By Andrea Miller
’17-’18 Service Year
A few weeks before my arrival in Camden, I had a conversation with Fr. Mark Wrightson, OSFS, about my fears and worries about transitioning into a new
place. He assured me that all change presents its challenges, and there will be a loss, but there is a great opportunity for growth. He challenged me to see “the beauty of Camden through God’s eyes.” This struck me as a profound statement, and it is one that I still challenge myself with each day.
As an Environmental Studies major in college, I hold a fierce passion for nature and care for our planet, but my faith changed my understanding of the true meaning of “stewardship.” In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis urges the world to open a “new dialogue” on the environment because it is a common good that benefits all mankind. Jesus calls us to love our brothers and sisters without delay. The connection between nature and God became transformative in the deepening of my faith. I saw God in a way I had never seen Him before: in everything surrounding me. I was able to see God in the trees, flowers, sunsets, and wildlife, but also in skyscrapers, an abandoned home, and a dusty photo frame. I began to understand that being in nature praising God is a powerful form of prayer, and opened my eyes to how I can understand others.
As a deep admirer of God’s creations, I express my wonder and awe in photography. In my 5 months in Camden, I have seen a different type of beauty. At the surface, it doesn’t seem very beautiful, but beauty comes from the inside out. I have seen God in the many people I have encountered, whether at my service site, Hopeworks, the participants on DSW service trips, and other neighbors and residents of Camden. They have radically transformed the way in which I see the world around me. I see Christ in these small, but meaningful encounters. In addition to individuals I’ve met along the journey, I have seen a beauty in the city itself. Having grown up in a suburban Maryland town, living in the city has been a new adventure for me. Cars honking their horns and firetrucks roaring nearby often wake me from my slumber, so finding quiet isn’t always an easy task for me. I learned to embrace the hustle and bustle with time, and have taken it upon myself to explore the busy streets. I love to hear the children playing in the nearby Holy Name schoolyard, people yelling down the street to one another, and the ripples of the Delaware River crash on the shore of Pyne Poynt Park. It is in these small ways that we create a true encounter with God.
These photos are just a few of the many images I have captured in my short time in Camden. I have a great affinity for sunsets, and long for summer nights when I can go for runs on the Ben Franklin Bridge again at sunset. I watch as the sun fades behind the Philadelphia skyline, but turn back to Camden with a smile, knowing I am going home and that the sun will rise on the great City Invincible. How do you see the beauty of Camden through God’s eyes?