26 September 2011
Sts. Cosmas and Damian
26th 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 Matthew 21:28-32
“When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe in him.”
I spent a lot of time in our back alley Thursday and Friday clearing out most of the needles that collect there and preparing the projects planned for Saturday. The condition of our alley—muddy, trash strewn, littered with syringes and decay—makes you ask what would lead someone to the point where he would seek out a place like this, and then stick a needle in his arm and inject a chemical purchased from shady characters on the street. Most people don’t like needles at all, not even in a sanitary hospital or doctor’s office. Addiction has the power to take over and limit choices.
I interrupted James and Brendan with what has become my standard approach. A middle-aged, non-threatening guy, in a very recognizable priest’s black shirt introduces himself and tells them “We’ve been asking people not to shoot up back here because of the school and the church.” I stood and waited as they packed up to leave the alley.
As they walked by, James apologized. I said the same thing back: “I’m sorry you’re out here; sorry you’re addicted.” He told me, “Hey, I think you would like to know that I’m going to rehab.” “I am glad to know; that’s great!” He went on to talk about an impressive sounding program in Florida. Brendan said that working helps him stay clean, but he comes over here when he gets down. I told them both we would pray for them.
Tax collectors and prostitutes, heroin addicts, drug dealers, and homeless women and men are all people whose life situation seems beyond hope. However, the Lord says clearly that no situation lies beyond God’s reach, outside the hope his vision offers. The gospel suggests that Jesus takes for granted that this, of all things, serves as evidence of God’s presence and God’s wisdom and action.
I have no way of knowing if James is telling the truth about his program or that Brendan does fine when he is working and feeling fine. But they did not need to say anything to me as they moved on. I really am praying for them and am looking to them for signs of God’s care and God’s action in the world.
-What are signs, evidence, or hints that lead you to believe in God’s power and goodness?
-Who would fall in the category of tax collectors and prostitutes, people beyond hope, in your environment?
-Are there any ways God might be inspiring you to change your mind presently?
2. Last Week in Camden
Monday service group directors from the greater Philly/Camden area met. They are a great group—very supportive, fun, and all involved in good work.
An adult group from upstate New York led by Sr. Bethany Fitzgerald, arrived Thursday evening for a long weekend. They came with a truck packed full of blankets, socks and underwear for Joseph’s House. Though home for them is rural northern NY, they jumped right into service in our urban setting. Thank you!
Saturday a dozen students from Villanova University spent a day of service in celebration of their patron saint, Thomas of Villanova, here in North Camden. We worked together cleaning up our alley, filling a construction dumpster with all sorts of debris. Neighbors joined in the efforts. An guy I know pretty well, Nadeem, worked with us and gave insight about life on the street and addiction. One of the student leaders remarked that last year his group worked at an arboretum outside Philadelphia—great work, but working here really “opened his eyes” as he put it. We are very grateful for their work and generous spirit.
DSW volunteer Mike Morgan’s JUST GET IT DONE WEEK went very well. We made significant strides forward in addressing our various improvement and repair projects on the DSW house. Jesuit Volunteers, friends from Romero Center, and Ken joined in the effort.
3. Upcoming Events
Tuesday is the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, a friend of Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal (and of DSW). I will be in DC reporting on DSW’s progress at an Oblate provincial staff meeting.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday students from Salesianum School in Wilmington, DE, will be here. Students from Rowen University in Glassboro, NJ, will be here for a weekend of service.
In this section we always invite readers to check out the DSW website www.oblates.org/dsw. and to read essays on a range of topics from the Peace & Justice Blog. Now Rachel Allen and Mike Morgan offer more links; check them out: facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/DeSalesServiceWorks. Camden experience blog by Mike Morgan- http://camdenchronicles.wordpress.com/.
Please remember James, Brendan, Nameem, and Peaches in your prayers this week.
|Peace, Mike McCue, OSFS|