Service Matters – 4th Week of Advent

19 December 2011

4th Week of Advent


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    Luke 1:26-38

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.   May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.


One service project this Saturday was joining a family in painting in their house.   We connected because they live on our well-traveled route between North Camden and Downtown.   The compact row home houses a large, extended family, three small dogs, and a cage-full of parrots. Because of the age of the building, and the wear from so many residents, it needs to be painted. Teresa is the matriarch and oversees the home as mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, aunt, cousin, and sister to family members within.


We arrived with rollers and paint, and were quickly joined in the project by AJ, the five year old son in the house. and soon after by several others.   Julio, Teresa’s  brother, an addict, very sick, but always friendly, supervised.   I know him the best, since he is always outside in nice weather in the park or sitting by the front door.    We painted and also brushed away “the uninvited guests,” as Teresa put it—brown roaches lurking on the walls.  Within an hour and a half, one coat of white paint covered the dining room walls—formerly a deep burgundy.


As we finished this, Teresa appeared from the kitchen with plates loaded with seasoned rice and chicken for us.   This is so typical of our neighbors.   She has nothing, and is responsible for all sorts of relatives with challenges and worries, yet she finds a way to share with us to show welcome and gratitude.


The Annunciation is a well-known gospel scene where God invites young Mary to participate in his plan.   She responds with a fully committed yes.    The last sentence here, “Then the angel departed from her,” has to be among the most terrifying in the Bible.   This encounter radically changes Mary’s life, but then the angel leaves her.    Suddenly she is on her own to figure out the implications of that good news.   It is significant that in the next scene the pregnant Mother of God heads out in haste for service to her cousin, Elizabeth.    God does not hand anybody a step-by-step, exact recipe for carrying out his will—living a good, happy, faith-filled life.  But we figure it out, relying on the clear values God proposes, on community to join in listening to the Word—and on the deep relationship God invites us to.    We can see this in the life of the Blessed Mother and in the generosity of our neighbor Teresa.


-How would you describe God’s will for you?
-What and who are angels in you life delivering good news?

-What meanings does this rich gospel scene the Annunciation have in your life?


2. Last Week in Camden

Father Judge freshmen served here Tuesday.   There was plenty for these generous young guys to do with the busyness leading up to Christmas.


Saturday eight young women from Visitation Academy (four who served here in the summer) and three adults (two, Lori and Joe Quirk, who were also here for the Visitation week in the summer) arrived for service.   They jumped right in, joining Holy Name Scholars here for their monthly service day.   We broke into four teams to pass out flyers promoting Guadalupe Family Services’ annual New Year’s vigil for victims of violence  in Camden.   They put up plaques promoting peace, and offered a blessing on each corner in the neighborhood.

Later in the day part of the group joined a family painting in their home, while others worked in Holy Name School.  They distributed toys Visitation had collected for parish families.  In the evening we visited with guests at Joseph’s House homeless cafe, bringing coats donated by members of Our Mother of Consolation Parish.   Sunday we celebrated Mass with the parish, and then visited tent city with chicken soup and candles before heading back to DC.   Like every service retreat, they pack a lot of experiences & reflection into their time in the community.


3. Upcoming Events 

Christmas is coming; gifts keep arriving.   We have lists of families who signed up weeks ago, but each day people appear at the door looking for some yuletide assistance.   The generosity is overwhelming.


4. Links

Christmas, and the end of 2011, both provide an opportunity to thank you for the ways you have supported the Oblate project of DeSales Service Works here in Camden.   If you have been here recently, or read these weekly newsletters, you might agree with me that DeSales Service Works is flourishing in its mission to bring people together in this struggling community to foster understanding and to improve conditions for our neighbors.


All this good is possible because of the generosity and prayers of so many people like you.    I invite you to consider a gift to DeSales Service Works for your year-end giving.    Your gift will go a long way in helping us serve in this community.  Additionally, you can help us make necessary repairs to the DSW House where many of you may have visited, stayed, and prayed.


The needs are significant, and we are confident that your ongoing support and friendship, especially your prayers, and efforts at serving here and spreading the word of our good works, will bear fruit.  In advance, I thank you for any donation you are able to give.


Donations to DSW can be made on-line for your convenience through our web site.   In order to ensure that your gift is directed to this project, please enter “DSW” in the box for Prayer Intentions.  Of course, you are also welcome to include your prayer intentions for the Oblate Community to remember.  If you prefer to send a check, please send it to: Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 2200 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE 19806.



God bless you,


   Mike McCue, OSFS

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