Service Matters – 23th Week in Ordinary Time

6 September 2010

Labor Day

23th 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
  • Salesian Peace and Justice Blog


1. Service Word  Philemon 9-10, 12-17

I, Paul, an old man,

and now a prisoner for Christ Jesus,

urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus

whose father I have become in my imprisonment

I am sending him, that is my own heart, back to you.

I would have liked to retain him for myself,

so that he might serve me on your behalf

in my imprisonment for the gospel,

but I did not want to do anything without your consent,

so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,

that you might have him back forever,

no longer as a slave

but more than a slave, a brother,

beloved especially by me, but even more so to you,

as a man and in the Lord.

So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.


Talking to homeless people at our side door often involves exchanging greetings, talk about the weather—pleasantries.    The food, water, and attitude of respect there have created an atmosphere for polite interactions.    But there are times when we go deeper.


I had a conversation recently with a young guy where we sat down, and he shared his dark frustration with the state of his life.   At one point he buried his head in his hands and said “I wish I did not get high.”   That statement has stayed with me.  Clearly he meant he hates the deep hole he is in because of addiction.  But isn’t getting high supposed to be something fun?   Drugs are more potent and extreme than drink, but I imagine the experience is somewhat comparable.  Who doesn’t enjoy the lightness and energy that comes with a couple drinks?


Camden is a place where extremes are out for all to see.  Friday there was a guy my age in the alley collecting the little stamp-size plastic bags used for various drugs.   He tore them open and licked the inside.   Despite being asked to stop, I saw him later collecting needles to get what he could out of those.    I tried to talk to him, but when I got close enough, he said emphatically, “This is my last time; I’m going to rehab.”   I asked him where—but he was off down the alley.


Anything can become our master—drink, drugs, food, need for affection or approval, pleasure, thrill, internet, exercise, unhealthy relationships, sex, work, religious practice….   Of course drugs and alcohol have a chemical ability to interact with some of our bodies, in our actual physical makeup, to grab hold of us.   Don’t we all know friends and family members imprisoned or handicapped by these substances?    So their use requires reasonable, sober monitoring.


God the Most High does not stand against fun.   God calls us to drink deeply of the joy and beauty of life, to breathe in the life-giving Spirit, to embrace our truest identity as lovers, in the image of the Creator.   We can only do that out of our freedom.


-Are there people in your life who tell you difficult truths? —direct or indirect, sugar coated or blunt?

-How do you respond to someone raising difficult questions?  —avoidance or deflection  via humor, highlighting the messenger’s faults, reductio ad absurdum, ad hominum, depression, anger, minimizing, changing the topic —-or by humble curiosity?

-Practically speaking, what things have a potential to diminish your freedom?


2. Last Week in Camden

Mike Morgan, Tom Briese, and Tim Gallagher had their first week as DSW’s year-long volunteers.    Mike actually began work at his main placement, HopeWorks, (blog entry dated Nov. 6, 2009)

while Tom and Tim worked with sandwich ministry, Sr. Claire, ESL and other areas of service.    Tom will be working at St. John’s Prenatal Clinic , Camden Center for Law and Social Justice and at Holy Name School .   Tim will work with Sr. Helen Cole, SSJ, at Guadelupe Family Services  .     All of us will participate in DSW’s welcoming groups to serve, pray and learn in Camden.


3. Upcoming Events

6 Sept. The Garber Family from OMC will be here for holiday sandwich ministry.

8 Sept. Feast of the Birth of Mary, the Mother of God.

9 Sept. DSW Budget Meeting in Wilmington

9 Sept. The feast of St. Peter Claver, an amazing man who worked with Africans brought as slaves to South America.   He also worked for the abolition of slavery.

11 September Villanova University service day planting trees and mums with the community


4. Peace and Justice Blog

Check out the blog—comments and links are very welcome.    Pat has a Labor Day reflection, and I have the first of two on issues raised by a proposed Islamic center at 45 Park Place, NYC, AKA: “the mosque @ Ground Zero!”


 Thanks, Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS

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