Service Matters – Third Week in Ordinary Time

23 January 2012

Third Week in Ordinary Time


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  Mark 1:14-20

Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of women and men.”  Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.


Do you ever hear talk about homeless people like this: “They like to be out there; they want to live that way.”?  I am going to go out on a limb with an absolute statement: no one wants to be homeless or to live in a tent city.


Sure, within the scope of very limited and negative options, some people choose to live outside—unwilling to impose on friends or family—or unable.   Others pick homelessness over staying at shelters that might be overcrowded, uncomfortable, or unsafe.   Mental illness or the hold of addiction can keep others on the street.  People stay out in order to be “free” to drink or drug.   Prison, depression, or death lurk as options.   Without a doubt, people are sometimes able to make the best of things, finding a happiness, or bringing good humor to even the worst conditions.   And sometimes you can observe a warm sense of comradeship that someone might miss in a different setting.  However, I assert it again: no one would want to be homeless if she or he had a full range of choices that included the option of a secure, warm place within their reach.


OK, even if there are a couple people who could choose anything and still freely picked living outside on the street, I bet the number of them is slight compared to the people who let themselves off the hook morally saying, “They like to be out here; they want to live this way.”


Jesus calls the disciples, inviting them to follow—to learn, not to settle for any prepackaged, over-easy answers.   They abandon their nets—their sure occupation and security, all they have  known—to go forward with the Lord.   Catholicism is often caricatured as thinking we have “all the answers.”    A healthier and more realistic way to see the Church is as a context of faith, experience, and community for people to ask big life questions.    We can wonder together with all generations and cultures at the injustices, beauties, and puzzles that are part of the human experience.   We do not have to be correct or look good all the time; we have to get behind Jesus and learn.

-Are there any areas where you have settled for over-simple answers to put an issue to rest?

-How do you feel about the gospel image of following the Lord?

-Is there any area where God could be inviting or challenging you to abandon your nets and follow?


2. Last Week in Camden

MLK Day sophomores from Paul IV High School in Haddenfield, NJ, served at sandwich ministry and painted a ceiling in the Cathedral.  They did a great job working as a team serving our neighbors.


Later that day DSW supporter Paula Riley, two sons and a nephew (all under age 6) brought dozens of coats for guests at Joseph’s House homeless cafe, collected by Our Mother of Consolation Parish in Philadelphia.   These are very welcome donations.


Thursday members of the managing board of Joseph’s House met with some residents community of the Fairview section of Camden.   There is some resistance to sheltering homeless people in that neighborhood.    A newspaper article reported on some of the concerns—but did not get all the facts right, including giving us the name: “St. Joseph’s Church Society.”  We can agree that it is not the best place for a shelter, but the Lutheran parish was willing to help, and we maintain that the stark fact that people are sleeping outside in January trumps other concerns.


Sunday, a dozen teens from a community youth group in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, lead by Marianne and Tim Dwyer arrived for a day of service that began with Spanish Mass at 11:30, followed by a visit to tent city in the bitter snow and ice, and then back to sort clothing and work on the Cathedral.


3. Upcoming Events

January 24th is the feast of St. Francis de Sales.   I will join Oblate Ed Ogden and Bishop Ireton High School for Mass Tuesday to celebrate our saint.   Friday, Oblate Mike Vogt will be ordained a priest at Salesianum School.   Mike has brought many Sallies classes here for service retreats.   Congratulations & God’s blessing!


In honor of Francis de Sales we quote part of author Robert Ellsberg’s biographical sketch of De Sales in his book All Saints.

The Protestant Reformation evoked a variety of responses on the part of Catholic apologists.   Some reacted defensively.   Not content with affirming the truth, they felt the church must aggressively denounce error and cause its suppression by any means necessary.   But others responded differently.   They perceived in the signs of the times a general summons to conversion and to a more intense aspiration for holiness.   Among the great saints of this period was Francis de Sales.   As a bishop and spiritual director, he expounded a message of love and moderation that had a enormous effect in reestablishing the vitality and credibility of the Catholic church.   The only complaint against his methods came from rigorist critics who charged that he made it appear all too easy to become a saint.


A tone of moderation and balance accounted for much of Francis’s appeal.   Rather than impose harsh discipline or force a drastic choice between good and evil, his method was to develop habits of discernment that would incline one’s will in the direction of God’s light.   The test of true progress in the spiritual life was not to be in the rigor of one’s self-mortification but in the intensity of one’s charity.


He anticipates that the devout will daily fall short of their ideals.   But rather than abase oneself as a worthless sinner, he urges the penitent to say; “Alas, my poor heart, here we are, fallen into the pit we were so firmly resolved to avoid!  Well, we must get up again and leave it forever.”


Live Jesus!


4. Links

Virginia Licata, is a weekly volunteer at our sandwich ministry.   When she is in the kitchen, we have delicious home made soup to warm and nourish the 150 to 350 people who come for lunch each week day.   She also volunteers in Viet Nam each summer for the month of June teaching English to Jesuit seminarians.   Ginny asked if we could invite others to consider this service as well. Contact her for further information:




God bless you, Mike McCue

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