Service Matters – First Week in Ordinary Time

13 January 2014

First Week in Ordinary Time


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       John 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

He is the one of whom I said,

‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me

because he existed before me.’

I did not know him,

but the reason why I came baptizing with water

was that he might be made known to Israel.”

John testified further, saying,

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven

and remain upon him.

I did not know him,

but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,

‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,

he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’

Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God


Last week I posted a link to an article in Rolling Stone magazine, entitled “Apocalypse New Jersey: A Dispatch from America’s Most Desperate Town.”  Journalists have a large task.  Their craft requires they become expert enough on the subjects they write about, able to digest and report all sides, to be smart and balanced—all while meeting deadlines and selling papers.


There are many “desperate” aspects to this town—nothing could be more clear.   But Camden is not the Wild West, Syria, or Afghanistan.   The article offers a decent picture of law enforcement efforts here, but makes it sound like residents have to dodge bullets whenever they peek out from their trenches.  Huge problems live along side all the good—and all the striving for better.   More respect and better focus on the the powerful good here would have balanced out this author’s narrative.


We know Mark because he spent most nights last summer sleeping in the Cathedral parking lot. He stood out from the other dozen or so other campers because he seemed very addicted and was never interested in talking.   He doesn’t like this Rolling Stone article because the writer interviewed him in McDonalds for two hours and took lots of pictures, but only one line referring to him ended up in the magazine.


He gets quoted, giving his opinion of the new police officers: ‘”These new guys,” complains local junkie Mark M—, “not only will they get out of the car, they’ll haul you in just for practice.”’   “Local junkie.”    He doesn’t like having his identity summed up that way.    He is addicted, but he’s trying to improve; he wants to change.   To be summed up—and finished with—using this label seems very unfair to him.    It doesn’t help that it appears in print—and in an national publication.


Mark is a heroin addict, but that is not all that he is.


This gospel shows St. John the Baptist striving to fully name and identify Jesus.   Who is this good man?    John shows a remarkable willingness to look deeply, using poetic images with resonance in the tradition to name the Lord, to understand him.


Mark is not just a junkie, but he is addicted.    AA and NA show there is great power in naming your disease, your condition.    At 12 Step meetings, people introduce themselves right out front: “My name is Mike, I am and alcoholic / I am an addict.”    This takes power away from an ailment that loves dishonesty, dissembling, and darkness.


In the light of Catholic Christian faith, we hear from the Lord that we are beloved, that we, like Jesus, are son / daughter of God.     The Almighty embraces us in an unbreakable life-giving bond.


-Is there any one aspect of you that defines you?

-Does any condition, attiibute, commitment, or interest come close naming your identity?

-Are there any people or situations where you depend too readily on labels?



2. Last Week in Camden

Groups from Niagara University and University of Wisconsin, Madison were here last week.   There was a total of 27 people each offering a week of their winter break in service with the Oblates in Camden.

Thursday a group of Fr. Judge High School freshmen joined us for a service retreat.



3. Upcoming Week

This week a different group from University of Wisconsin is here serving.   Two Salesianum School homerooms will be here, one Monday, one Friday.



4. Links

Joseph’s House shelter will open January 24th, the feast of Francis de Sales—a great day to begin.  Take a look at the renovated building: Joseph’s House of Camden.       Director Jon Klein has done a great job of raising funds from foundations and individuals; the mission and our method is something people want to assist.   I want to mention that donations are very welcome—particularly at this time when we need to pay for the physical building and for actually putting it to use—beginning operations.


Our three previous years we have been open only during the winter season.   Going forward we intend to be open all year.   Whether we can do that depend on funding.   It is a huge issue since  our employees need to have dependable jobs.   And of course,  a shelter can do more than simply offer stop-gap, emergency shelter open all year.    We can build relationships and offer a way out of homelessness for our guests.  The website lays out these goals and our overall plan with St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society as a partner for permanent supportive housing, and with assistance dealing with the root causes of homelessness.


Consider starting 2014 off with a gift to this impactful effort.

Thank you,

Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS

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