Service Matters – 30th Week in Ordinary Time

25 October 2010

30th 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   Luke 18:9-14 

Two people went up the to the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,

“O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.”  But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his chest and prayed, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”


It is often remarked that Camden is a place where it can be hard to dream big.   So many conditions keep horizons small and goals and aspirations earthbound.  Families often struggle, day to day, to feed everyone and to stay in their homes.  A community with a 60% high school dropout rate and a 30% unemployment rate, where fast money via the drug trade is there to tempt any resident, where all sorts of drugs are readily available to dull pain and difficulty.   Immediate gratification, short cuts, and short-sighted goals can mislead any one, anywhere, but these seem play a particularly big role in this community with its limited opportunities.


This parable presents us with contrasting approaches to life’s opportunities.  The Pharisee excels in his life; except that it is very clear that his religion does not change him; it does not get to his heart.   He uses the pronoun “I” four times in his short prayer, suggesting a self-centered vision.  In addition we are told he spoke the prayer “to himself.”  Prayer raises our minds and hearts to God; so this man talks to himself rather than making a leap of faith to connect with God.


We meet the tax collector in a healthier place than the Pharisee.   He has been a traitor to his neighbors, collaborator in an unjust system, probably guilty of bullying and intimidation.  So he is realistic calling himself a “sinner.”   The back of the temple, unable to raise his eyes to heaven, is not a bad place for him—to start.  But God calls him to more. God wants him, the Pharisee, and all of us to look up and see God looking at us with love and desire for our good.


DSW service retreats have been a way for visitors and residents, to look up toward the wide horizons God offers.   In feedback many participants (both volunteers and residents) remark how being here or meeting people from different backgrounds expands horizons of understanding and gratitude.

What restricts your horizons and dreams?

Is there any way in which you are stuck in “the back” like the tax collector or praying to yourself like the Pharisee?

Did your time in Camden—or any service experience—open you horizons, lift your eyes to God?


2. Last Week in Camden

The final group of Salesianum seniors came Thursday, completing the service their classmates began in September.   In addition, Sallies has two weekend retreats in the spring, and juniors will come to service in small groups beginning March 1, 2011.


Father Judge brought their second group of freshmen to serve and reflect.  They were great.


A group of 21 students from Georgetown Visitation were on the first of their five visits this school year.   They left D.C. at 7:00am, got here by 10:30, worked until 8:00pm, and left Sunday morning at 8:15. In the morning half the group worked with Ken and Barbie painting the undercoat for a school mural; the other half went to our near-by housing project to play with the kids.   Four Holy Name Scholars joined that group.  After lunch, we all headed to south Camden for tours of Mickey McGrath’s art studio, worked clearing two overgrown backyards and worked in Sacred Heart’s community garden.   Finally back at the Cathedral, after Mass the girls cooked a dinner that we shared with homeless men and women camped out around the Cathedral in downtown Camden.


3. Upcoming Events.

Tuesday DSW will be represented at Mount St. Mary’s service fair.

This weekend the DSW volunteers and director travel to Washington, to enjoy the hospitality of DeSales Hall for the first the programs four retreats.   Oblates Don Heet and Kevin Nadolski will share Salesian warmth and insight.   This time away will be opportunity to review goals and to evaluate where we are as the busy service year progresses.


4. Peace and Justice Blog

I have mentioned before that I am proud that the Oblate peace and justice blog has kept bringing our attention back to people of Haiti.  Media attentions shifts, but the struggles go on there.  Now they have reached another crisis point with the emergence of wide spread cholera outbreaks.   Let’s keep up our support and our prayers.

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