Letter from Fernando

In our last mailing we included the Timeline of the Church. This glossy informational pamphlet was very well received by our participants. Fernando was one of many who sent a card to thank us. See his card on the bulletin board.

Take part in this good work by donating toward printing and postage. Our donation jar is on the candle stand. Donations can also be made by credit card or check. Be sure to specify “St. Dismas Prison Ministry”!
Thank you for supporting this ministry!

Letter from Sergius

Finding the Orthodox Faith while in prison has been an amazing experience for Sergius and many others. Orthodoxy brings to hope and purpose people in prison. Sergius, one of 6 souls baptized into the Church by our ministry, makes good use of his time in prison by keeping an extensive prayer rule.

As awful as being in prison is, the prospect of getting out and having to make it in the world can be even more frightening. Important factors for a successful reentry are having a place to live, employment, being held accountable and part of a caring family/community. Please Keep Sergius and the +-40 others on our list in your prayers.

Thank you for supporting this ministry!

Your Prayers are Needed

Here is the current list of participants in our Prison ministry. Those in bold font are baptized Orthodox Christians. A few, like Derrick, Sam, and Jeremiah have recently been released, but are still in communication with us.

MICHAEL, JESUS, GREGORY, KENNETH, JASON, DMITRIY, DAVID, JOSEPH, PAUL, THOMAS, ELIJAH, ANTHONY, STEVEN, SERGIUS, NATHAN, Christopher, CHRIS, Bademus, SAM, MOSES, Michael, Shane, DANIAL, Fernando, Vincent, Brendan, Chester, ANDRES, Johnny, Brian, CARLOS, Tommy, JAMES, Anna, VERONICA, Khaliq, Jake, Jeremiah, John, Derrick, Christian.

It’s time to send another issue of the Good-NewsLetter and print Nativity cards. We need your help! Participate in this good work by putting your cash donation in the jar on the candle table. When donating by credit card or check, make a note that your donation is for St. Dismas Prison Ministry. We also welcome donations of Orthodox books and postage stamps.

Thank you for your prayers and your support!

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you From the foundation of the world: For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ (Matthew 25: 34-36)

Letter from Elijah

These are excerpts from an 8 page letter, one of 5 letters I received last week from our participants. Elijah, like many of our participants is seeing God moving in his life and realizing, much to his surprise, that God’s been with him all along. I’ll post his letter on the bulletin board, so you can read about how he came to be involved in the Prison ministry and how he “Dares to Hope” again.

Thank you for your prayers for those in prison and your financial support of our Prison Ministry.

Parable of the Sower

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In today’s Gospel the Lord begins the parable by stating:

“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it.”

Our Christ reveals the meaning of this statement by saying:

“The seed is the Word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”

Here we can see from our Lord’s description the truth that the devil is like a roving lion, ready to pounce on his prey. He truly is the enemy of our Salvation and Christ continues the parable by saying:

“Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.”

Our Saviour explains this statement to mean:

“… the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.”

We can identify those in this category as the ones who may be attracted to the Gospel immediately because they know in their heart it’s true, yet they really don’t want to repent.

That’s why they have no root when temptation comes.

To these kind of people, Salvation is merely a concept—an attractive idea; after all—who wants to burn in hell, right? But, it’s not a concept that they actually want to “live out” according to the precepts of the Gospel, because it takes pain and effort.

In fact, some even claim there’s nothing more to repent of because Jesus washed away and paid for all of our sins; kind of like a Protestant version of the heretical indulgences once promoted by the Latins.

However, in today’s epistle reading St. Paul said, “… if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”

Continuing on, our Christ says in the parable:

“And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.”

For this statement, He explains:

“Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”

Notice here Christ admits these people are actually able to produce fruit, but it never reaches maturity. Maybe they get baptized, are zealous for a few years, start to show the beginnings of fruit on the vine, but then “cares of the world” set in. Maybe it’s work—they’ll say, “I can’t come Church, go to Confession and come to the Chalice because I have to work on Sunday, and besides, I don’t have time to properly prepare, so …”

All this ties in with the pursuit of money, causing neglect in the Spiritual life. And then they seek pleasure, because of working so hard. You can fill in the blank here, as many challenges can fit in this category.

The point is, the struggle is set aside, just as spiritual fruit is starting to show on the vine.

And lastly, concerning the third category of people, the Lord states:

“But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.”

And Christ explains this saying as:

“The ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”

From this we learn that sincerity, nobility are the qualities of a good heart. The Word is kept in patience, bearing good fruit.

This means they persevered when tempted, for example, to stop watching their tongue.

This means they patiently struggled through difficult people, or were wise enough to completely separate themselves from people who were a source of temptation, as St. John Chrysostom recommends us to do.

The bottom line is these kinds of people are able to attain the will power needed to actually apply the Gospel, second to second. And it’s not easy!

So may God bless us to remain rooted in the good soil, nourished by Christ, and provided here on earth by that encompasses His Church.

Letter from Aaron

Aaron has been part of Saint Dismas Prison Ministry for 9 years! He’s come a long way and has formed connections to our community through being a pen pal. His writing, grammar, spelling etc. have improved a lot. Having someone to write and receiving mail is a big deal. He was encouraged and finished high school while in prison.

People in prison are not allowed to write each other. They form connections and then they are separated. The Department of Corrections moves people around all the time. I check our mailing list before every mailing and update addresses. This last time, I think I had 10 (out of 45) who had been moved. I can’t send letters for them, but can send “shout outs”, letting them say hello and encourage each other.

Thank you for your support!