3 December 2012
First Week of Advent
St. Francis Xavier
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
1. Service Word Luke 21
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
Trapped. So many people here seem exactly that—trapped. Poverty, addiction, drug selling, the tough-guy culture of the streets, lack of education, mental illness, ineffective, over-burdened social welfare system, harsh criminal justice system: people get caught, and there seems no way out.
Phil is a guy we have been working with who is doing very well, steadily keeping his head up, moving one step at a time, away from carousing and drunkenness —and anxiety—to a renewed life. Despite situations and choices, beginning in childhood, that had him trapped, he is moving forward. He blames no one but himself, but he has to face systems that complicate or even obstruct as often as they help.
I always say this to service groups who get to work with our children and teens: the parish and ministries in North Camden put so much focus on youth with our grade school, CCD, Holy Name Scholars, and now with the CASA youth group, to help them navigate around the traps so present in this city. Perhaps the most basic service that volunteer groups offer is a simple perspective there is a bigger world than our young people may know in the inner city.
The parts of the New Testament we read at the transition between each Church Year, in November and early Advent, talk about the end of time and God’s final judgement. God values our lives and clearly wants us to do the same. Life is more than putting in time, or just for settling for a drowsy heart. The readings make it clear that God is pulling for us, offering his perspective, broad and deep and full, and without end.
-Are you caught in any non-productive, or even destructive, cycles?
-Can your impressions of the Judgement of God and the end of time be shaped by the New Testament inmages of this time in the Church Year?
-How does your perspective affect your inner life, and the lives of those around you?
2. Last Week in Camden
Both Salesianum service retreats last week went well, as normal, but the group on Friday was a photography class rather than a usual homeroom grouping. The twelve young men in the class arrived with camera in hand ready to record images and to work for the good of our neighbors. The number and focus made a relaxed but valuable day for all. One of their assignments involved taking portraits of various Camden residents. The students got to interview various neighbors as part of the project—a good way to connect.
The DSW community took a “Megabus” to New York City for a Saturday of recollection. Getting away to the island Manhattan for a day offered time to reflect and take stock of what Camden is teaching living and serving, on our very different “island” North Camden. We covered a lot of ground, touring from Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the north to the 9/ll Memorial in the south. Raphaël recorded the day with quality photos. Four Jesuit Volunteer neighbors were also in NYC for the day—always great to see them.
Sunday night Joseph’s House of Camden night shelter operation opened for the season with a prayer and gathering of supporters, volunteers, guests, and staff.
3. Upcoming Events
Volunteer C.J. Colton and Cary continue to work on converting a large basement window of the DSW house from a cracked and painted-over standard window to a sleek, clean glass block window with a vent. They do great work.
Sallies guys are back Wednesday, teacher Neil Kane’s homeroom. Father Judge freshmen are here Thursday. They are also planning to come one Saturday during Advent for a father/son service day.
Read past reflections at the archives of Service Matters and on DSW’s Facebook page.
Father Mike McCue, OSFS