Christmas 2012
Christmas Jesus
Our Newsletter of Hope
Christmas Greetings! 

Friends Logo Thumbnail It has been a while between newsletters and much has happened in our work over these past months. We have set ourselves a New Year's resolution to do better in publishing Weavings in 2013, but you know what they say about good intentions!


In this edition of our Weavings Newsletter we would like to introduce you to the story of a man who once was an "orphan". Take a moment and read how the outstretched hands from the community and his loved ones helped him to see life differently.


You can also read about the powerful impact the on-going community retreats for women are having on all the participants.  


Finally we would like to ask for your continued support, if you are able, especially through your prayers, as we enter new territory in 2013.  


Thank-you for being a good friend of our community and we wish you and your family the best of wishes for a happy and blessed Christmas season.  


Harry Nigh and Shauna Mayer                             Deacon Mike Walsh  

Toronto Community Chaplains                            Friends of Dismas 



"I Learned to Love the Darkness."

On a chain around his neck Harry D. wears a silver pendant that says simply "orphan".


"I know nothing about my parents", he says. "I didn't have any hair when I was a kid. I was sick and I figure this was the reason I was put in the orphanage. People couldn't take care of me or didn't want me."


From the orphanage in Halifax he was placed in a succession of a dozen foster homes. There was frequent abuse and in one of them, he was locked in a dark closet every night.


"I learned to love the darkness. It was like a security blanket, but it made me feel useless, like an animal sometimes... but what could I do? They had the power. There was no love ... no feeling ... you couldn't cry.... it went on and on ....


"I always promised myself as I grew up that nobody was going to hurt me anymore. Then at the age of 12 I started sampling the beer in the basement of the foster home. The beer made me feel invincible. It put that cape on me, I could do anything. But when it wore off I was still that sick little boy and I knew I was going back in the closet."


He credits the programs he took in prison with helping him gain the confidence to be a better person. He finally started school at age 50.


"But when I came to the Keele Centre", Harry adds, " I finally found someone to listen to me to get rid of all that anger and hate built up inside me for all those years. Without getting it out, a person would explode."


And he credits his wife, the first person who showed him love.


"It was scary when you don't trust anybody. It's hard to let someone take hold of your hand and guide you, touch you. I know it's real because she stayed with me all this time.


"I bought the chain 20 years ago. I wanted to always remember where I'd come from. But I don't feel like an orphan anymore because I have found my Higher Power. The Lord was always with me in jail but I just didn't know it.


"The key was the willingness to go into that Higher Power. That happened at the Dismas Fellowship. That took away the hurt and got me out of the closet even though I can still remember. The journey was incredible. Thank the Lord I made it through."




I'm grateful to Harry D. for letting me see the Christmas event in a new way.


In Christ, God too became an orphan, surrendering to the "foster home" of human care - into the arms of a Palestinian carpenter and a teenage mother. He "stripped himself" - one scripture said - and took on human form - for a world that he wants to call back from darkness to light.


Thomas Merton said, "Christ is not simply the tip of the little finger of the Godhead, moving in the world, easily withdrawn, never threatened, never really risking anything. God has given Himself totally. He has become not only one of us but even our very selves."


Maybe it's why so many of us experience the presence of this "orphan-loving" God as we journey with men and women who have experienced prison and the challenge of reintegration. In Him and in our friends we celebrate a light that shines in all our darkness.


Have a wonderful Christmas!


Harry Nigh, December 2012


Retreats that help to Heal the Soul
Hope love stones

Thank you to all of you for making it possible for 25 women to attend our annual chaplaincy retreat at Five Oaks this year. Our time together was so encouraging.


The women showed such strength and courage to share about themselves and reach out to each other in a positive way.


We had 6 women join us from Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener. The women on parole and from the community came from Hamilton, Brampton and Toronto. For some, this was their 7th, 8th or in one case, 11th retreat! This shows the lasting effect this kind of community building can have. Many of those who become involved, stay involved long past parole as they see the value of this kind of support.


Studies have shown that ex-prisoners with a strong spiritual practice have far lower rates of recidivism than those who do not practice a particular faith. Times like these retreats offer the women a chance to build on their strengths and common experiences. Throughout the weekend, we had many women share this was the highlight of their year.


We hope to continue to offer this kind of positive support to the women as they return to everyday life.


Our fall retreat was held on Saturday November 17, when 40 women gathered at the Leibenzell Mission of Canada.


Our theme was "Women of Courage" and stories were shared in the circle of examples of women, biblical, historical and personal that have shown great courage and spiritual leadership. We shared a meal together, participated in listening prayer and women encouraged and supported one another.


This retreat involved women on parole, volunteers in the community, and women from Grand Valley Institution.


For the first time ever we welcomed children on our retreat! Five children joined us, and we wish to express our deep gratitude to Hannah Enns our MCCO Board member who coordinated volunteers from Conrad Grebel University to run a children's program complete with cookie decorating and crafts, while the women gathered at the retreat.


It was a wonderful day and a chance for many women to experience the love of Christ and community."


We are grateful for your support as it provides us an opportunity to provide a space for our community to gather and to heal.


Shauna Mayer

Community Chaplain with Women  


ThankYou for your ongoing Support
As we wrap up 2012, we wanted to thank all of you for your ongoing prayers for our work.

In a special way, we would like to extend our gratitude to those who have supported the ministry with financial gifts especially those who are now donating via Monthly giving.

In our next newsletter, we would like to outline for you some of our plans for the year ahead. As many of you may know the Chaplaincy program within the government is in a period of change. With change comes uncertainty. The need in our community, especially for more trained volunteers, will undoubtedly increase in the years ahead.

We need to be prepared for this increased responsibility, especially in the area of hope-based community reintegration.

As you plan your year-end giving we ask you to consider the Friends of Dismas as one of your charitable offerings. Please click on the link below to visit our Donate Now page where you can find out more about our programs and options for giving.

Please Click Here to Donate Now

United Way If you are a supporter of the United Way, there is an option you can use to help us build our community. Our largest individual contributor made the simple switch at their workplace to designate the Friends of Dismas as the charity they wanted their donation directed to, and it has made a significant difference in our ability to provide support to our community.

Here is the information you will need to designate Friends of Dismas as an "other charity" on your United Way donation form:

Charity Name:                        Friends of Dismas
Charitable Registration # :     83734 5560 RR0001
Charity Address:                   PO. Box 117, Markham, Ont. L3P 3J5

There are other ways to participate in the building of the community. We have had a number of generous in-kind donations to help with our  Ministry of Works programs like the Back Packs for kids, Christmas Baskets and gift bags and our new Welcome Home Kits.

One donor approached their employer and made a submission to the firm's community outreach program on behalf of the Friends of Dismas and that resulted in a donation that allowed us to purchase some equipment to support the Dismas Fellowship Toronto.

Please send us an e-mail at: if you have some creative ways you may be able to offer help and support.

The list below provides a snapshot on how your gifts have made an impact over the past 5 years:

*100+   New volunteers trained
*200+     Christmas baskets delivered to families
*150+     Christmas gift bags to men & women on parole
*140+     Back to School Backpacks delivered
*130+     Members on weekend retreats
*120+     Dismas Fellowship evenings
*7,000+  Dinners served at the Fellowship
*75+       Community Dinners at Keele
*100+      Prayer Friends
* Effective part of post release programs for ex-prisoners
*Established Church based Friends of Dismas ministries
*Partnered in the organization 3 Restorative Justice Conferences
*Welcome Home kits
*Assistance with moving into a new home
*Memorial services  
*Estimate $125K+ worth of donated items from faith community

Thank you for caring.

Stay Connected
Friends of Dismas
PO Box 117
Markham Ontario L3P 3J5
Charitable Registration: 83734 5560 RR0001