27 June 2011
St. Cyril of Alexandria
13th Week of 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
1. Service Word Deuteronomy 8:2-16
Do not forget the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert… .
Slavery and a long desert journey are both powerful images for life on the streets in Camden. I keep writing about addicts and homeless people perhaps because they live out in the open—difficult to miss. (I have also noticed that both these groups are made up of mostly of English speakers—so I am able to communicate beyond warm smiles, greetings, and my “Church Spanish” for Mass.)
For the last month an older Black man, James, has been living in the Cathedral parking lot. He sets up camp each night against a wall near where Matt parks. He spreads out a quilt, and does his daily chores. These include laundry; he has a large plastic pretzel jar full of water and soap for this. He hangs the clothing to dry on fences, railings, and outdoor lighting. He is unfailingly friendly and polite when we talk to him. And each morning he wakes early to pack everything up—leaving no sign he was there—to start another day.
I write also because addiction and homelessness seem frustratingly, tragically endless. The people of Israel spent 40 years in the desert traveling from Egypt to the promised land. Why did it take so long? Our faith asks us to believe God guides us through our vast and terrible journeys—no matter how long they take. I hope kindness and respect, as well as sandwiches, and our efforts to establish a shelter system in Camden, are water from the rock and manna from heaven for our neighbors.
-How does God keep you going in your deserts and your endless journeys?
-Is there any slavery that draws and tempts you away from a freer life?
-How are you an instrument of God, his water & manna, for others’ trials and journeys?
2. Last Week in Camden
Last week Oblates on the East Coast gathered at De Sales University for five days of meetings, prayer, and community. A DSW report scheduled on Wednesday’s agenda got postponed and later omitted. That was OK because Oblate novice Ryan Cronshaw and I present about Camden last year. In addition, all week there were many opportunities to report informally about our life and work here. Also, Mike Vogt talked about his experience with Sallies students here in a witness talk before he made perpetual vows as an Oblate on Wednesday. He quoted Sr. Claire’s phrase about looking up, not down in Camden. That phrase captures and applies the optimism of St. Francis de Sales very well.
Sunday Puerto Rican pride filled the city for the national holiday, the birthday of St. John the Baptist. There was a parade with floats, all sorts of shiny and loud cars, bikes, Spanish music—and the flag of Puerto Rico everywhere. From morning, long into the night, horns blared, engines revved, and people drove around with flags of all sizes flying from cars windows and sun roofs—often waved by people hanging out of windows or sun roofs.
3. Upcoming Events
Monday a group for Visitation Academy arrives for a service week. We will work with the usual services; they arrive at a great time, the busy end of the month, to assist with our sandwich ministry. One special project will be securing fencing in Northgate Park and in abandoned backyards to make it difficult for addicts to get in to take drugs. We will join with neighborhood kids painting positive messages on these barriers.
Read past essays from the Peace & Justice Blog. Also check out the DSW website’s new design and new features www.oblates.org/dsw.
God bless you!
Father Mike McCue, OSFS