Friday, May 20, 2011
Dismas Ministry: Serving Those in Prison
Many of you are no doubt familiar with the corporal works of mercy:
1. Feed the hungry
2. Give drink to the thirsty
3. Clothe the naked
4. Shelter the homeless
5. Visit the sick
6. Visit those in prison
7. Bury the dead
The hardest one for me is #6. I've never set foot in a prison. I would be so scared - that is totally out of my comfort zone. I hope no one I know ends up in prison. Yet, there are many wonderful people who are called to serve in prisons and the least people like I can do is help support their efforts.
Dismas Ministry is a Catholic Outreach to inmates, victims, their families, those released from prison and the community. This national Catholic outreach among inmates and those affected by crime is named after one of the people executed with Jesus on Calvary. In that final hour DISMAS took stock of his life and turned to Jesus for mercy: "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom Luke 23:42." In the way that was typical of his ministry, Jesus turned to him and said:"This day you will be with me in paradise Luke 23:43."
DISMAS MINISTRY focuses primarily on a spiritual approach with inmates who want to understand and strengthen their relationship with God. As one of them wrote, "Prisoners need God and the love of Jesus and Mary as much or even more than the population as a whole."
Inmates who deepen their faith and grow in understanding of scripture will become less likely to offend others when they are released. For this reason, DISMAS provides bible and faith study materials, a prayer book for inmates, and free Catholic bibles. As Jesus taught us: "What you have received freely, give freely" Matthew 10:8.
DISMAS MINISTRY also supports victims of crime - the walking wounded - by creating an awareness of their needs in the community. It does this in various ways: by providing literature about victims' needs and resources for their care, special prayer services for victims in which they can find support from the faith community and mutual encouragement from their fellow victims. Victims lead the way in showing us how to be there for them.
The ultimate goal of DISMAS MINISTRY is to re-establish and strengthen the relationship of the Body of Christ with victims and those in prison. Despite where they are, inmates are still members of Christ's Body and should not be dismissed as worthless. As one inmate said, "We are not animals." Many will use their time behind bars to reassess their lives, and with God's help, make amends for the way that they have victimized others. As fellow Catholics, we can walk with them on the way to encountering God in his Word, doing whatever we can to support this spiritual transformation.
When a crime is committed, it offends not only the immediate victim, but the rest of society as well. Supporting the work of faith-based rehabilitation provides those who feel powerless against crime with a practical way to do something about it. Such an approach goes to the very heart of the problem - the need for God in the lives of all who have been affected by crime. Many inmates have been abused when they were children. In turn, their victims have suffered abuse from them. In the end, the only true healing is spiritual. Only God can transform suffering into victory as He did for Jesus.
There is even a special project by and for incarcerated women: I am Beautiful
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
* Pray for the incarcerated, the victims and loved ones, those who minister with them, and prison officials.
* Learn about prison and victim issues in the media, at the library and on the internet (check out the links on our web site).
* Read the bishops' statements on prison ministry. Reflect on the example of Jesus in the Gospels.
* Become involved - visit or write local inmates; reach out to victims of crime in your community.
* Support this ministry - your gift supports our work with inmates, victims, and the community.
* “Send Dismas Ministry a donation – you may change someone’s life!”
To learn more, please visit: http://www.dismasministry.org