard the hymn". We scrounged some fur coats for rabbit skin and then we looked for people to play the holy family.


Christmas Skit 2010 JoeWe asked Dawn if she would be Mary and Keith to be Joseph and then we asked Joe if he would be the "radiant boy" Baby Jesus. We wanted Keith a.k.a. Joseph to carry him into the room and place him on Mary's lap with the angels and the hunters looking on.


I admit that in the picture he may look more like a corpse than a bouncing and messianic baby boy, but his entrance in Keith's sturdy arms was the hilarious high point of the play.


It was a comment though, that Joe made when we first asked him to be Baby Jesus that has stuck with me this Christmas. Without missing a beat he quipped, "My name is Jesus, and I'm an alcoholic."


Joe is full of quips but this off the cuff comment had bite. I sensed that he had struck the essential reality of Christmas.


This Christmas Day as we do every Christmas we will read from the Gospel of John "and the Word became flesh and lived among us".

We give this truth a fancy name - incarnation, "embodied in flesh", but when Joe puts it in the classic words of AA, "My name is Jesus and I'm an alcoholic", he startles me with a new picture of God's acceptance of our humanity.


Not even dying between two convicts lies outside the circle of his love.


Not even our half-baked skits can diminish its power.



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Appreciation Dinner
Friends of Dismas 1st 'Annual' Volunteer Appreciation Dinner

On Friday, November 19th the Friends of Dismas gathered as a community to say thanks to the people of faith that make up our volunteer community.

The event was attended by over 100 people, and we shared a wonderful meal as well as many laughs and a few tears. Each table was hosted by an ex-prisoner, and they represented the men and women who wanted to say thanks for the gifts of friendship offered by our volunteers over the past five years.

Appreciation Night Sue and HarryThe Friends of Dismas was started to encourage people of faith to get involved in creative ministry to those touched by crime and this evening was a night to celebrate all of those, whether they were in attendance or not, who have taken the time to reach out and help another person in need. 

Thank you for caring and for being a Friend of Dismas.

Appreciation Harry and EdAppreciation Gary and Girls


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Christmas Delivery 2010
Christmas Outreach Program
By: Mike Walsh

Several years ago we started a program to help a few women ex-prisoners on parole through the donation of a small basket of food to help them with a Christmas dinner.

Christmas is a time for family and about building family. We believed that people of faith would reach out a hand to these women and their kids at this time a year, and we have been amazed by the response.

A special thanks needs to go to the Beaver Bible Class of Westway United Church and the parishioners of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Markham. As a result of their generosity we have been able to help 35+ families as well as 70+ individuals with a Christmas basket of food and presents.

Individual gift bags, full of many needed items and a few Christmas treats were delivered to several halfway houses in Toronto, including Crossroads, Ellen House and E. Fry.

On Saturday December 18th,six teams of drivers, lead by Community Chaplin Susan Kroeker, gathered to collect the food and gifts, and they set out to deliver them to the families.

Finally, on Christmas Eve at the Keele Centre an afternoon gathering is planned for the men who have no family to go home to. It will be an afternoon of fellowship with lots of baked goodies and gift bags from the Friends of Dismas will be shared.

It is a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who was crucified with his friend Dismas.
 
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Dismas Christmas Ron Elaine
Dismas Fellowship Christmas
By: Mike Walsh

In Harry's story above he told of the Toronto Dismas Fellowship Christmas party and how it was a special evening of food, singing, laughing and giving thanks for the gift of the Dismas community.

Somewhere between 120-140 people attended and enjoyed a ham dinner with all the fixings and a boat load of desserts. We sang Christmas songs and as Harry described we presented a rather unique version of the Huron Christmas Carol.

Dismas Christmas JanA special thanks to all the volunteers who worked to bring this evening together and to Deacon Bruce Williams and the members of St. John's York Mills Anglican Church for their generous donation that supported the dinner.

The Toronto Dismas Fellowship resumes on January 14th as we kick off 2011 on the Wings of of Dove!
 
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Hope love stonesThe Annual Women's Healing Retreat

By Eusebia da Silva

 

"This retreat was the greatest gift I have ever received ... thank-you for the spiritual awakening in my soul." Debbie                           

 

The above words of heartfelt thanks were written by a woman who was among the thirty participants at the retreat held at the Ignatius Jesuit Center on July 16-18, 2010 - a retreat for women who have experienced incarceration.

 

Like Debbie, many of the women are single moms who have battled addiction, poverty, and many forms of abuse both in and out of prison. For the majority, this retreat was their first experience of being in a place of peace, a beautiful sanctuary for tired bodies and hurting spirits.

 

Under the passionate and prayerful leadership of Marianne Karsh, the Ecology Project Coordinator at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre, the women were taught a number of spiritual practices to nurture their body and soul as they walked and explored the Centre's sacred land.  The theme of the retreat was The Goodness and Beauty of Creation. On Saturday evening, Mary Klein, spiritual director, delivered a powerful teaching on this theme, partly inspired by Desmond Tutu's latest book, Made for Goodness. Throughout the weekend it was moving to witness how, both individually in spiritual direction and as a community in sharing circles, the women testified to the goodness and beauty that surrounded them and could heal them interiorly.

 

Heather, who walked the trails with difficulty and with cane in hand, shared how the experience filled her with a new sense of hope and confidence; she realized that if she could complete this two hour walk which challenged her body yet nourished her spirit so deeply, then, she could also find the inner resources needed to care for her children as she longs to do.


 

Click here to Read More

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In the News IconExtra Extra Read All about it!!
Friends of Dismas in the News

We have been fortunate to get some interesting news coverage for our work in the past few months.


Harry Nigh in the Toronto Star
"More prisons = More people getting out."
 
Toronto Star Article
On Friday August 27th, the Toronto Star published an article on the Dismas Fellowship. They interviewed Rev. Harry Nigh and in the story two of our St. Patrick's volunteers were quoted. Take a moment to read the article as it will provide you with a good understanding of the work of the ministry.


Click Here to Read the Article


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Don Tremblay in the Catholic Register:
"Prison does nothing for the Jailed"

Catholic Register Article
Don Tremblay has been a member of the Dismas Fellowship almost from its founding.  In November, he met with Michael Swan, a reporter for the Catholic Register, and talked about his experiences in and out of jail.



Click Here to Read the Article

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Friends of Dismas and Restorative Justice:

"Restoration justice leads inmates down new paths."

Catholic register RJ articleMichael Swan also did an article on restorative justice and the Friends of Dismas.

Michael attended a Dismas fellowship evening and interviewed a few of the participants.  He was impressed by the role volunteers can play in helping ex-prisoners rebuild their lives.

 
Click Here to Read the Article
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Friends Website 2010
Drop by the Friends Website

We are on the web at www.friendsofdismas.ca
and we would love for you to drop by for a visit.

Over the course of the next few months, with Holy Week as our target, we will be launching an update to our website.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for what you would like to see on the new website/Blog then drop us a line at friendsofdismas@gmail.com.

Click on the links for information and/or articles of interest:

The 2011 Toronto Dismas Fellowship Dates

The Restorative Justice On-Line Bookstore

The Community Dinner at the Keele Centre Program

Weavings Newsletter Archive

My Friend Alan Died Yesterday- the intinerantpreacher blog


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Donate Now

Please consider helping the Friends of Dismas.

We are currently planning two programs where your gift would really help.

The first is a healing retreat for men in March. Our goal is to spend a weekend together and look into the hurts of the past and through prayer, meditation and a time of friendship, start on the road to healing these wounds.

Second is an art display we are calling Remember Me. Several artists from our community will be engaged to capture how some of our members want to be remembered.

Click on the link below to donate online or mail your donation to:

Friends of Dismas

PO. Box 117

Markham, ON  L3P 3J5


Donate Now

Charitable Organization Number   83734 5560 RR0001

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