Spirituality Matters – First Week of Advent

1 December 2014

First Week of Advent

A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 

DeSales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join 

in service, prayer, and learning in our struggling neighborhoods.



  •  Service Word
  •  Last Week in Camden
  •  Upcoming Events
  •  Links


  1. Service Word   Mark 1:1-8


A voice of one crying out in the desert:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert

proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

People of the whole Judean countryside

and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem

were going out to him

and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River

as they acknowledged their sins.


A young woman from a recent service retreat wrote: “Thank you so much for a wonderful and humbling weekend in Camden. I had an amazing time … .

My favorite parts of the trip this time around were going to St. Joseph’s House and to the AA house. Those two experiences opened my eyes to the real world of Camden.   They helped me appreciate all I have and really made me feel good about what I was doing. 

Another part of going to Camden that I always appreciate is how happy everyone is. No

matter how hungry, or how cold, or how in need the people are, they are always smiling and saying hello. 

This trip has helped me to put my own life in perspective and has deepened my faith tremendously. I hope to be back soon!”


The desert is a place where life is stripped down to the very basics.   Distractions and activities lie somewhere else.   In the Catholic Christian it is a place to encounter ourselves, our God, and the darkness that lurks in this human world.   The level simplicity enables a different perspective.


DeSales Service Works offers a kind of desert experience: human weakness is plainly visible in the ruined or abandoned homes and industrial buildings, and in acres of vacant lots.   You see it in a homeless woman, Kim, sleeping wrapped in a blanket next to the cold brick wall of the parish hall—-a straw sticking out of a half drunk can of Mountain Dew next to her on the blacktop.   (She is one of eight sleeping in the Cathedral parking lot this first week of December.)    In this wilderness volunteers get glimpses of the home life some of our grade school kids, just eating lunch with them or out on the playground for recess.   In the Last Stop AA/NA meeting the honest sharing opens our eyes to the darkness brought by addiction.


We hope that everyone who participates in service retreats gets an experience of the desert so that they, like the student who wrote the note above, want to come back soon.   Yes, come back to Camden, and Wilmington—-to DSW—-and offer help on a regular basis in their neighborhoods.


The voice of the Lord comes to us in the seasons of the Church year, in people we encounter in service, in the wild, desert space of prayer.


-How is the call of the Lord surprising you or challenging you now?

-Is there any place you find regular desert time?
-How has service or encounters with those “on the margins” impacted you?



  1. Last Week in Camden

As with past years Thanksgiving the Cathedral parish served as a hub getting food to needy people.   It comes in from all directions from generous individuals, parishes and other communities, and then we get it to needy people.


Tuesday a Salesianum homeroom got to assist with our big food distribution day.   That night Rick and Miranda from the Last Stop and I joined members of St. Anselm’s Parish in Philly for a poor person’s dinner and Mass.   We got to share about poverty, addiction and the workings of God in even the least expected places.


Two student groups from Cristo Rey High School, Philadelphia, spent Wednesday morning in service as a way of marking the feast of Christ the King.    One group assisted with sandwich ministry; the other cleaned and worked on the grounds at Joseph’s House.


Saturday Scouts from all over South Jersey returned to Camden for service.   Because of the bitter weather, we were a small group.   But we worked hard at Joseph’s house continuing the efforts to tame the urban wilderness that surrounds the shelter.



  1. This Week

Tuesday Fr. Judge freshmen will be here.   Thursday a Bishop Ireton HS group will arrive in the evening for service here until Saturday.     Friday a homeroom group from Salesianum joins the Ireton group.


4. Links



God bless you,

Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS




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