Today, Pope Francis traveled to a prison near Rome to wash the feet of a dozen inmates, a Holy Thursday ritual that symbolizes humility and highlights his papacy’s attention to those on society’s margins.

Pope Francis has made it a tradition since the beginning of his papacy to celebrate the Mass and foot-washing ritual on Holy Thursday at a prison or detention center, refugee center or rehabilitation facility.  He has washed the feet of prisoners every year since 2012 (except for 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic).

Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate after washing it during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a prison in Civitavecchia, Italy, April 14, 2022.

Pope Francis has spoken frequently and passionately about prisoners and the need to uphold their human dignity. He has condemned the harsh and inhumane treatment that prisoners often face, and he has called for a more compassionate and restorative approach to criminal justice.

In a speech to prison officials in 2015, Pope Francis stressed the importance of recognizing the inherent dignity of every person, including those who have committed crimes. He urged prison officials to see their work as a mission of hope, helping prisoners to rediscover their worth and their potential for good. He also spoke out against the use of torture and solitary confinement, calling them forms of psychological torture that violate human dignity.

In another speech to prisoners and their families in 2019, Pope Francis highlighted the need for society to support and care for those who have been incarcerated. He acknowledged the difficulties that many prisoners face in rejoining society after their release, and he called for greater efforts to provide education, job training, and other forms of support that can help them to rebuild their lives. He also spoke out against the stigma and discrimination that former prisoners often face, calling on society to welcome them back and support their efforts to reintegrate.

Pope Francis has also emphasized the importance of restorative justice, which focuses on repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior and promoting healing and reconciliation for all involved. He has called for a shift away from punitive approaches to criminal justice, which can perpetuate cycles of violence and harm, and toward approaches that emphasize healing and transformation. He has spoken out against the death penalty, calling it a violation of the dignity of human life, and he has called for greater efforts to address the root causes of crime, such as poverty, inequality, and social exclusion.

Pope Francis has been a powerful advocate for prisoners and a voice for justice and compassion in the criminal justice system. His message of hope and solidarity offers a powerful reminder that even those who have committed serious crimes are still beloved children of God, worthy of dignity, respect, and a second chance.

You can find the Pope’s schedule for Holy Week here





Delisa Person, Mission Coordinator

For this blog post we would like to introduce you to our Mission Coordinator and the newest member of the Dismas Ministry team, Delisa Person. She started working with Dismas Ministry as our Student Ambassador in June of 2022. Once she graduated from Cardinal Stritch University in December, she agreed to join our team – and we couldn’t be happier!

“Since joining the Dismas Ministry team, Delisa has made many positive contributions to our organization. Delisa is learning how a small nonprofit runs, and developing new skills along the way. Most important, Delisa understands our mission, and she takes great care of both the prisoners and chaplains, as well as our donors. We are blessed to have her on the team,” said Tyler Curtis, Dismas Ministry Executive Director.

We asked Delisa a few questions about her experience working with Dismas Ministry and we wanted to share her thoughtful responses so you can get to know her a little better.

Q: What has been your experience with the organization’s culture?


I’ve been working with Dismas Ministry for the past ten months. I can say that the cultural transition from my previous position as a student and intern to my current one as the mission coordinator has been rewarding yet challenging. The duties I’ve taken on in my new position have given me the opportunity to develop stronger relationships with the other members of the team and the clients we support, including chaplains, volunteers for prison ministry, prisoners, etc. My adaptation from student worker to employee has been considerably simpler than I anticipated. It’s been helpful to build relationships with experts who have been doing this work for a while and is crucial to my development and learning, especially in the non-profit community.

Q: What parts of our mission do you connect with?

Delisa Person working in the Hope Workroom


I identify with the goal of offering hope and faith to those we serve, particularly prisoners. Faith is the assurance that if one acts now, the blessings that will result from hope will be realized in the future. Hope is to trust in God’s promises of exaltation. Both hope and faith are essential for exaltation and are connected. According to my personal ideas, hope reshapes the possible and creates pathways to the unbelievable. Through our work, we give prisoners resources to regain their faith in God. By doing this, we instill a sense of hope in those who belong to a vulnerable demographic.

Q: What is one of your work goals for the next few months or for 2023?


One of my professional objectives, since changing roles, is to help improve efficiencies within the organization. Our day-to-day team is comprised of two staff members, while consultants and volunteers work onsite several times each month. The majority of my daily activities have involved clearing out files and performing duties that enable our small operations to run more smoothly. After this is finished, we can concentrate on other areas that need attention.

Q: What is one thing that you wish people knew about your job?


When you are unfamiliar with someone’s situation, it is easy to make snap judgments about them. Regardless of the reason for their incarceration, I don’t judge people based on the faults they have made in the past. I try to offer those inmates hope. I am confident that if they are contacting Dismas Ministry it is because they are motivated to better themselves and/or make amends with God for their transgressions. A lot of social service field jobs can be overwhelming and mentally challenging. You will catch yourself sympathizing with people you never even met.


I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me,

he can work through anyone.” ~St. Francis of Assisi


Francis of Assisi was a self-proclaimed “wild child.” So is Anthony, a prisoner in Indiana.

Unlike Francis of Assisi, from his earliest memories, Anthony was not well cared for or loved properly by his parents. From a very young age, he suffered abuses, neglect, abandonment and the impacts of poverty. From his teenage years and beyond, he entered a life of crime riddled by violent acts and substance abuse.

Original artwork created by Anthony M.

Here is Anthony’s reflection on the road he’s traveled from those darkest of days:

“Until I found God, I thought I was a total psychopath because of all the dirt I’ve done. I was able to do without any feeling whatsoever. Today, I’m remorseful. Today, I can feel. Today, I love and care. I’ve gone from victim to survivor to victor – Thanks to God! I’ve always felt God’s presence in my life but was so stubborn and calloused. I would never acknowledge Him. There is no other explanation about how I’ve come out of some of the situations I’ve been in other than Providence.

I’ve reached a turning point in my life. It was time for me to get honest with self, to forgive others and forgive myself. Letting go of all the hurt, hate and resentments. The horrible and evil I’ve received and released needed to be put to rest if I was to heal and change my life. I’ve run from my problems my whole life. I’m a professional at escape and evade aside from the Lord’s protecting arms around me helping me to survive. Trust me, all the dirt I’ve done, I should either be in prison for life or dead. I can’t count on my fingers how many times I’ve been pronounced dead from herion overdose. All I can say is if God has a plan for a guy like me, then please never give up on yourself because He has a plan for you as well.

I feel the importance of being up front and straightforward to anyone considering Christianity. It is the way, the truth and the light, plus a beautiful thing. It’s worth the effort to stand firm in our faith. Knowing, is a huge advantage, that goodwill always prevails and no matter how hard it gets, I smile in the face of evil because I know I’m on the winning team.

Today, I let go and let God. Today, I pray for these people who’ve hurt me. Today, I put pen to paper to share a 41-year journey that wasn’t always fair in hopes someone, somewhere can relate and find the same peace I’ve found. Realize you’re not alone, that anything is possible with God and with good friends. I extend my hand of friendship to you, whoever and wherever you are in your own journey. Don’t give up, it’s only just begun. You are loved.“


A member of our Prison Ministry Network, Sue Clones, recently shared Anthony’s story with us. She and Anthony have been pen pals for four years. The excerpts from Anthony’s memoir are shared by Dismas Ministry to shine a light on one prisoner’s journey and his renewed hope for the present – and the future.

Pen pals help prisoners stay aware of the world outside of prison, particularly the area where they resided. Through letter writing, individuals “outside” show compassion, caring and understanding and help improve the inmate’s self-esteem. These inmates often feel alone and forgotten, and inspiring words of comfort from a trusted friend fill them with hope. To learn more about becoming a pen pal to a prisoner, please contact the Order of Malta – Federal Association in Washington, DC, at or email:


The artwork in this post is original work created by Anthony M.


Original artwork created by Anthony M.


Did You Know The Importance That “Prison” Plays In The Bible?

Did you know that “prison” and the “idea of prison” plays a significant role in the Bible? In both the Old Testament to the New Testament.

In the Old Testament, imprisonment is mentioned often as a common form of punishment for various crimes. In the New Testament, imprisonment was often used to silence those who preached the Gospel. Despite the potential negative connotations surrounding prison, the Bible shows us how prison can also be a place of transformation, redemption, and spiritual growth.

Paul and Silas in prison,

The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is an excellent example of how imprisonment can be a transformative experience. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and later imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Despite this injustice, Joseph maintained his faith and devotion to God. In prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of his fellow prisoners and eventually rose to a position of power in Egypt. His time in prison was a period of growth and learning that ultimately led to his success and prosperity.

In the New Testament, the story of Paul and Silas in prison highlights how even in the darkest of circumstances, faith and prayer can bring about miracles. Paul and Silas were imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, and while in jail, they sang hymns and prayed. Their faith was rewarded with an earthquake that opened the prison doors and freed them from their chains. Their imprisonment became a catalyst for spreading the Gospel to the jailer and his family, leading to the founding of the church in Philippi.

Daniel in the lion’s den

Imprisonment is not only a place of transformation and redemption for individuals but also a way for God to work in the world. In the book of Daniel, God worked through the imprisonment of Daniel to bring about miraculous events that resulted in the King of Babylon praising God. Similarly, in the book of Acts, God worked through the imprisonment of Paul to spread the Gospel message to various parts of the Roman Empire.

The Bible shows us that imprisonment is not solely a place of punishment but can be a place of transformation, redemption, and spiritual growth. The stories of Joseph, Paul, Silas, Daniel, and others demonstrate that even in the darkest of circumstances, faith and devotion to God can bring about miraculous events and lead to personal growth and transformation.




Written by Kate Nava, Vice President, Dismas Ministry Board of Directors 

Kate Nava, Vice President, Dismas Ministry Board of Directors

I’m Mary Kate Nava, Dismas Board Member. I’m recently connected with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Laredo, Texas, where Bishop James A. Tamayo’s team directed our collaboration with Deacon and Prison Minister Enrique Peñuñuri.

I accompanied Deacon Enrique who routinely delivers God’s Word in lecture and prayer sessions for incarcerated men and women across Laredo, the third largest city on the US-Mexico border.

Deacon Enrique and Kate Nava in front of La Salle Regional Center for Women

With appropriate clearances in place, we visited groups of inmates at La Salle County Regional Detention Center in Encinal, Texas, and the Webb County Detention Center in Laredo.

I reminded my unsettled self of Paul Claudel’s insight: “Lent is meant to be the springtime of our hearts. The season when snow melts, sap runs, and new life springs up from the barren ground.”

Our first stop was the La Salle Regional Center for women. After passing security, we were escorted to an empty multi-purpose room where a simple preparation took place. We arranged chairs in rows at the appropriate separation distances, and at the front of the room, a folding table with a white cloth and simple crucifix was centered. Women inmates of all ages were escorted into the now-less-stark, cinderblock room.  A deafening slam of the steel door locked us together with an astute guard and with God, which suddenly warmed the space with holiness.

Deacon Enrique opened with a blessing, and his words paralleled Psalm 19. He reminded the women that the Word of God is directed to each one of them as His daughters. Pointing at the cinderblock wall, he suggested each block is akin to life and the stages therein. One block is birth, then youth, perhaps marriage and the blessing of children, work or profession, friendships, family, and freedom. “And one block, is this place,” he suggested. “God has directed you to use this time you’ve been assigned to come closer to Him. Take and embrace without distraction the possibilities and realities of His goodness from this temporary time. Do this in lieu of counting the days. Participate in God’s way and receive His generous gifts and virtues.”

In closing, we prayed the words our Savior gave us: the Lord’s Prayer. My right hand automatically rose to hold that of my neighboring seatmate. The guard, following policy, shook her head toward me, indicating No.

Time was up; the women arose and seamlessly fell into queue. Many had a lovely glow, and others appeared calm or contrite. Clearly, “New life springs up from the barren ground.”

Webb County Detention Center in Laredo

Our second visit took a similar format with male inmates at the Webb County Detention Center in Laredo. (This unit is operated by CoreCivic, a processing center for Immigration ICE.) The men arrived with actual eagerness. Deacon Enrique urged the men to become followers of God during this time. He strongly discouraged “labeling” any fellow inmate as an enemy, and to erase and abandon the “eye for an eye…tooth for a tooth” approach. “If a fellow is angry or aggressive toward you or others, instead of watching TV, or napping, invest your time in taking interest in him.” He gave some examples, starting with “you seem very sad or mad. What’s going on? We have plenty of time to talk about what you’re feeling or going through.” Other approaches to the most aggressive can start with: “Matthew, how did you get to be so great at basketball? Draw out your brothers. Assure them that God knows each of them. Have no enemies nor fall to the level of labeling your brothers. In becoming amigos, in this scenario, one truly becomes a genuine Disciple of Christ.”

Once more, we wrapped up with a prayer and the prisoners in their bright orange uniforms fell into queue. This time I observed the majority had smiles and even a little more “spring” in their steps.

This Lenten Season, new life indeed is springing up from barren ground.

Kate Nava is a Dismas Ministry board member based near Dallas, Texas. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Oregon and a master’s in business administration from Notre Dame de Namur University in California. Kate’s career path included work in the airline industry and higher education. A devout Catholic, Kate lives her faith through loving service to family, friends, and neighbors in need in her community.