23 July 2012
St. Bridget of Sweden
16th Week in Ordinary Time
A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, in Camden, NJ,
DeSales 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
The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with [compassion] for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.
I’ve been visiting a young guy from tent city who has been in Camden County Correctional Facility since April. Fridays clergy can visit prisoners at the jail, a place just three blocks from the Cathedral. The guard signs you in; you turn over your cell phone and wait for an elevator to open and take you to the right floor. There, just like in the movies, you sit at a desk with an old fashioned phone across from the prisoner, separated by three-inch thick plexiglass.
Recently I also visited Phil, a guy in his mid-forties whom I have written about before, first, as someone who was doing well and made a point to visit Matt and me to express gratitude for support we offered when he was on the street, making a home in the Cathedral parking lot. Later I wrote about his return to the street—to heroin, theft, manipulation and lies—after eleven months of clean living—his longest stretch of sobriety since age of ten.
Now after two months in jail, he feels like he has a new life. He hit bottom (not for the first time) when he tried to take his life in a police station bathroom, unable to find anything to hang himself, he drank a quart of bleach. That did not kill him, but sent him to the hospital and then to jail miserable and sick. There are three men to a cell, but only two beds; the third sleeps on the floor. He was so sick from the bleach and from heroin detoxing that one cellmate gave Phil his bed and slept on the floor himself.
In this state he describes watching men in a tier above him praying and supporting each other. That looked like such an alternative to what he had known since childhood. His mother had cancer when he was eight or nine, and she would give him some of her pain meds to quiet him. He never remembers a time when drugs were not sold out of his family home, and he got hooked very early. He knows sobriety is a fragile thing, now supported away by himself in the deserted place of jail. But he is moving forward, reading, praying, trying to keep a realistic and positive attitude. His prayer is “thank you, Jesus”— “thank you”… for this time, that bleach doesn’t kill, that he does not have a long sentence, that he enjoys reading, that he hit bottom.
We can all be grateful that we have a Shepherd—even if it seems at times we do not.
-What serves as deserted place for you?
-Can “thank you, Jesus” serve as a fitting prayer in your life?
-Who supports and provides model for you —especially in dark times?
2. Last Week in Camden
Ten parishioners from Holy Infant Parish in Durham, NC, spent the week here. We worked through some very hot days. Accomplishments include painting a striking design on the boarded up windows of an abandoned house at the end of our alley (across from a day care center). They worked with Susan, Irma, Rosemary, John and our whole generous volunteer crew at sandwich ministry, assisted Sr. Claire with a yard sale, and helped the interns staff the camp in Northgate Park.
All but three of the group had been here for past summer trips; one couple served here our first summer. So they were able to note how the DSW experience has evolved. Three summers ago we spent most of the service time inside painting grade school classrooms. Contact with neighbors was mostly limited to Ken joining us painting. Now DSW has so many ways to connect with people from Camden to work, play, learn, and pray together.
The interns experienced that. Their three weeks offered a wide variety of great service where they touched the lives of neighbors in ways that they will not forget—kids at the camp, addicts passing by on 6th Street, teens at Hopeworks for tutoring. Sunday we celebrated their time here with presentations and a cookout with family and new Camden friends. Mike Morgan crafted crosses made of a wood with dark and light contrasts in its grain, symbolizing the range of experiences in this neighborhood. We are very grateful for the impact they have made here!
3. Upcoming Events
No groups are here this week, so we will continue our supportive North Camden tasks: cutting grass, cleaning up, participating in neighborhood groups.
I welcome comment, feedback, concerns, disagreement, observation; my email is email@example.com
Have a great week,
Mike McCue, OSFS