Service Matters – 29th Week in Ordinary Time

22 October 2012

29th 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
  •  Links


1. Service Word  Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

…”You do not know what you are asking.


Isn’t the request of James and John bold?  —and clueless?   “Do for us,” they pray, “whatever we ask.”   Isn’t it supposed to work the other way?   Usually followers tell God we will do whatever he asks— “Thy will be done,” is our most basic prayer (along with “Thank you, God”).   We offer our trust to God, with faith that he sees the big picture.


So often here you meet people who know exactly what they need —for the next high or to stave off the pain of withdrawal, if they are addicts.  Or to get through the day, if homeless and hungry.   Others who are simply poor, work long and hard, but see little profit or advancement.


We don’t have to be in dire need, as in Camden, to make the prayer of the two brothers our own.   Can’t anyone fail to see the big picture, focused on accomplishing the tasks in front of us right now?   And isn’t easy to block out voices that see things differently than we do?    Who would deny that it is wise and healthy to test our views in dialogue with differing ways of approaching issues.   But it takes time and effort to hear things we may not want to hear.


This is not to say that we cannot have convictions or opinions, but it is to say that curiosity is a huge virtue.   “Don’t get furious, get curious.” is a pithy way to express the value of lowering defensiveness in order to be open to different understandings.   Oblate Kevin Nadolski, drawing on Francis de Sales, puts it this way, “presume good will” in looking at people’s actions—even if they appear unwise or illogical.


Saturday’s clear blue sky, ideal temperature, and autumn colors offered a perfect setting for the more than 200 people assembled to renew our local park.   I have often written about Northgate Park, because it has been an ongoing project for DSW groups, tending and improving this great community resource.


The physical transformation that our volunteers participate in is good in itself; a piece of the earth in this city is made beautiful, orderly, and useable.   But Saturday’s rebuilding signals a fresh commitment to offering kids and families safe places to go and wholesome things to do.   The follow-up programing will be key to the impact of our work.   But this project only happened because people, from planners and funders, to kids who raked the leaves or helped with benches and picnic tables, questioned the inevitability of a worn out, abandoned city park.


-Does presuming good will in others work for you in understanding world around us?

-When looking for God’s will, for the best path for yourself, what things help you be confident you are not simply listening to your own voice?
-Can you believe God sees the big picture?  And how does that make you feel about God?



2. Last Week in Camden

Sixteen students from Bishop Ireton High School worked here Thursday to Saturday.   They brought warm coats they had collected for the needy.   Dodging rain showers Friday, they planted mums, did prep work in Northgate Park, gave out sandwiches, and worked with the grade school kids.   We ended a very full Friday with a gourmet dinner and Mass with thoughtful reflection.


As Ireton departed Saturday morning, a group of 24 students from Visitation Academy in DC arrived for a Saturday of service.   A dozen graduates from Holy Name School were there, and the Visitation women joined them in all the activity, taking on two untamed areas adjacent to the park.   One high point was Mass at the end of their day, reflecting on the day, and singing Cor Jesu, the Visitation alma mater.   This antique song has about a dozen verses, in Latin, but very lovely in the voices of the young women, sung with spirit—and fun.    Whether in manual labor, interaction with neighbors, fun, or prayer— “Nothing is small in the service of God.”



3. Upcoming Events

Wednesday another Sallies homeroom, and Thursday a Fr. Judge freshmen religion class come to Camden for service retreat.    Students from the new Cristo Rey High School across the river in Philly come Saturday for service, prayer, and reflection.    Most student groups come from middle-class backgrounds, but with these students the negatives and the challenges found in North Camden are also found in the neighborhood they come from.   Cristo Rey High School in Philadelphia has been in existence only since August, but they wasted no time establishing a retreat and service component to the education there.


Jared Utley is a University of Maryland grad who attended DeSales University for his first two college years.   Since his first trip to Camden, he has been a continual supporter and repeat visitor.   He will be back for several days beginning this weekend.



4. Links

Read past Camden reflections at the archives of Service Matters  on the Oblate website.   Last Monday there was no Service Matters; that’s why this one is extra long; thanks for reading.


God bless you,

 Mike McCue, OSFS

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