4 July 2011
14th 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
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.
Possibly because of the holiday, this week an extra amount of drug selling went on in the neighborhood. Working in Northgate Park, several times I had to run back to the DSW house for tools we had forgotten, or for more water or trash bags. This gave me many occasions to interact with one “team,” as I call them, about seven guys in their teens and early 20s selling drugs. I kept seeing one fellow, about 16, with a large wad of bills in his hand. On one pass-by I observed, “You’re rich!” He responded with something like, “Not really.”
I imagine he means that his cash has to go to higher ups, to pay suppliers, or maybe to be divided among his team mates. In light of this gospel, I also want to imagine he might understand he is not rich because these labors and burdens are “not of the Lord.” Drug trade, addiction, dysfunction and poverty that drives someone to the streets are a yoke that crushes the human spirit. Camden is not alone as a place to encounter these futile efforts; wherever we find ourselves, mistakes from the past, failures, sins, regrets, things that get too much control of our heart, sap our energy, or monopolize our attention can weigh us down.
Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart. Francis de Sales loved this gospel. It is a part of his gospel optimism and realism: the Lord does not say “When you have your act together, when you are humble and gentle, then come to me.” He does invite us at each moment: Come to me. Learn from me.
-What are ways you learn from the Lord, speaking concretely?
-How do you do dealing with people and situations seemingly beyond hope?
-How do you define humility, gentleness as you observe the Lord?
2. Last Week in Camden
Eleven students and four adults from Visitation Academy were here last week for service. (Including a day visit from Dan Kerns, Visitation’s principal.) They bonded with kids at a local housing project, painted, worked in the park, visited “tent city,” and worked at Sandwich Ministry and New Visions Day Shelter.
Last week I described one project for them as “securing fencing” to keep addicts from using abandoned yards to take drugs. The girls, assisted by neighborhood kids, painted some beautiful fence panels that we used to seal these lots. Soon after we installed the panels, we could observe drug users displaced from their usual place in the alley. However, it did not take long before the fencing was no longer secured. We will re-secure it, but, one way or another, the effort disrupted habits and made shooting up somewhat more inconvenient, hopefully making at least one person think about what she or he is doing.
Visitation grad, Pilar Hogan, spoke to the group. She is director of St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society, an East Camden parish group that rehabs houses and connects families to these homes. She took us on a driving tour of some of their projects—including a 100 million dollar housing development that replaced one of Camden’s failed public housing projects. Her presentation inspired us all to work harder to help people in concrete ways.
A lot happens in a week, so I have one more event to relate. We all went with Sr. Claire to say the rosary at a neighbor’s home. The “home” turned out to be 50 people on the sidewalk in front of the family’s busy corner store. The prayer also featured hymns accompanied by Sr. Claire’s accordion —the whole experience accompanied by loud music from passing cars and young guys on motor bikes doing laps around the block. In usual Camden style, at the conclusion of the prayer, our hosts brought out tray after tray of food for all there.
3. Upcoming Events
No volunteer groups will be here this week. But there are several positive efforts related to Northgate Park across from Holy Name School. We will host a meeting Thursday on coordinating all the various efforts to make it clean and accessible. Wednesday there is a meeting about showing movies in the park. And this week DSW volunteer Mike Morgan will begin a once per week commitment working with Ken Hollaman cutting grass in the park.
Check out the DSW website’s new design and new features www.oblates.org/dsw. Also read old but good essays from the Peace & Justice Blog.
Happy 4th, Mike McCue