13 August 2012
St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus
19th 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 John 6:41-51
[Some of] the [people] murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven,”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven?'”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves.
Recently a lawyer who advises the Oblates visited Camden to experience in person the level of safety and caution we take with groups who visit for service retreats. Security is an area where there is no room for error. I was very happy to show what we do. We are always clear in saying that Camden is not a safe place, but service groups are not unsafe, because people know who we are. There is an old fashioned respect for Church and service here—and prudence is super important here, as in any urban environment. Naturally, I wanted to make a good impression—but a fair and true impression as well in order to gain insight from our lawyer’s fresh, and level-headed point of view. We walked the route service groups travel and visited our typical work sites. As usual neighbors greeted us, and we got to talk to a number of people.
Lastly we drove to tent city. Something was off there. A middle-class guy was visiting—with a camera. It is not unusual to meet members of church groups or family visiting also, but this was different. We met the man who said he comes periodically to cover the story; he’s a photographer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was noticeable that people were not in the common areas. One resident, Country, always talks to DSW groups; so he gave the lawyer a summary of his typical presentation. While Country was talking, we couldn’t help noticing another resident, Nelson, in an area away from us, murmuring loudly, with harsh language, displeased about something. Normally he would come over to greet us or would at least wave. That day he was clearly angry.
The following week, working outside Holy Name School, Nelson saw me and made a point to apologize and explain. That photographer had been there before and had gotten an article in the paper that misrepresented tent city, implying they were all addicts. In addition a photograph of Nelson was published—even thought the reporter said that would not happen. He was mad at the unfairness, lack of respect and comprehension, and did not want any more to do with that fellow.
He contrasted that with DSW visits; Church is different. We are always concerned that we not come across as tourists visiting a human curiosity. Getting to know women and men of the community, you realize quickly there are no easy story lines regarding causes or solutions. Nelson asked why media and officialdom can’t leave them alone; they are doing their best— they could be “on the street” homeless.
The action of murmuring shows up two times that I can think of in the Bible, here and in Exodus. There some of the people murmur about the manna, Moses’ leadership—and even about God’s wisdom leading them out of slavery in familiar Egypt to freedom in the, yet unseen, promised land. Murmuring is ineffective, cowardly, circular talking. Jesus says stop, listen, pay attention to what is going on around you. Then do not mumble and murmur to yourselves, be effective and clear.
-Is there any situation in your life where you are stuck murmuring where decision and action might be better?
-Are there people who murmur around you whom you could challenge and invite to speak their minds?
-How does your regard for the sacramental, ritual Bread of Life cross over to your daily life?
2. Last Week in Camden
I was at the beach for family vacation–a world away from Camden. Living out of a suitcase, sleeping on a couch offered some similarity to our homeless Camden neighbors. “Some similarity” but so also much difference! I get back Tuesday and expect there will still be dozens of people camping out around the Cathedral.
3. Upcoming Events
Joseph’s House planning board continues to meet to shape our effort to end homelessness in Camden.
This week we will join with others welcoming the new group of Jesuit Volunteers (JVC) to North Camden. DSW is on State St., between 6th and 5th; JVC is one block away on Vine St. One of the great things about being in Camden is the presence and work of many post-college volunteers.
The feast St. Jane de Chantal is this week. She provides great inspiration for Christian service.
What is your will for me, O God?
I await your plan.
I want to live only for you
and be guided by you always.
Grant that your holy will be done in me. St. Jane de Chantal
Check out the Oblate website; this week’s front page features a quick bio of DSW supporter Kevin Nadolski.
God bless you,
Mike McCue, OSFS