Service Matters – Monday of Easter Week

9 April 2012

Monday of Easter Week


A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in Camden, NJ,

De Sales 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 20

“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,

and we don’t know where they put him.”

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter

and arrived at the tomb first;

he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.

When Simon Peter arrived after him,

he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,

and the cloth that had covered his head,

not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.

Then the other disciple also went in,

the one who had arrived at the tomb first,

and he saw and believed.


Volunteers often remark about how readily and naturally neighbors here include faith and God in conversation.  “God bless you” is almost as frequent a greeting as “How ‘ya doin’?” and commonly accompanies expressions of gratitude.   You might ask, “How are you?” and frequently the response will come, “I am blessed, thank God.”  Persistent faith is evident in a community that often seems “God forsaken,” (to paraphrase one of Jesus’ prayers on the cross). No doubt there are many reasons for this, but one that appears clear is that many poor or struggling people have nothing else but God—so they turn to God.


If you are born into an impoverished situation in North Camden or Dominican Republic or Haiti; if you grow up in a threadbare house populated by siblings, cousins, a couple aunts and uncles, and grandparents; if your experience of education was dysfunctional; if your job life is undependable, your skills unspecialized, it might be clear that you have nothing but God.


—Or if you are addicted, high, drunk, or in recovery.   Or if you are homeless and forage for meals at churches and shelters—or even garbage cans.   If you have cancer or mental illness and no health insurance and no understanding of how public aid works, it could be clear God is there, still, to turn to.


—If you made some really unwise choices early in life, and wore out you safety net long ago; alienated family and friends, burned bridges, you might realize all you have is God.


Camden is a place where need is obvious, and, I think, that is one reason for the common awareness of religion.   But isn’t it true that everyone, no matter our circumstances, is in need?     God is there despite sin, broken relationships, complicated loves, doubts, illness, setbacks, death. All we have is God.  As Peter said to Jesus, “Lord to whom can we go; you alone have the words of everlasting life.”  God remains there for us, faithful—literally—forever and ever.


-Do you use expressions of faith in the various arenas of your daily life?  Why or why not?

-Do you agree with my assertion that “all we have is God”?

-Is it possible to give thanks to God for (and find the grace in) the state you find yourself in at this moment?



2. Last Week in Camden

Students from University of Wisconsin served here all week.   Among their projects was

working with Holy Name School; the kids responded very well to them.   Two of the guys worked with a couple of older kids with little interest in school; the young students responded well to their one on one attention.   The group continued to reclaim Northgate Park, taking up the work begun by Ireton and Walsingham, clearing abandoned lots adjacent to the park.   Each work period in the park drew adults and kids to help—or to break for a little basket ball or tennis.


We joined the parish celebration of the Easter Triduum, beginning Holy Thursday night with volunteers ringing an eclectic array of bells during the Gloria.   Three others joined nine parishioners getting their feet washed.


40 members of St. John Chrysostom youth group joined us and were here Good Friday as part of their annual 24 hours Holy Week retreat.   Half visited tent city with candles and toiletries to share; the others joined in the park rehab.   The “Badger Catholics” postponed the start of their long drive back to Madison so they could join the Stations of the Cross and the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion.


And of course the community celebrated the Vigil and Easter Sunday with beauty and energy.


Applications for the two three week summer internship continued to come in.   This program offers the opportunity for anyone 18 or older to spend further time serving in Camden.  See the advertisement below.    Session 1: May 20-June 10 or  Session 2: July 2-July 22 



3. Upcoming Events

Members of Holy Family Parish in Newark, DE, will be back this week.   Part of their stay will involve moving chapel furnishings from the old Oblate house in Cape May to the new Cristo Rey High School in North Philadelphia.  Tuesday a group from Chestnut Hill will be here.   And a group from Millersville University will stay with us for the weekend.



4. Links

If all you knew of Camden—or most inner city communities—came from news accounts, you might expect the wild West, with bullets rocketing overhead 24/7.   The violence gets media coverage out of proportion to its frequency and in a way that eclipses all the good—and the ordinary—that goes on here.   In order not to add to the disproportionate attention, I don’t often write about violent occurrences.   However, I do want to highlight one story reported in the Philadelphia paper Easter morning about a 9 year old boy,  Jorge Cartagena, blinded by a gun shot last year.   Sacred Heart Parish in South Camden has really gotten involved; that is the parish where Oblate Mickey McGrath has his art studio.


See what’s new on the DeSales Service Works website and to read essays on a range of topics from the Peace & Justice Blog.    Also see other resources: Facebook page-    Mike Morgan’s blog-


Happy Easter, Mike McCue, OSFS


DeSales Service Works  2012 Summer Interns Program 

“Nothing Is small in the service of GOD!” St. Francis de Sales


We work together for a better Camden and the city works on us

to help see beyond differences and dangers.

Eye opening and rewarding life experiences:

  • · Sandwich ministry for the hungry
  • · Holy Name School
  • · Plan and run events in Northgate Park and Esperanza community garden
  • · Home blessings with Sister Claire …and many more!

* Live in a community of  service and social justice minded young people

* Experience a vibrant culture and community in the people of  N. Camden

* Community Service credits toward school requirements

* Life changing experiences!!!


For an Application or more

information  contact us at:


Must be 18 or older

Dates Available:

Session 1: May 20-June 10 or Session 2: July 2-July 22

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