Service Matters – Thanksgiving 2013

28 November 2013

Last Week in Ordinary Time

Thanksgiving Day


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    Isaiah 2:1-5

In days to come,

the mountain of the LORD’s house

shall be established as the highest mountain

and raised above the hills.

All nations shall stream toward it;

many peoples shall come and say:

“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may instruct us in his ways,

and we may walk in his paths.”

For from Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and impose terms on many peoples.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks;

one nation shall not raise the sword against another,

nor shall they train for war again.

O house of Jacob, come,

let us walk in the light of the Lord!


Have you ever been at a Thanksgiving table where everyone shares what they are most grateful for?    Gratitude is so important, and it is healthy to deliberately count our blessings and to give thanks.   No doubt that is the reason for this holiday—know how blessed we are and share the blessing with others.


As you know addiction and the whole drug trade has a huge impact on North Camden—and really no place seems immune from the disease and its ability bury spirits.


Rick, a guy with a year an a half clean and sober, who is part of the staff of a recovery house in Kensington, Philadelphia, has taught me so much about addiction and twelve-step recovery.   (As I mention below, he is heading up the out doors work renovating Joseph’s House.)


Today, he was talking about how bad life can be because of drugs, all the evil an addict can do, how nothing seems able to cure the disease—not will-power, resolutions, love of family or friends.   He honestly recounted some of the darkest choices and experiences of his life, but then he shared that he is deeply grateful for that experience—because it brought him to a spirituality which in turn brought him to God.


All I could say is, “Wow.”  It is hard to be able to say what Rick said, but so imporatant.   The bloody, destructive sword becomes the plowshare that opens the ground to life and fruitfulness.   The dead end spear becomes a tool to prune and streamline, to focus energy for the good.


Isaiah’s Advent imagery leads us to the central mystery of the Lord Jesus—the cross, with its pain, failure, defeat leads to Easter—to new life, hope, a different future.   Rick deeply knows the reality of that mystery and gives thanks.   And he shares the light of the Lord to help any and all to find their way to the Lord’s mountain.


-What are swords and spears in your life, and how can they be turned to the good?

-Are their occasions for your to recount the story of your life to see sin, grace, God at work?

-What are you most grateful for?

2. Last Week in Camden

High school groups from Salesianum, Father Judge, Bishop Ireton, Cristo Rey, and Georgetown Visitation all served here last week.   All those here during a weekday got to work with our grammar school kids.   Some groups got to follow up on the previous week’s work by watering thirsty, newly planted trees—27 cherry and 4 ginkgo—planted on 5th Street and on Vine Street. The NJ Tree foundation recommended at least 5 gallons of water per day until the ground freezes.

Since it had gotten so bitter-cold recently, Sandwich Ministry has been serving warm, nutritious  soup.   Both the Ireton group and the Visitation girls contributed huge pots of chicken vegetable soup.



3. Thanksgiving Week

The taming of the landscape at 555 Atlantic Avenue, Joseph’s House’s new location, continues thanks to a team of guys from the “The Last Stop,” a recovery house in Kensington, Philadelphia with an AA/NA meeting house in Camden.   Rick Phillip (whom I write about above) leads the effort.   We begin each work day with Mass at “The Stop,” and then get to work.   Prayer and work help in the recovery process; so the guys benefit.   They are doing great work; so the project benefits.

The landscaping is made possible by a generous friend who has a great heart for the poor and for our community.


The entire Cristo Rey school community had a day of service Wednesday.   Seventeen students and three adults came to Camden and worked with Sandwich Ministry—preparing food, and giving out clothing—and Francis de Sales quotes.



4. Links

Pope Francis’ letter to the whole Church arrived this week and has gained wide notice because of his practical and positive focus.  He demonstrates how strong attention to some issues by some Catholics and by much media presents a distorted, negative view of our faith—rather than the full and balanced picture.    Read Evangelii gaudium—The Joy of the Gospel.


Check out Walsingham Academy’s campus minister Steve Delaney (grad of then Oblate Paul VI High School) has two great videos that offer a vivid picture of DeSales Service service.


Thank you!   Thank you for the way you support DeSales Service Works—the Oblates, Camden, our kids, our homeless and addicted, our neighbors.   Thank for reading these reflections and updates.


God bless you,

Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS


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