Service Matters – Christmas Season

30 December 2013

Christmas Season


A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 

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   Matthew 2:1-12

the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, 

until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 

and on entering the house

they saw the child with Mary his mother.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage.

Then they opened their treasures 

and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, 

they departed for their country by another way.


“Works-works-works.”   You can hear the kind of muffled chant in North Camden any time day or night.   “Works-works-works.”   It is a coded sales pitch that drug dealers use to make their presence known, hidden in plain view.   People refer to syringes specifically as “works,” but the chant and the customer’s response serves as password that leads to the next stages of the exchange.


I suppose because of the toxic, perverse, and surreal context of the business, only a couple months ago did I stop to think that the name of our operation here is DeSales Service Works.   Our name works on many levels.   We invite people to come here and do good works so this neighborhood works better.   The experience works on the hearts and minds of all who get involved.    And “works” is a theological concept that pairs with grace in a Catholic Christian understanding of how God interacts with humanity.


So “Works” in a DSW context is basically the opposite of “works-works-works” chanted on our sidewalks.    Volunteers have their eyes fixed on the star and and come to Camden to learn and to help.     Addicts and dealers cannot raise their sight above the grey horizon of profit, pack mentality, and quick-fix high.   Service and charity lay treasure at the feet of the Savior.   Drugs spill the frankincense, gold, and myrrh into the dust and mud, while chasing power, honor, wealth and beauty in all the wrong directions.    High, wads of twenty dollar bills, macho tattoos and fear-based respect could not be further from the joy that comes from finding our way to the house where the Lord is found, with Mary and St. Joseph.


-What helps you keep the star of Bethlehem as guide as you make your way each day—each season and year?

-What gift do you bring offer to the Savior?

-Is there any new place the Lord’s light is leading you this year?



2. Last Week in Camden

The week before Christmas forty some students and staff from Cardinal O’Hara High School from outside Philadelphia worked here Thursday.   Fifteen teens from Holy Family Parish in Newark, DE, were here Friday and Saturday.   They made the Christmas stable I write about above, and the entire group carried the structure from North Camden through the 5th Street pedestrian tunnel to downtown.    This required great team work and provoked comment and thought in the neighborhood.


Sunday Zach Ryan and eleven Sallies students arrived for two days of service.   The Dolson family arrived the morning of the 24th to serve in Sandwich Ministry, to help with last minute decoration in the Cathedral and and to join in our evening Mass for Christmas.



3. Upcoming Week

Guadalupe Family Services with Sr. Helen Cole, SSJ, Tim Gallagher and the rest of their team are holding the annual vigil for peace at the Cathedral these days before New Years.    The vigil sets aside one hour for each murder victim from the past year.  It is very moving and important to do.


Groups from Niagara University and University of Wisconsin arrive this weekend each offering a week of their winter break in service with the Oblates in Camden.



4. Links

A Williamsburg, Virginia, newspaper published a great article about Walsingham Academy’s service in our city.


The end of the year offers the opportunity to look back on 2013.   Doing that I offer thanks for the good will and blessings that you have sent Camden, me, and DeSales Service Works.   I ask forgiveness for shortcomings and failings of the past twelve months.   I hope for your prayers and continued support.    God bless you in this fresh year.




Happy New Year,

Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS




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