Service Matters – Second Week of Ordinary Time

21 January 2013

Second Week of Ordinary Time

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.


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     Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Since many  have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events

that have  been fulfilled among us,

just as those  who were eyewitnesses from the beginning

and ministers  of the word have handed them down to us,

I too have  decided,

after  investigating everything accurately anew,

to write it  down in an orderly sequence for you,

most  excellent Theophilus, 

so that you  may realize the certainty of the teachings

you have  received.


One recent  morning Phil called to say he had lost his wallet.   I have written  about Phil before—he was homeless, addicted, then in jail, now doing great.    One day at a time, he stays sober, and just last week, moved from a  bed with 24 others in the dorm of a homeless shelter to a place of his own in  a rooming house.   —Small but real steps forward.    He is a  bright, good-hearted guy.


You could hear  the frustration in his voice at loosing his wallet with his hard-won ID and  debit card.   I listened, and we planned to meet later that day to pick  up some items he is storing with us—to distract his mind from the set-back.    I also asked St. Anthony to help him find the wallet.

My natural  response to any lost object is to pray to St. Anthony.   My Mother handed  that practice down to me.   There have been times when I have  wondered why I continue this.   Sometimes I think the practice naturally  calms some of the frustration or panic that arise looking for a lost wallet,  or keys, or glasses, or important paper or email.   Also I think if you  look for something long enough, you are bound to find it; since there is a  finite number of places any missing item could be.   It is not accurate  to say that any prayer “works.”   Prayer is not a mechanical  exchange—as if I do this or that pious or virtuous act, and God has to  respond in kind.   That would be magic; in contrast, prayer is based on  relationship.   God already and always loves us, so he encourages us to  serve and to draw us closer to him and to the Church.


Prayer to St.  Anthony does that in a small but practical way.   Anthony of Padua is a  kind, holy man, and was an amazing preacher; thousands would come to hear his   orderly teachings of the Gospel.   Isn’t it healthy  to remember him and to continue to ask for his support, thinking of him  as part of our 21st century Community?


Thinking about  this topic, I notice there are a number of customs I have received:  bowing my head when ever I say (or think) the name “Jesus,”   reaching for holy water on the way into church (sometimes in theaters or  museums also), wearing new clothes or shoes first to Mass before anywhere else,  heading to Mass on Sunday.   Customs like these intend to point us to  larger gospel values: awareness of the real presence of the loving God,  concern for our neighbors—particularly for those who are poor.


Some  commentators have observed that Catholics are not handing on their faith to  the next generations.  I am not sure how widespread this is, but often  in this neighborhood and in much more affluent settings, I encounter Catholic  kids who don’t know how to make the Sign of the Cross, or say the Our  Father or Hail Mary.  I also meet kids who do have a sense of God’s  presence and for whom service is a natural part of life.  I wonder if it  is accurate to observe that younger generations seem to live in a very  generic, “God-absent” environment, where culture is generated by  media and all the various electronic devices they are plugged into (not just   “them” maybe all of us?)—more than being handed down by  older generations.


Phil grew up in  deep poverty and disorder.   He says he cannot remember a time when  drugs were not sold out of his house.   His mom was an addict—and a  breast cancer victim.   His one support was his ancient Irish  great-grandmother whose home up the street was a refuge for the young kids,  who took him to church, and who supported the family with rent money,  tuition, and groceries.   Later that morning, Phil called to say he  found his wallet; thank you, St. Anthony.


-Phil received many challenges with his  upbringing. What negatives were handed on to you from yours?   -What are some religious customs ingrained in you that point you to  God’s presence and love—and maybe challenge you to care for neighbor?   -Are there faith traditions you deliberately hand on to the next  generation? 



2. Last Week in Camden

Thursday a  Salesianum homeroom served well here.   Juan Santiago had a simple and  beautiful funeral service for Dorothy in the Cathedral.

Saturday we had  a full house.  Oblate Joe Wisniewski brought  kids from Father Judge and from his old parish in Newark Delaware; several from  both groups had served here before multiple times.   Two adults and 12  students from Cristo Rey served.   And Holy Name Scholars   also brought their generous service here.    Special thanks to Tim  Gallagher and Lourdes Gonzales who worked with the groups.   We passed  out flyers about winter a clothing give away, we worked in the park and in  school.   In the school chapel students painted a couple accent walls in  a shade that picked up one of the colors of the stained glass windows.    The Judge and Newark group walked to Rutgers University to view Oblate Mickey  McGrath’s Camden paintings on view at an exhibition there.



3. Upcoming Events

Thursday is the  feast of St. Francis de Sales; so this week I travel to Salesianum on Tuesday  and Ireton on Thursday to join those communities for Mass.

Saturday Cristo  Rey will be back with more generous students.


Oblate  communication director and DSW supporter, Kevin Nadolski, has launched an  e-mail publication entitled DeSales Weekly.   He hopes it will  connect Oblate friends, coworkers, our various communities, and ministries.    He will send it to everyone on this mailing list within the next few  Thursdays.   We think readers of Service Matters will enjoy this  new newsletter.   Let us know what you think.



4. Links

DSW supporter  Paula Riley wrote a great article in the Chestnut Hill Philadelphia newpaper  about connections with Camden and Norwood Fontbonne grade school in Chestnut  Hill.


Note that the  gospel reflection above looks to the coming Sunday’s readings rather  than yesterday’s.   We are making this change to sync with DeSales  Weekly’s feature that also looks to the upcoming Sunday.

Read past  reflections at the archives of Service Matters  and  on DSW’s Facebook page.


Check out an effort  of the US Catholic bishops to promote Justice for Immigrants.


Have a good week,

Mike McCue, OSFS

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