Service Matters – 20th Week of Ordinary Time

15 August 2011

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

20th 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
  • Links


1. Service Word  Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”  He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying “Lord, help me.”  He said in reply. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  Then Jesus said to in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”


This gospel scene has always given me problems very simply because Jesus like us in all things but sin appears to sin in his treatment of this woman.   However, a very important reality comes across observing this scene: it is not a sin to be wrong, to act out of assumptions and to use language you have simply inherited and never have had occasion to question.   This is just part of being human; we do not know everything.  Part of the incarnation is that Jesus was human in a particular time and place that included a strong sense of who belonged and who did not.   It is conceivable that he may have met very few gentiles in his home village.  Even as a child in in Egypt, he likely lived in a Jewish enclave.


The woman in this gospel gives Jesus reason to continue to advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man [sic], to see non-Jews, foreigners, and aliens equally as chosen people.   The two amazing things here are the woman’s persistent, witty, and self-confident communication and Jesus’ openness to being wrong and his readiness to appropriate genuine insight.   He actively learns from her—a woman, a pagan—someone his culture takes for granted had nothing to teach a rabbi.


-How would you rate your need to be right “all the time?”

-Remembering the last time you were wrong, how did you experience that?

-How do you do persisting with truth and insight that experience and reflection have taught you?


2. Last Week in Camden 

Students from Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, VA, were here for the week.   They participated in our usual service projects and noted how often neighbors stopped to thank them.  One group working in the “Peace Garden” between the Cathedral and the Verizon building, were impressed by a man, Nelson, who stopped, introduced himself to each person, and joined their work for 20 minutes.   That same group got to meet Camden’s new police department director, Lanuel Ferguson, who stopped to talk as he walked to City Hall.


On Thursday we tried an experiment DSW supporter, East Camden’s Romero Center, does with all their service groups.  Each Ireton student got two dollars that they pooled in assigned “family” groupings; each group went to a different corner store, bodega, to shop for dinner.  This tried to approximate the limited resources and shopping opportunities that our neighbors face each day.   All three groups picked items from the stores’ selection, including one vegetable, canned corn—but mac and cheese, pasta and tomato sauce dominated the menu.   Owner of one store, parishioner Carmen Rosa, treated the group that shopped at her store to an ice cream of their choice.


Wednesday just after 4:00AM Tom Briese set off on the 15 hour drive to the Midwest with  JVC volunteer Lauren Bauer, also from out there.   The year was very full and rich, so it was hard to leave Camden behind, but Tom goes forward to pursue his interest in medicine and research.   Oblate founder Fr. Brisson put it so well: “Those who go stay, and those who stay go.”   Thomas, like all of us, is changed by Camden, and we and our neighbors are changed because he served here.    God bless you in Minnesota, Tom.


Rachel Allen joins Tim Gallagher and Mike Morgan for this service year.  Last year she worked with a group called Urban Promise and with Hopeworks.  She is from outside Philadelphia and attended St. Andrew’s College, in Scotland as a theology major.  Rachel has already been part of service retreats during the summer and brings her good sense and all her experiences to DSW. Welcome.


Saturday, Bob Killian and Ryan Cronshaw, professed vows as Oblates at Our Mother of Consolation (OMC) in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.  Their generosity in committing to this way of life encourages us all to live our vocation with energy and strength.   Oblate Kevin Nadolski preached in his memorable style and, with presider Provincial Jim Greenfield, projected the warmth and down-to-earth character of the Salesian spirit.   Congratulations and blessing to both new Oblates.


3. Upcoming Events

I’m on a family vacation this week but will be in Camden Wednesday to meet up with Bob Killion who will be there to do some preliminary work on his video.   I will also get to see how the upgrades to the DSW house are progressing.   We are making improvements to the kitchen area and working on various repairs on the big old house.


4. Links

Check out the DSW website    Also read essays on a range of topics from the Peace & Justice Blog.


God bless you, Mike McCue, OSFS

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