The History of Dismas Ministry

We want to help you understand a little bit more about the ways Dismas Ministry has made an impact in Catholic prison ministry over the last 22 years! Please take some time to look at our 2000 – 2022 timeline.  Many exciting things have happened over the years and many more are on the way!

In 1999, an initial survey of 350 Catholic ministry workers was conducted. It indicated that no similar outreach in materials and services for Catholics behind bars existed at that time. The feedback clearly pointed to the urgent need for free printed resources to support the spiritual lives of Catholic inmates.

2000 – Dismas Ministry was established in the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy

– Mission statement and bylaws were approved

– Bishop Richard J. Sklba, Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Milwaukee elected first board president

– Bible distribution began in Wisconsin and was designated first project of the ministry

2001 – Over 2,000 Bibles were distributed in the first 10 months

2002 – Pray in the Spirit, a Catholic prayer book was published in English

– Distribution services expanded to 4 states

2003 – First ministry website was created

– Prayer book distribution reached 5,000

2004 – Distribution services expanded to 12 states

2005 – God With Us, a Catholic bible study course was published

– Distribution services expanded to 14 states

2006 – A Reason for Hope, a Catholic faith study course was published

2007 – Distribution services expanded to 29 states

2008 – Distribution services expanded to 35 states

2009 – Volume #1 of I Am Beautiful, a survival resource by and for women was published: 1st of 9 volumes

2010 – First board members beyond Wisconsin were welcomed (Fr. Ron Cloutier – Texas, Fr. Arturo Perez – Illinois, and Amalia Molina – California)

2011 – Messengers of Hope, a Catholic correctional training resource was published

– Union of Prayer began with 230 members

– Distribution services increased to 850 jails and prisons

– New website was launched

2012 – Distribution services increased to 950 jails and prisons and 116 Dioceses across 43 states

– Pray Always – a Catholic prayer study course was published

– Social media began – Facebook and Twitter accounts established

2013Distribution services reached all 50 states in the U.S.

– 1,683 study packets were sent to inmates

– Bibles, prayer books and rosaries distributed to 250 ICE detention facilities in U.S.

– A Reason for Hope, the faith study course, has been approved for RCIA in the prisons in some dioceses

2014 – Keeping Hope, a resource for families of incarcerated was published

2015 – Prison Ministry Network grew to 1,200 members

– Distribution services increased to 1,730 jails and prisons in 50 states

– The Web of Life, a social justice study course was published

2016 – Hosted the 1st National Catholic Prison Ministry Conference held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

2018 – Hosted the 2nd National Catholic Prison Ministry Conference held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

2019 – Understanding Trauma, a training resource for Catholics involved in prison ministry was published

– Dismas Ministry opened a new office located within Cardinal Stritch University

2020 – 225,000 bibles and 280,000 inmate prayer books have been distributed since 2000

– Union of Prayer grew to over 600 members

– Prison Ministry Network grew to over 1,800 members

2021 – Launched The Forgotten Work of Mercy: Finding Jesus in the Imprisoned, a training resource that provides a brief introduction to a much-needed ministry of the Church

– Launched A Way of the Cross, A resource for women prisoners that will enrich their spiritual journey behind bars

– Launched the Young Adult Prison Ministry Ambassador Program

– Expanded the footprint on the Cardinal Stritch University campus with the addition of four offices. The Dismas Ministry operation now includes six offices, and a large work room, HOPE, that serves as the fulfillment center and heart of our mission. 

2022 – Recognized as Outstanding Small Employer Internship Program by the Milwaukee Area College Internship Consortium (MACIC)

– Volume #9 of I Am Beautiful, a survival resource by and for women was published

– Prayer cards featuring prisoner artwork were created and added to our list of services for the incarcerated.

– Celebrated three years on the campus of Cardinal Stritch University. In that time, more than two dozen students have engaged with the Ministry as staff members, interns or volunteers. (That’s an average of eight students per year!)

Please consider helping us continue our mission. Join our Mercy Circle Monthly giving program today!