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One man’s journey to reclaim his life: Dewey Bozella

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Main Blog | Comments Off on One man’s journey to reclaim his life: Dewey Bozella

This video is a bit long but this is a wonderfully told story of how one man found peace in the strangest of places.

Dewey Bozella was locked up for 26 years – a lifetime – for a crime he did not commit. This story is about the triumph of human spirit and living proof of the maxim: “never give up”. One man’s journey to reclaim his life, against all odds; a man fighting his biggest fight outside the boxing ring without any hatred or bitterness towards the system. Dewey Bozella – courageous, persistent, human and finally…free

Video from KarmaTube

Helping others to Die with Dignity

Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Main Blog | Comments Off on Helping others to Die with Dignity

“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”― Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

Below is a story of compassion and empathy. I have had the honour of knowing Dan for a number of years and I find him to be a person who can live in awe at what the marginalize have to carry and not in judgement about how they carry it.

Click here for the article on the ministry of Dan and the others of the Peterborough Community Chaplaincy.

The Resurrection Goes On! By Harry Nigh

Posted by on Apr 21, 2014 in Featured, Main Blog | Comments Off on The Resurrection Goes On! By Harry Nigh

Timothy BreakfastOn  Saturday April 19th my friend Timothy and folks from Nazareth Gospel Temple hosted a  first-ever breakfast for their community in the east end of Scarborough that includes the hotels along Kingston Road where some of our poorest neighbours live.

It was Timothy’s dream that his church should reach out to hurting people around them.

I ate breakfast beside Merna who left her grown sons and grandchildren in Bathurst, New Brunswick to pursue the good life in Toronto. She walked across the road after Timothy knocked on her door with an invitation to come for breakfast.

I’ve known Timothy in darker times just after he got out of prison for the second time. He’s known more than his share of abandonment and caused more than his share of pain. After a fellow prisoner at the Toronto East Detention Centre told him about Jesus, he has clung to his faith in Christ even in the darkest times.

Seeing him Saturday was like a pre-Easter resurrection … one of a long line of resurrections in his life…. from a boyhood filled with a desperate struggle to survive the streets of Detroit to this day… giving his neighbourhood a wonderful breakfast.

We have days when we sadly watch as friends return to the tomb of prison. But we also see resurrections too.

On May 23rd our Toronto Dismas Fellowship will celebrate men and women who have left prison behind and are rebuilding their life in freedom. Come if you can. Say hello to Timothy. It will be a great night!

We also ask you to pray for resurrection of our community chaplaincy ministry in the Toronto-Hamilton area. Correctional Services Canada has stopped funding community chaplaincy in this area for both the men and women’s work, except for the work of my friend, Imam Habeeb Alli with the Islamic chaplaincy.

But Mennonite Central Committee is committed to raising funds for the Women’s ministry and Friends of Dismas is supporting the community chaplaincy with men.

So we have brushed off a tin cup and you may find us outside your church someday asking for help so that this vibrant community of hope can continue to engage people of faith with those who have been touched by crime.

Even resurrections can’t be done alone!

There Was No ‘Other’ Anymore by: Debbie Ackley

Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Our Stories | Comments Off on There Was No ‘Other’ Anymore by: Debbie Ackley

There Was No ‘Other’ Anymore by: Debbie Ackley

On November 17, I read from Born from Silence at two penitentiaries in Gravenhurst, Ontario: Beaver Creek and Fenbrook Institutions during Restorative Justice Week. This year the theme was “Fostering a Restorative World View”. In three of the four readings with inmates and staff (held separately), the reading was done in a circle. I am so grateful to chaplains Harry Nigh, Eusebia da Silva and the chaplains of both institutions: Arn Main; Miles Schell and Abraham Yonas for inviting me to do this.

 It was one more layer of healing for me as the men and the staff listened to my story with attentiveness, openness and a willingness to “make room for my story” in the house of other own beings. I came home knowing something deep had been healed and transformed in me. There was no “other” anymore.  I, too, was able to take in filaments of story that they were willing to share with me. It was the first time my story had been heard in the “criminal justice system” and after four years this was one more necessary step in healing and restoration.

 On November 21, I also read in a circle at a Dismas Fellowship meeting, a support group for men and women released from prison. The experience was similar, but perhaps because I heard two other stories in more detail this time, I came away with their stories in the forefront of my soul. After many years of facilitating dialogue circles, this experience of reading my poetry in circle brought a new depth to my understanding of co-creating “safe containers” for shared story telling. Our world views are carried in stories. This round of story telling did one small thing toward fostering a restorative world view.

Debbie Ackley lives in Toronto where 4 years ago her teenage son was brutally swarmed and beaten by 15 other youth at a party in Rosedale. Only two youth were ever charged (one of whom was drafted to the NHL shortly afterwards) and with mistakes in collecting evidence no one was ever convicted. Debbie’s whole family endured this trauma. Her book of poetry, Born From Silence gives witness to her struggle to find meaning and hope. As she says, her experience of reading in Fenbrook and Beaver Creek was the first time she was able to tell her story within the criminal justice system.

“Unleashed” By: Rev. Harry Nigh

Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Our Stories | Comments Off on “Unleashed” By: Rev. Harry Nigh

We gathered on a coffee house patio next to the soaring, abstract sculpture of a wind-filled sail beside Hamilton’s harbour. The sculpture is called “Unleashed”. It was here next to this sculpture that we scattered Charlie Taylor’s ashes on the waters of Hamilton Bay after his death 3 years ago.

On this day we gathered to mark the 15th anniversary of Charlie’s release from prison and to reflect on the all that has happened in its aftermath. 

In June, 1994, Charlie had just finished his seven-year sentence for sexual crimes against children. It was his fourth adult sentence for crimes against children. The tragic irony is that no one ever a served a day for all the times he was sexually assaulted when he was a child in care.

Earlier that winter I had received a call from Bill Palmer, psychologist at Warkworth Institution asking for support for Charlie on his return to the community because Charlie would serve every day of his sentence and would be released without any community supervision.

“Could you put him on a Mennonite farm?” Bill suggested as a new beginning away from the city in which he would always get lost.

I had known Charlie for many years through the M2/W2 ministry. Ed Vandenberg and John Aukema had befriended Charlie all through his sentence as his M2 sponsors. Les Horne had also known Charlie in his capacity as Child Advocate for Ontario.  Charlie loved Les like a father.(Click here for Les’ poetic tribute given at Charlie’s memorial service.)

In Les’ words, “The name he used for himself when he felt pampered was Chuckie, but it sounded so daft when he said it that nobody ever picked up on it. 

“The story of Charlie’s childhood and his history of institutional care is very familiar to students of child welfare.  He was an unwanted child in a troublesome family.  One of his brothers died violently in Kingston Penitentiary.  Charlie used to say that his brother had the mentality of a child of three and that the prison pipeline reported that he was killed by the staff.  He would get very angry when he discussed it.”

A Circle of Support?

The idea of a farm did not go anywhere so I responded to Bill by saying, “what if we created a Circle of Support for Charlie?” Members of my congregation and others volunteered their help in reaching out to Charlie. “We’ll call our group “Charlie’s Angels”; I suggested, and soon Les Horne, Murray Lumley, Dorothy Alexander, Beryl Stephen, along with a very supportive police officer, Det-Sgt. Bob Maxwell and his pro bono lawyer, Douglas Alderson became Charlie’s circle. Later Julie Bender, Rick Pauw, Rob Brown, Edgar Rogalski and, Eileen Henderson were vital members.


Remembering Chris-By: Eusebia da Silva

Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Our Stories | Comments Off on Remembering Chris-By: Eusebia da Silva

May 8th

8:36am: Well, I’m sitting in the train station waiting for the ride to Brampton that leaves at 9:15am from here in Kitchener. Thank-you God.   (I feel lighter).

Well it’s 9:27am and I’m on the Via Rail, on my way to Brampton. I’ve always loved the sound of a train in the distance. You know, the whistle.

It’s really cool to hear the whistle on the train I’m on. Present, no longer off in the distance.  I used to wonder where the train was going.

Now, I’m on the train that is whistling, no longer in the distance, and I know where I am going.

This prose poem was written by Christine (Chris to all who knew her) in her journal just moments after leaving Grand Valley Institution on May 8th, 2007. They were read at Chris’ memorial service on November 27th to a group of friends who Chris had come to speak of as her “family”. We gathered in the basement of Walmer Baptist Church, in the same place where Chris had shared many a meal and sat in many a circle with her ‘Dismas family’ over the past two years. Together we remembered and honoured the life of our friend Chris who we had come to know and grown to love over the last two and some years.

Recently, a friend shared with me this wonderful Jewish saying: “What is truer than truth? Answer, “the story.” What follows is some of Chris’ story, yet her story is part of a bigger story… which is God’s story. Now that she has left this world, Chris is “no longer in the distance” no matter how far off that train whistle sounded at first, no matter how far from God she felt at any point in her life. The train that Chris was waiting for didn’t leave her behind… she was going home for Christmas no matter how long it took her to get there… we can listen for and love the train whistle as Chris did… wherever Christmas will take place for us.

There were a number of desires Chris expressed when she came out of prison in the Spring of 2007. I met her one winter day in the quiet room of Grand Valley Institution. In a small dark room with little more than a couple of places to sit, a bookshelf and a coffee table, Chris shared some of her story with me. She was coming out in a couple of months and her only connections on the outside were the staff at Ellen House in Brampton and her long time friend and partner Lisa.


Imagine: By: Donald Tremblay

Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Main Page Quotes, Our Stories | Comments Off on Imagine: By: Donald Tremblay

Imagine: By: Donald Tremblay

Imagine the world and all its complexities

Imagine the galaxies and all its intricacies

Imagine the universe and all its design

Imagine the intellect which is God’s mind

                                              By: Donald Tremblay

Is There a Crime That You Cannot Forgive?

Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Main Blog | Comments Off on Is There a Crime That You Cannot Forgive?

Are there times when forgiveness doesn’t come easy to you? Is there a particular offense that would take your entire will to pardon?

Rev. Harry Nigh and Deacon Mike Walsh discuss this question with Pedro Guevara Mann of Salt + Light TV.

Please click on the picture or the link to watch this interview and consider how you might answer the question: Is there a crime that you cannot forgive?










Click Here to view the interview