Service Matters – 12th Week in Ordinary Time

25 June 2012

12th Week in Ordinary Time



A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in Camden, NJ,

De Sales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join

in service, prayer and learning in our struggling neighborhood.




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


1. Service Word   Luke 1:57

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child

she gave birth to a son.

Her neighbors and relatives heard

that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,

and they rejoiced with her.

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,

they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,

but his mother said in reply,

“No. He will be called John.”

But they answered her,

“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”

So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.

He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”

and all were amazed.

Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,

and he spoke blessing God.

Then fear came upon all their neighbors,

and all these matters were discussed

throughout the hill country of Judea.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,

“What, then, will this child be?”

For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

The child grew and became strong in spirit,

and he was in the desert until the day

of his manifestation to Israel.


This week I tried telling Sam at my gym in Philly about how homeless people live in our parking lot and all around the Cathedral.  (He asked.)  It has become our “normal” here.  But it is far from really normal or OK, no matter how common it is here—and in so many other places.


Twice a week I hop on the subway for the seven minute ride across the Delaware River, three stops from our house, twelve blocks into Philadelphia, and climb the steps into a busy, functioning downtown.   The contrast jars, and the order and normalcy refresh: no abandoned, decaying buildings, no obvious drug dealing, moderate graffiti and litter.   You encounter people begging, but the percentage is small compared to the number of people moving briskly, with purpose—or enjoying outdoor seating at one or another busy cafe.


In the gym, Sam had a hard time picturing a couple dozen people living and sleeping on brown cardboard all around our Camden block—or how many trials they face each day just to meet the most basic level of survival and of staying out of danger and jail.  He had the hardest time taking in the idea that the Cathedral rectory front porch is a prime spot to make a home.   Why don’t they work?   What do they do in rain or in the bitter winter cold?   Why don’t they move into abandoned houses?  How is this possible?    I could not answer the questions; I just tried to convey the situation, and the intractable hole so many find themselves in.   (Maybe he wished he had not brought it up.)   The conversation reminded me how seeing this every day, and talking to these men and women each day is not usual.


Sr. Claire Sullivan, IHM, always makes the point, in talking about our drug dealers, that each individual—even the most far gone of them—is someone’s grandson, or brother, or son.   Each started out life like John, new born into the world.  Tragically, too many met a less than robust and able welcome, by parents and family with out enough focus, warmth, vision, and support.


Still the gospel compels the question and the faith assertion: “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.   The assistance we are able to give, and the ordinary respect we share go some way to strengthen people’s spirits to know who they are as God’s beloved—no matter what the situation.


What helps you see beyond people’s exterior to the “child of God” within—whatever the setting?

-How do you experience yourself growing and being strong in spirit?

-How did you get your name and what does it mean to you?



2. Last Week in Camden

Last week’s Oblates convocation went very well.   It was just great to spend time with the brothers, and presentations made you think.


Tuesday Camden mayor, Dana Redd, visited our neighborhood at the invitation of Mike Morgan.     Mike had a wish list of improvements including a sidewalk in front of the community garden (presently there is just a dirt path) and more trash cans in the neighborhood.   Those two remain in the wish category, but a third, razing one burnt, abandoned house near the garden, moved to Mayor Redd’s to do list.   The large stone row house is far beyond possibility of repair and actually leans to the left.


There are only six months until Christmas.   June 24 marks the birth of John the Baptist, half a year distant from the nativity of his cousin and Lord—Jesus.   In Camden our neighbors from Puerto Rico make this a very special day; the red, white, and blue of the Commonwealth flag flying from front porches, cars, bike, and trucks.   Horns and Spanish music blast; fireworks, cook outs, a parade, and driving go on late into the night of the longest day of the year.


3. Upcoming Events

Students from Georgetown Visitation will arrive Monday around 11:00AM ready for service.   They will get to participate with our grade school kids in a summer program, will fence up more vacant lots, and will work with Oblate Bob Killion documenting the life of about a dozen women and men who make their home on our Cathedral block.   We hope to offer these film interviews to promote Joseph’s House, the local Catholic initiative to end homelessness in Camden. Joseph’s House “homeless cafe” has been open two winter seasons, and we hope to develop it into a full service agency with a full range of assistance for our neighbors.   The need is year-round and critical.


Friday is another movie night in Northgate Park!



4. Links

Check out Mike Morgan’s blog.    If you have some time also watch interviews with a range of Camden neighbor  recorded by Mary Anne Hayden, one of the interns from May/June.   They offer a thoughtful glimpse into this complex community.

Please remember all our neighbors in prayer: particularly Peaches, Joseph (recently relapsed from NA and sobriety), Philip (sober, no longer homeless, and playing piano at his small Camden church), Matthew, Juan, Desiray, Alex (in jail), and Joseph’s House.

Have a good week,

Mike McCue, OSFS

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