Where are the Catholics?

Source: Dismas Ministry Prison Ministry Update

Dismas Ministry asks, “Where are the Catholics?”
A National Catholic Prison Ministry in the works.

May 15, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI – Dismas Ministry, a national Catholic prison ministry, began a national awareness campaign in December of 2012 to raise awareness of the need for more Catholics to become involved in Prison Ministry.   A mailing to over 13,000 U.S. parishes was sent to the attention of the parish pastor.  To date they are currently 5 months into the campaign and have had slightly over 100 responses to their mailing.  Although that is a very good response, they are still hoping for more responses.

Did your parish get the mailing?  Is your Diocese involved in Prison Ministry?  The Word of God is clear—outreach to the imprisoned is enjoined on us by the Lord himself who not only gave us his words, “You visited me when I was in prison,” (Matt. 25:36) but also his example on the cross as he accepted the repentant criminal and promised him paradise that very day (Luke 23:43).  The sad truth is that the Catholic community has not always responded to this forgotten work of mercy.  Many diocesan websites do not even include prison ministry among the list of ministries, and many dioceses do not have a coordinator or director of prison ministry.

Continuing since the month of December, as part of our effort to raise awareness of the need for a stronger Catholic prison outreach, a “Where are the Catholics?” informational package was mailed to every parish and every Catholic bishop in the U.S. inviting them to share with Dismas Ministry what they are doing to bring pastoral services to Catholic inmates.  The goal and hope of this mailing is to encourage a supportive network and a response that equals or surpasses the efforts of non-Catholic prison volunteers.  This mailing included a poster for parishes, a letter to the pastor spotlighting the need for more Catholics to become involved in Prison Ministry, a “How to become Involved” informational sheet, and a return postcard.  It was asked that the parishes take the following actions:

• Give prison ministry a prominent place on your diocesan website
• Ensure that someone is appointed as prison ministry coordinator
• Visit inmates in your diocese once or twice a year.
• Include prison inmates, family members, and victims in the prayers of the faithful.
• Share with Dismas Ministry what your parish or diocese is doing! 

Catholics behind bars deserve adequate pastoral care by right of their baptism, despite the wrongs they have committed. They still belong to the Body of Christ and deserve the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. We might well ask “Where are the Catholics?” One Catholic prison chaplain shared recently that “Non-Catholic volunteers outnumber Catholic volunteers by nearly 40-1. We are being overrun by the fundamentalists who do not hesitate to proselytize among our Catholic inmates.” 

We are asking every parish and every diocese to please take a look at the mailing you received as part of this campaign and Pray, Learn, Act, and Share!  To learn more about Dismas Ministry and the “Where are the Catholics?” national campaign, please go to our website at www.dismasminsitry.org.  You can follow us on Twitter and “like us” on Facebook too.

Dismas Ministry is endorsed as a Catholic ministry and listed as such in the U.S. Catholic Directory. However, it is financially independent and raises the funds it needs to carry out its work.  “We welcome the prayers and the financial support of the Catholic community to make this ministry a success. We are working hard to reach our goal of serving in all fifty states. We only seven more to go to reach that goal,” said Mr. Zeilinger. “We need the prayers and financial backing of the entire Catholic community.”

For more information visit www.dismasministry.org, or write to:
Dismas Ministry, P.O. Box 070363, Milwaukee, WI 53207.


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