Service Matters – Christmas Season

6 January 2014

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 3:13-17 

After Jesus was baptized,

he came up from the water and behold,

the heavens were opened for him, 

and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove

and coming upon him.

And a voice came from the heavens, saying, 

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”


Sunday Matt Hillyard baptized the youngest grandson of Maria, the 96 year old matriarch of a big family from North Camden.  She is at Mass nearly every Sunday, in the front pew, sturdy and smiling despite her many years.


Here the post-sacrament picture taking lasts almost as long as the ceremony.   And often in people’s homes, family photos with the priest at sacramental occasions are on prominent display.    The new Christian, Hector, about 6 years old, wore a white suit and appeared very happy to be welcomed into the Church.  During picture taking, his Godmother Lucy, explained that his mom was raising him Pentecostal, but Hector wanted to be Catholic.


One of my favorite lines in the baptism rite is the question, asked to parents and Godparents—or in this case to the little boy himself— “Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”     The question comes in the midst of descriptions of the challenges of Christian life: “keeping God’s commands as Christ has taught us, by loving God and our neighbor.”    And of course the act of baptism means to ritually enact death and resurrection.  We go into the waters of cleansing, danger, and death and then rise out to freshness and life.


“Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”   Sometimes I think an infant’s screaming at water poured on her or his head might be the best response to that question—given life’s challenges, complexities, and labors.   Of course that is only one side; life and Christianity also bring us to delights, joys, satisfactions, fulfillment, and peace mixed with all the challenge.

Whatever we face each day—deaths or resurrections—hear the voice of the Father: “You are my beloved.”   We belong to God and God to us: “You are my beloved… with whom I am well pleased.”


-Can you hear the Lord speaking words of committment and encouragement to you?

-What deaths and resurrections are part of your life right now?

-Is there anything new and fresh for you at the start of 2014?



2. Last Week in Camden

For the last hours of 2013 the dedicated Guadalupe Family Services team gathered family and community members to keep vigil for peace in our city.  The vigil held at the Cathedral sets aside one hour for each murder victim from the past year.   So much more goes on in Camden than violence, but it is important to note 57 individuals were murdered in this small city in the last 12 months.    GFS helps us mark that tragic reality and reaches out to family and friends for healing and justice.


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


Sunday was the one year anniversary of the death of Dorothy Z, Juan Santiago’s girlfriend—I write about him a lot.   After their Camden NA/AA meeting, Juan and his supporters from the Last Stop recovery house assembled at the Cathedral for a prayer service and then pizza.   Student from Niagara University got to experience all this—and help organize.



3. Upcoming Week

Six students (two who were also here last January) and two faculty members from Niagara University are here until Saturday.   They have already accomplished much since their arrival Saturday—including lots of snow shoveling.    —The Campus Ministry from University of Wisconsin, Badger Catholic, group is delayed because of weather, but they will join us Monday afternoon.

A group of Fr. Judge High School freshmen come for their retreat on Thursday.



4. Links

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


I have not read it yet, but there is a new Rolling Stone article focusing on Camden.    Hope it is smart and balanced.



Happy New Year,

Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS

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