Service Matters – Fifth Week of Lent

18 March 2013

Fifth Week of Lent

St. Cyril of Jerusalem


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

It was now  about noon and darkness came over the whole land

until three  in the afternoon

because of an eclipse of the sun.

Then the veil  of the temple was torn down the middle.

Jesus cried  out in a loud voice, 

“Father,  into your hands I commend my spirit”; 

and when he had said this he breathed his  last.


With almost  every group who comes to serve, we do an exercise that aims to approximate  what it is like to shop for food in Camden—with limited money and options  available to neighbors at the local corner stores—bodegas.    Each person gets two dollars to pool with her/his “family” group;  so usually five students have 10.00 to spend for dinner.


The exercise  offers many lessons—planned and unexpected.   A couple times students  have come up short when paying, and someone in the store has given them a  couple dollars or fifty cents to make up the difference.   Other times  they will get the food home and regret that they did not pay attention to  expiration dates.    In some stores the owner works behind  bullet-proof glass; while others are basically an extension of the  owner’s home.


I usually go  with groups to Maria Violetta’s bodega because is it several blocks  away—but also because it’s my favorite.    Customers are more like guests there.   There are always family  members visiting from New York or the Dominican Republic, neighborhood  children, or long- time parishioners to meet in the store.    Two  sons and a brother-in-law take turns working behind the counter, and the  daughters come through with grandchildren, nieces and nephews.


Last week as the  shopping group was taking to Maria, ready to head back to cook their meal, a  young man stepped into the group and knelt down on the wooden floor.    Maria explained, “He wants you to bless him.”     We  learned that this cousin, Everisto, had been seriously injured in a car crash  last summer and was in ICU for months.   His situation was so dire atone  point that doctors advised removing him from life-support.


But God gave his  life back, and he is overcome with gratitude.   So there—with  people coming and going, sandwiched between the ATM and an ice cream  freezer—we prayed for Everisto and gave thanks with him for life.

-Has there  been any point when you feel like your life was given back to you?

-The prayer  of Jesus on the cross, “Into your hands…” is huge for Francis de  Sales.  What does the prayer mean to you?


2. Last Week  in Camden

Monday, students  from Georgetown Visitation Academy served here for the day.   Tuesday  students from St. Louis University helped with sandwich ministry and worked  at school.  Another Salesianum homeroom was here Wednesday.    Students from Bishop Ireton High School came Thursday to Saturday.



3. Upcoming Events

A group from  King University in Bristol, TN, is staying at the DSW house while working  with another service agency, Urban Promise.

Salesianum will  be here twice this week, Wednesday and Friday.   Judge freshmen serve  here  Thursday.


Tuesday the  bishop of Rome, our new Pope Francis, will be officially installed.  It  is great how he seems determined to highlight the Church’s commitment  to justice and to the poor.



4. Links

Read past  reflections at the archives of Service Matters.


Check out  NBC’s reports on our community: What’s the Matter with Camden? and America’s Invincible City Brought to Its Knees by  Poverty.   They focus on the tragic and dramatic; when  daily life here is really more ordinary.   However, Camden has very  serious problems, and we can be glad Brian Williams is reporting on  them—while regretting the lack of  balance.


Thank you for reading, thanks for your  support,

Mike McCue, OSFS

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