Service Matters – Second Week in Ordinary Time

17 January 2011

Second Week in Ordinary Time

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday



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
  • Salesian Peace and Justice Blog


1. Service Word  John 1:29-34

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.’”


We meet so many people here who seem to be drowning in problems: addiction, mental illness, dependency, lack of choices, few skills, broken relationships, hard luck piled on regrettable decisions.   So often people talk of despair and of thoughts of putting an end to the pain, dropping into the waters of the Delaware.   The monumental Ben Franklin Bridge that dominates Camden’s waterfront stands as temptation for many we talk to.


I have often written about Ken who was homeless, living in the Cathedral parking lot and on our front porch for our first half-year here.  Ken now often speaks to service retreat groups.  He shares about losing his job and ending up homeless for years—stinking and hungry, as he puts it—eating out of garbage cans.   He reached a point where he saw no way and no reason to go on.  But he believes the Lord kept him from going under.   Or, to use the powerful imagery of baptism, God drew him up out of that dead end to new possibility.


Baptism takes us underwater into death but does not leave us there; we emerge to renewed life.   The sacrament ritualizes a pattern that we can observe in any life— in an extreme environment or in an ordinary one.  The Spirit of God remains upon us inspiring good, life, hope, a way forward through any dark and despair.  It is not magic.   For Ken the way came via service to others, “taking care of Barbie,” a vulnerable, homeless woman with significant disabilities.   His good-humored, generous, persistent, hard-working side got out from under the weight of discouragement, so he could move forward.


– Looking at your past, can you see the pattern ritualized in baptism, “dieing and rising?”

-Given that the working of the Holy Spirit is not just a “churchy” concept for an explicitly religious context, can you observe evidence of the Spirit in the inspiration, higher motives, values, and longings you experience?

-What helps you emerge from any darkness in your life?


2. Last Week in Camden

After two reschedules caused by snow, Chestnut Hill College men’s basketball team served here Thursday morning.  That afternoon, 19 students from of Bishop Ireton High School arrived for their service days here.  Saturday graduates from Holy Name School, who are in high school, joined them for the morning along with a group here until Sunday organized by Jacqueline Dolson, from Silver Spring, MD.    Thank you!


3. Upcoming Events

The DSW volunteers have a retreat away this weekend.


The Oblate Knowlton Mansion gathering is Friday, 11 February.   It will be a fun time to gather Oblate friends and supporters.


4. Peace and Justice Blog

Check out reflections in our Peace & Justice Blog.    Past Service Matters  (archive) reflections are also posted at the De Sales Service Works section of the Oblate website.


Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS

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