Service Matters – Seventh Week of Easter

2 June 2014

Seventh Week of Easter

Sts. Marcellinus and Peter

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    Gospel of John 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week,

when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,

for fear,

Jesus came and stood in their midst

and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,

and whose sins you retain are retained.”


Presentations by speakers from the neighborhood are impactful parts of DSW service retreats. In the upper room of the volunteer house, they share about their lives on the Camden streets.   They pass through our locked doors to stand in our midst and show their wounded hands and side.


Many injuries are self-inflicted: drug use, doing ever more desperate things to obtain drugs.   Often presenters talk of how the list of things they would “never do” erodes away—-never steal from family, sell out friends, never eat out of a trash can, get in cars with a stranger, never take hard drugs, never sell, use a syringe, share a needle, or shoot up behind a dumpster next to a Catholic grade school.


Most often the bad choices rest on harsh childhoods of yelling and abuse, with parents absent entirely or just unable to be adult, mature, and supportive.   Almost always they recount early smoking, drinking, and drug use; often foster homes, poverty, ill health, disrupted education—-always bad choices.   Their stories have such power because they are not abstract or generic “issues,” they are events that happened to real people —-people in the room with us.


And there is power for the teller.  Part of receiving  forgiveness and peace involves facing terrible actions and putting experiences into words and letting the wind bear away weighty guilt and habits that would like to cycle around and around, lower and lower.   This is a way to get out from under stink of decay and the mastery of evil.


After one presentation, a student shared that, until middle school, he grew up with a similar background.   But now he goes to a great school and is very involved, making the absolute best of the blessing of a stable, supportive new family situation.   He said he used to talk about his past a lot; it seemed very important not hide the wounds.  Negatives and the tragic used to be the whole of his life, clouding over the good with stink bomb after stink bomb of disorder and small horizons.   Now good events, reasonable choices, and blessings fill his story.


Back from the dead, speakers breathe deeply of Christ’s peace and forgiveness.   They offer evidence of the Holy Spirit in our midst.    Inhale forgiveness and peace.    Breathe out blessing and peace.

-Can you breathe in forgiveness and peace?

-Where do you see evidence of the Holy Spirit in you life today?

-What do you think and feel about Pope Francis’ invitation to the presidents of Palestine and Israel to come to Rome and to pray together for peace?



2. Last Week in Camden

This week Kevin Reid, Bishop Ireton High School’s Class of 1995, arrived from Arizona for a summer of service as a DSW volunteer.   Kevin is going to work with retreat groups and is going to bring his social work skills to Joseph’s House homeless shelter.


Friday DSW officially welcomed Kevin with a delicious cookout at the volunteer house.   Friends and neighbors joined the gathering, including DSW Director of Operations Mike Morgan’s housemates from his new South Camden home, friends from HopeWorks across State Street, and guests from the Last Stop AA/NA club house.


The guest of honor was Kevin’s girlfriend, Stephanie, here from Easton, PA.   The other guest of honor was gifted service retreat speaker, Rick Phillip, who marked two years sober on Sunday, June 1st.   You may know him as the guy with the big beard who who has contributed much to service groups, sharing out of his experience as an addict on Camden’s streets—-and now as a Catholic committed to recovery, prayer, and service.


The final group of Fr. Judge freshmen for this school year were here on Wednesday.   Rain meant we shifted from “Plan A” to the ever-ready “Plan B.”    Some of the students helped at New Visions day shelter, others assisted with sandwich ministry.    Others sorted through a huge donation of brightly colored socks; while others cleaned in the Cathedral.


Early Saturday morning, students from Cristo Rey High School arrived to work together at Joseph’s House Homeless Shelter.   Cristo Rey girls take the prize for funniest volunteers—-maybe because theirs is a modest-sized, start-up school with only freshmen and sophomore classes, or because they spend extra-long school days together.   Whatever the reason, they know how to made the time fly by—-singing, joking, and teasing as they worked on the grounds of the shelter.    The guys did great as well.



3. This Week

Monday we will be picking up food from the Oblate parish, Our Mother of Consolation, in Philadelphia.  We are grateful for their generosity and for all the thoughtful people from every direction who make it possible for us to offer food to those on the margins in our parish in Camden.


Students from Our Lady of Victory parish in D.C. will be here Monday to Wednesday!   And Cristo Rey will be here for another productive morning this Saturday.



4. Links

Remember to join with Pope Francis next Sunday, Pentecost, praying for peace in Israel and Palestine.   He has invited the presidents of the two peoples to his home in Rome for this “small gesture.”    “Nothing is small in the service of God,” as our St. Francis puts it.


God bless you,

Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS


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