“Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed. …Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.’ The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, ‘Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly; for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:32, 39-43) St. Dismas is the patron saint of prisoners and penitent sinners.
How St. Dismas Guild began: Deacon Ken Finn became a Catholic deacon in 1978 and two years later began work as a prison chaplain counseling inmates at a rate of 100 to 150 a month. Deacon Ken said, “I try to tell the person they’re not a piece of junk or garbage…Christ loved the sinner…I have never met a person in my life who does not want to be loved.”
Through this work, Deacon Ken developed a passion for prisoners. Inspired by Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Deacon Ken and his wife Marie began St. Dismas Guild in 1989, almost 30 years ago! They began writing a bible study. The Bread of Life Catholic Bible Study was completed in 1992 and is now published in both the English and Spanish languages.
St. Dismas Guild is a Catholic non-profit organization whose mission is to bring Jesus Christ, the Word of God, to the broken, the lost and the lonely, the sick and the imprisoned. The objective of St. Dismas Guild is to prepare, transcribe, publish and distribute teaching aids and commentaries on Holy Scripture and to go out and search for the broken, the lost, the lonely, the hurting, the addict, and the sick and bring them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and continued growth by the power of the Holy Spirit through Sacred Scripture, Church Teaching, and the Sacraments.
In 2014 Deacon Ken went home to be with our Lord. He is missed and all in St. Dismas Guild pray for his intercession so the Guild may continue its mission. St. Dismas Guild continues to grow and currently distributes the Bread of Life Catholic Bible Study along with other Catholic publications to over 200 prisoners every month at no cost to the prisoners. In addition to providing books to the prisoners, St. Dismas Guild distributes a monthly newsletter containing testimonies to a mailing list of almost 5000. The printed testimonies are just a sample of the numerous letters the Guild receives from those who have experienced healing through their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
One success story is from Frank. His story began at 14 years of age…alcohol and drugs gave way to heroin and cocaine which brought him to his knees. His journey continued for 20 years. He had overdosed a few times, tried many inpatient secular programs and ended up in jail in a cell with someone charged with murdering a 16 year old girl. This was not the life he wanted, but it had such a stranglehold on him. It was Deacon Ken and Marie, who both provided spiritual support. Frank grew up Catholic, and believed in God but never really gave it much thought. For the first month, he thought he was going to die going through drug withdrawal cold turkey. He started reading the bible and said that everything in it pertained to today’s life. It had all the answers…he was totally amazed. Frank has been clean for 25 years and can’t stop thanking God. Here is a quote from Frank, “It’s such a blessing knowing that I can call out to Him at any time and He will fulfill all my needs. Can you imagine having someone to take all your problems away. It’s just a matter of opening up and letting Him in. When Christ comes into your life there will be nothing you can’t achieve.”
Thank you to all our generous donors who support St. Dismas Guild and help to spread the Word of God and His message of love.
Dear St. Dismas Guild, I have been on your mailing list for a couple of years and have enjoyed reading about how our Master can change the lives of so many people. I am 54 years old. I have severe emphysema and C.O.P.D. I’m in the last stages of this lung disease. But I have to let people know that Our Lord can do all things. I had lung doctors tell me that I would never be off the oxygen machine. When I was in the world I was on 4 liters of oxygen per minute. When I got put in jail I prayed to Our Lord that He may heal my lungs enough to get off the oxygen machine. And Praise be to Our Lord Jesus Christ, He did! I have been oxygen-free since 2014 and I am doing real well. I have the x-rays and medical records to prove what I say is true.
Our Master (May He be praised by all forever) answers all prayers. Maybe not the way you expect, but He will answer your prayers. We must trust in the Sacred Heart of Our Lord. May He bless all at St. Dismas Guild. If it be possible, could you send me some information about St. John of the Cross? He is my patron saint. Also could you send me the book The GOSPELS in Their Original Meaning? Thank you all. May God bless your wonderful ministry. Your bro, in Christ. R.S.
Dear RS, Being in the last stages of a lung disease, must be very difficult for you. Not being able to breathe is very scary. Only our Lord knows when it is time for you to come home into His loving embrace. You are right, God does answer our prayers and it is always for our good. He tells us in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Trusting in the Sacred Heart of our Lord, knowing He has you in the palm of His hand gives you peace. Jesus tells us in John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” Your testimony will help those who are suffering catastrophic illnesses. Thank you for sharing. You are in our prayers. You are preparing for the total healing. God bless you.
Dear St. Dismas Guild, Greetings to you in the Name of Jesus. First, I would like to thank you for mailing me your St. Dismas Guild newsletter every month. As I read it, you would not believe the blessings it has been for me. Now I have been locked up for 41 years of a life sentence. I came up for parole and I was given what is called a 5-year set off. But as I read your newsletter I am getting encouragement from it.
The reason that I am writing you is that I am not Catholic, but I would like to take your Catholic Bible Study. I do not have a Catholic bible so I don’t know if I needed a Catholic Bible to do your study. In fact, I would like for you to send me a Catholic Bible. As I read your newsletter I know that, of all the church groups that I know of, I am touched by your understanding and compassion for all people. So if out of your resources that you may have to help me be a better Christian I do appreciate it. We do have a Catholic service here but it is at a time that I cannot attend, but I would like to try to go to it. I would like to hear from you. Thank you for caring for us inmates. In Christ. JF
Dear JF, The bible, bible study and pamphlets are on the way to you. Yes, you do need the Catholic Bible to do the bible study. One great thing with the Catholic Bible it has Sirach 38 in it. It is such a powerful scripture for those who are ill and for those who have lost a loved one. The Church teaches that the last things are Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. We are in the beginning of lent where we are reminded that death is imminent. Ecclesiastes 3:2 says, “a time to be born and a time to die” and we will be judged by what we have done in the body whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10). The Bread of Life Catholic Bible Study helps you develop a personal relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit will teach you all you need to know and remind you of all Jesus said and did (John 14:26). Blessing to you.
Dear Staff: First, thank you for keeping me on your mailing list these past few years. I enjoy reading the testimonies, praying for the people who send them, and learning something new with each issue. I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with control issues and addictive behavior. I was moved to send this after reading the letter from J.M. in the “Doing Time with Jesus” section of the January 2017 issue. J.M. spoke of being sexually assaulted, being scared to be around a lot of people, and crying himself to sleep. Your response, as usual, was filled with blessed assurance and bible-based wisdom. I believe, though, besides sending applicable reading material he should have been strongly encouraged to immediately report the assault. This would have set in motion counseling for him and justice for his attackers. I pray for J.M.’s healing and that he receives professional counseling from a faithful follower as soon as possible. R.L.
Dear RL, Thank you for your concern and advice. Sexual Abuse should always be reported but some people are very much afraid to report it. Fear much of the time cripples people but 1 John 4:15 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” God is love. When you recognize His presence in the world today and believe in your heart His unconditional love for you and reach out and accept it the way gets easier. God bless you.
Hello St. Dismas Guild, First of all, I pray that this letter reaches you in the best of health and spirits. Now, I was given your address by another inmate and was told that upon request I could receive a Bible and an RCIA study course. If this is true, I would be very grateful for your help with this. I am currently serving Life without Parole and am in bad need of understanding. I don’t know what else to do or anywhere else to turn. My life flat out sucks and I don’t want it to be that way anymore. Thank you. May God be with you and bless you and your families always. Sincerely, JM
JM, I am sure God sees your heart and your desire to change. That is what we call repentance. Repentance is turning from the life you are living without God to a life with God, away from a sin-filled life to a Spirit-filled life. .Both John the Baptist and Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2 & 4:17). We sent you a bible, bible study, catechism and pamphlets to get you started. The best way to begin is learning how to live according to the Word of God and the teachings of the Church. Always remember to say the scripture at the top of each lesson, “The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will instruct you in everything, and remind you of all that I have told you” John 14:26. The change will come, just be patient with yourself.
Dear St. Dismas Guild, First, I would like to thank you for all the newsletters you have sent me this year. I have truly grown closer to my Lord knowing that I’m not alone and that the services you provide really are helping people not give up hope, regardless what things may seem like. The letters that the other prisoners write also help because we realize that those prisoners have a whole lot of time. They should open the eyes of a lot of people to realize how fortunate they are. Please pray for me. With brotherly love, God bless you. JS
Don’t ever give up hope as Isaiah 40:31 says,” They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” Matthew 11:28-30
To all this Lent, we pray that your Lenten season will be filled with time for reflection and growth in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
God bless you,
St. Dismas Staff