Christmas 2013
Christmas Jesus
Our Newsletter of Hope
Christmas Greetings! 

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Hard to believe we are approaching the end of 2013.

It has been a year with many hopeful moments and others of sadness and disappointment mixed in with a good portion of uncertainty.

The Dismas Fellowship celebrated its 10th anniversary in Toronto and Fellowships in Hamilton, Brampton, Kitchener , Cambridge continue and there is the hope for new addition to the Dismas Family in London, Ontario.  


People of faith continue to give according to the gifts they have been given. We have been able to expand the Dismas Fellowships and we continued with our Community Dinner at the Keele Centre and Christmas outreach programs. In addition, we received a generous donation to help us kick-start a new program called "Get Ready for Work". We will provide more on that in a future newsletter.  


This year saw the continuation of the retreats for women organized by Shauna and many volunteers. Out of these times of sharing came a new play that depicts some of the challenges women (and men as it turns out) face as they journey along the path of life.   


It has also been a year of uncertainty. Changes within the Correctional Service of Canada and their approach to Chaplaincy Services have been on-going. The role of the community chaplain (like Harry and Shauna) is changing. Funding for the Women's chaplaincy from CSC ended during the summer and the Men's position will come to a crossroads in March.  


We ask for your continued prayers and support during this time of change. We are working hard to continue our vision of building a community of hope, and we rely on you as one of our friends for support through your prayers, works of mercy and friendship.  


Please accept our best wishes for a blessed Christmas and a hope-filled New Year.  


Harry Nigh and Shauna Mayer                             Deacon Mike Walsh  

Toronto Community Chaplains                            Friends of Dismas 



Please consider the Friends of Dismas in Your Year-end Donations if you are able:

"It always comes down to love"


I think I was supposed to meet Ted that day - our annual Christmas Day with the men at Warkworth Institution. I'd been feeling discouraged with so much uncertainty hanging over our community chaplaincy work. I needed to hear his story.


He was standing in the doorway on the fringes of our social time. We had a mutual friend which maybe gave him more freedom to trust me with his story.


Ted - not his real name, of course - was both victim and offender, like many in prison. He had been abandoned as a kid and became prey to a coach who abused him terribly until Ted fled the situation at 17 years of age, full of rage and confusion.  He became a drug addict, committed a string of crimes, and fathered 4 children with 3 different partners.


He moved out west for work, but alone and strung out, he took his friend's gun one night determined to end his life. At 3:00 AM that morning, he received a call from his former partner back east.


"Your son wants to talk with you", she said.


"Dad, I don't want you to leave me," his 4 year old son said, "Dad, I need you."


Ted put the gun down.


I know it sounds too contrived and too miraculous and - skeptic that I am - I had to check it out with friends in the Maritimes who say his story is true. Some of us have problems with the resurrection too, and like the resurrection maybe its integrity lies in the epilogue when mice-like men became lions willing to die for their faith.


Ted returned home, confessed his crimes to the police and accepted the sentence of the court - "so that I won't always have to look over my shoulder when I'm back with my son", he told me.


He's taking treatments to address his addictions and has made strong friends in the faith community who continue to stay in touch and support him. He quietly told me all this standing there in the doorway as the rest of the packed room was belting out carols, guzzling coffee, chewing cookies and making Christmas cards.


 I've carried him with me ever since and reminding myself that it is really only love that matters, only love that penetrates our defenses and only love that really heals... only love from a 4 year old boy who calls his broken Dad home ... only love in an infant's cry from a manger in Bethlehem that makes any sense after all


Have a wonderful Christmas!


Harry Nigh, December 2013



A Year of Kinship

We are so incredibly grateful for the support from the community in our work with women and their families over this past year. Here are a few highlights from 2013 we would like to share with you:

Trauma and Abuse Support Groups

We have successfully offered "A Healing Journey" a support group for women who have experienced trauma and abuse to 35 participants in the downtown Toronto and surrounding area.

We have had three locations where we have been able to offer this program: Elizabeth Fry Society, Christian Community Church (in partnership with Yonge Street Mission) and Frontlines Ministries. These community partners believe in our work and have offered the use of their offices for running these free programs to women at-risk in their communities.

Summer Retreat 

The Women's Chaplaincy Summer Retreat was held  July 5-7 at the beautiful
Five Oaks Retreat Centre in Paris, ON. 

Our long-awaited annual retreat for women was a wonderful time this year. This year our theme was "Coming Home, Sharing Our Stories"


The purpose of our retreat is to rest, renew and listen for the voice of our Creator through silence, nature and the company of community. We gave women the opportunity to pray and rest in silence and fellowship with one another throughout the weekend.


The women went out into the beautiful grounds at Five Oaks and, along with our borrowed digital cameras from various volunteers, captured incredible photos of God's creation.


Fall Backpack Program - Sept 2013

Our annual backpack program was a huge success this fall. We were able to assist 75 families by providing new, good-quality backpacks, lunch bags, school supplies and healthy snacks for their children.


Christmas Basket Program - 2013

We were pleased to offer Christmas support to 60 families this past year. Each basket provided families with grocery store gift cards, stockings, chocolates, baking and a gift for every adult and child within the family. The community chaplain and our volunteers hand-delivered these baskets and spent time with each family over these past two weeks in December.


Welcome Kits

We have distributed over 100 Welcome Home kits to women recently released from prison.  These kits provide women with toiletries, towels, socks, slippers and a gift card for Tim Horton's to help with their transition back into the community. The kits are also a good way to meet new women and refer them to our various programs and retreats.

We are so grateful for the generous contribution of prayer, financial support, gifts and most of all friendship provided by our growing community of partners and volunteers. You make this work possible for the women who attend our programs.

Please continue to keep the women in your prayers as we work to sustain this important program in our community.


Best wishes for a blessed Christmas;


Shauna Mayer

Community Chaplain with Women


A Justice System for a Just Society

Our friends at Eglington St. George United Church which is located at 35 Lytton Blvd, Toronto (Yonge & Eglinton area) continue to sponsor a powerful series of talks on the Justice System as part of their Speaker Series. Mark these dates on your calander and bring a friend as admission is free.

Dr Lori Triano-Antidormi Sunday Jan. 26th @12:30
Psychologist and mother of Zachary Antidormi |

Lori is a psychologist who works with family members of homicide victims. She is also the mother of 2 1/2 year old murder victim, Zachary Antidormi.

Victims in the Criminal Justice System - What Do They Need?
Recent attention to victim's rights, in the face of Bill C-54, lead Dr. Triano-Antidormi to question how the government actually assists victims and, more importantly, to consider what victims actually need to be assisted in their recovery.

The government's promises made to victims regarding Bill C-54 were actually quite misleading; and what the government(s) offer in terms of victim's rights, may not always be in the best interest of a victim's recovery.

The Hon. Roy McMurtry Sunday Feb. 23rd @12:30
Former Chief Justice and Attorney General of Ontario
Reflections of Our Justice System

With over 50 years involvement serving in the field of criminal justice in Canada as a criminal lawyer, Attorney General Of Ontario and as Chief Justice Of Ontario, Roy has a mature understanding of the evolution of our justice system.

With this "long view", Roy will be sharing his views on the current state of criminal justice in Canada and what should be the areas of attention for a progressive path ahead, reflecting our Canadian values.
ThankYou for your ongoing Support
The Friends of Dismas is one way the faith community can become actively involved with those touched by crime. The "new"  and evolving model of what has traditionally been called Community Chaplaincy will require an increased commitment from the faith community to make the continuation of the ministry possible. 

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.

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:                   1730 Bur Oak Ave. PO Box 3500 Markham ONT L6E 0J1
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.

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 6 years:

*100+   New volunteers trained
*300+     Christmas baskets delivered to families
*250+     Christmas gift bags to men & women on parole
*2000+     Back to School Backpacks delivered
*175+     Members on weekend retreats
*170+     Dismas Fellowship evenings
*8,000+  Dinners served at the Fellowship
*85+       Community Dinners at Keele
* Effective part of post release programs for ex-prisoners
*Welcome Home kits
*Assistance with moving into a new home
*Memorial services  
*Estimate $225K+ worth of donated items from faith community

Thank you for caring.

Stay Connected
Friends of Dismas
1730 Bur Oak Ave. Bldg G
PO Box 3005
BurOak Post Office
Markham Ontario L6E 0J1
Charitable Registration: 83734 5560 RR0001