Service Matters – 4th Week of Lent

4 April 2011

4th Week of Lent

St. Isidore of Seville


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  John 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.   His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”


The disciples express a pretty common way of explaining life’s unfairnesses and inconsistencies: bad things happen because people basically deserve them.  It can be tempting to look for that sort of tidy logic for the various unfairnesses in this world.  However, anyone paying attention to life will see the reasoning does not hold up; Jesus clearly has no time for that kind of easy answer.


That type of answer makes it possible to section off sin, poverty, homelessness, disability beyond our need to care.  But the Lord helps us understand we are all in this together—not so we feel lowly and burdened—but so we see our way to compassion for others.   And easy answers can excuse us from working to make structures and systems more fair and just.


Often people talk about how service and simply being in a poor community opens their eyes in renewed gratitude and appreciation for what they might take for granted in their lives.  Also volunteers often say that they expected to observe poverty and homelessness but instead met people who are homeless or poor, each one with individual stories and dreams.   I am very happy to think this project of the Oblates in Camden can be one thing that might help any of us be more grateful, compassionate, and more dedicated to charity and to working for social justice.


-Is there any category of people who you excuse yourself from compassion toward?

-Is there anything you take for granted, where you could be more grateful?
-What are some ways you contribute to a more fair and just structuring of society?


2. Last Week in Camden

Twenty-two students and three adult leaders from Bishop Ireton in Alexandria, VA, arrived here Thursday and got to work right away.  They served in a wide range of ways, including cooking soup for Joseph’s House, making further improvements on Northgate Park, working with the grade school kids, and visiting one of Camden’s “tent cities.”   A marathon project that everyone contributed to was painting the giant kitchen in Holy Name School.  The group lost momentum at one point, but pushed on to completely coat the walls with bright, white paint.


Holy Infant in Durham, NC, offered their hospitality for the weekend.   It was a chance to thank the parish for the support they always give the Oblates and to give an update on DSW in far away NJ.   We also had a meeting for people interested in a service trip for July 12-18.


Another 11th grade religion class from Salesianum (Sallies), the Oblate high school in Wilmington, DE, served here this week on Tuesday.


3. Upcoming Events

Sallies young men will be here Tuesday and Thursday.   Another group from Ireton arrives later on Thursday.   They serve here until Saturday morning, and then a group from the Cristo Rey School in NYC arrives for a full Saturday and Sunday of service.  In addition, on Saturday, a group of Knights of Columbus from Holy Family Parish in Newark, DE, will be here ready to work and reflect.


4. Links

Read past essays from the Peace & Justice Blog.


Peace, Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS

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