Service Matters – Christmas Day

25 December 2012

Christmas Day


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   Matthew1:18-25

… the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

“Joseph, son of David,

do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.

For it is through the Holy Spirit

that this child has been conceived in her.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,”


Manuel graduated from our grade school a couple years ago.   Like so many in this community, he is torn between two worlds.   One of his uncles is heavily involved in the drug trade—and there is no doubt that Manuel feels the pull of a lifestyle of quick cash, gaming, and the sort of flashy affluence available to the people he knows involved in drugs.   At the same time he is just a great kid: friendly and very funny.   He may be too funny for someone just fifteen—and he looks and acts older.


Sunday Sr. Claire lead a prayer service called a “posada” at the DSW house chapel.    Posadas are held on the nine nights before Christmas and have as their theme the homeless Mary and Joseph seeking a place of refuge for the night of Jesus’ birth.   The first Christmas the Holy Family found welcome nowhere except in a stable, but now they are welcomed into the homes of believers.


Manuel stopped at the posada for about three minutes.   “I want to stay, but I have to go to New York.”   He was going with some uncles to play dice.   Before he left, he wished us merry Christmas, and looking intently he confided, “Pray for me—before the baby.   Jesus, you know.”


I did not know that part of the posada involves passing a statue of the Holy Infant to each person. Cradling the baby, each person offers special intentions.   People prayed for loved ones, for peace, for victims of gun and drug violence, for those left behind in the old country.   Many kissed the image and passed it around the assembly.  I wish I could convey how touching it was to see old and young, women and men place their fears and dreams before the infant Word become flesh.  Holding the baby I prayed for Manuel, fearful for all the dangers in his young life but with St. Joseph dreaming of a rich and generous life ahead for him.


Bob Killian, OSFS, has produced a great new video to convey the fearful things DSW encounters in Camden and the faith that inspires the Oblates to work here and everywhere we minister. insights about what DSW is trying to do in Camden.   Check it out.


-Can you bring your fears and your dreams to the Lord?

-What sort of feeling does the nativity scene bring to you?

-Are there ways in which you feel divided?   How do deal with those?



2. Last Week in Camden

Three month DSW volunteers C.J. Colton and Raphaël Garagnon completed their time with us this week.  Salesianum School grad C.J. worked with (now no longer homeless) Cary on three significant improvement projects for the neighborhood and the DSW house.    They brought meticulous care to each project, and the labor and interaction really helped Cary move forward in his life..   Raphaël is also a graduate of an Oblate high school, St. Michel in Annecy, France.    He brought gentleness, patience, and good nature to the service, like our other favorite son of that Alpine city, St. Francis de Sales.   Raphaël worked as an aid in the fourth grade of Holy Name School and in their after-school program.   He was a great friend and role model for our kids; he made a impression they will never forget.


The Dolson family (parents, Jacqueline and Ed; kids, Elizabeth, Emma, Will, and Claire) arrived Saturday afternoon ready for service.   All except Will have been to Camden multiple times in connection with Visitation Academy in DC.   Claire served in the summer internship this past July.   This trip they have done many things including helping Ken decorate the Cathedral for Christmas, sharing a festive meal at Joseph’s House, and attending the season’s last posada.   Sunday night we got to give gifts to each nightly resident; these presents were specific items each guest had requested.


DSW man, Tim Gallagher hosted the season’s final posada at our house Sunday night.    Thirty neighbors gathered for Latino carols, prayer, and reflection on the Good News of this season.    I had never participated in this tradition in my four previous Advents here, but the service was simple and lovely—despite being nearly entirely in Spanish.   People brought their hopes and cares to the manger.

Donations, of food, clothing, and toys continued to come to the Cathedral Parish all week.   We are very grateful to all our Christmas supporters: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, OMC, St. Rose of Lima, St. Thomas More, St. John Neumann, Holy Infant, Parishes; Paul VI High School, Chestnut Hill friends, St. Bernadette School in Silver Spring, MD, Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, Ireton, Visitation, Father Judge, Sallies, Walsingham.   They go out to people as quickly as they come in to us.

Monday, members of the parish confirmation class joined the Dolsons in sandwich distribution and in preparation of the church for Christmas.



3. Upcoming Events

This year there have been some 68 homicides in the small city of Camden.   Each year since 1995 Guadalupe Family Services (GFS), headed by Sister Helen Cole, SSJ, sponsors a prayer vigil, one hour for each individual victim.   It will take place again this year at the Cathedral.    They invite families of victims and the overall community to come and pray for peace for the living and for those who have gone before us.    Tim Gallagher is part of the staff of GFS.


4. Links

Read past reflections at the archives of Service Matters  and on DSW’s Facebook page.


Merry Christmas,

Mike McCue, OSFS

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment