27 February 2012
1st Week of Lent
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
1. Service Word Mark 1:12-15
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Tom is a regular at Joseph’s House, New Visions Day Shelter, and our Sandwich Ministry. Whenever I greet him with a quick, “How ‘you doing?” he always answers with a positive, “I am blessed.” We never had a chance to talk much beyond that formal exchange, but his statement stood out because I feel confident I would not describe myself “blessed” if I were homeless.
Conversation is a bit halting since Tom struggles for words. He must be a stroke victim or someone whose drinking or drug use has damaged his speech and clear thinking—something very common here. Visiting the shelter this week I got the chance for a different, un-rushed encounter. Visitation Academy students were working, and I went over to talk because I saw him sitting alone. He shared about leaving Camden to go to school for engineering in northern Indiana in 1966. The school was all male, and he was the only Black guy—but he had a great experience. He came back here to Rutgers for graduate school. Those were challenging times for America, he observed. He went on to talk about how grateful he is that the shelter is open for people in time of need. “I’m homeless, but you know, Jesus was homeless.”
Tom’s statement describes Jesus we see in the gospel today, in the desert, alone, hungry, no place of his own to lay his head. But more broadly, doesn’t Tom capture the point of the incarnation? God lives among us sharing our human experience—not just back in the good old days recorded in the four gospels—but now, today, this moment.
It is a healthy spirituality that allows Tom to see the Lord homeless— sharing the life he knows right now. Most of us reading this reflection are not literally homeless. But don’t we live in a state of incompletion? Not all is right in our world. Sin, accumulated past mistakes, worry, relationships gone cold or complicated, failures, disappointments, pain, sickness, diminishments of aging might keep us from the home of complete peace, fulfillment, and wholeness that Jesus taught us to call the “kingdom of God.” Whatever our situation, we can get hints and pieces of it now in the blessings that come when we allow God to reign in our life.
-Can you see the incarnate God sharing your life?
-Count your blessings.
-Who acts as angel to you in your desert experiences? Whom do you minister to in their deserts?
2. Last Week in Camden
Students from a mentoring program based in Maine called “Trekkers” stayed with us Sunday to Ash Wednesday. They served in Camden and toured American history sites in Philadelphia.
Saturday morning nine students and their two adult leaders from Visitation Academy joined five students from St. Joseph University working with our parish confirmation retreat. They worked with the young kids on a project researching saints, made sandwiches, and cleaned up a vacant lot near New Visions Shelter. The Visitation women stayed overnight at DSW so they got a bodega meal, served at Joseph’s House, went to Mass and CCD Sunday morning. They ended their stay with a visit to Tent City and clean up at Northgate Park. Thank you!
3. Upcoming Events
Thursday through Saturday morning Bishop Ireton High School will be here for a service retreat. Saturday a group from Rivier College in New England will begin a week here. Sunday they will be joined by students from Temple University in Philadelphia here for their spring break.
Check the DeSales Service Works website and to read essays on a wide range of justice and service topics from the Peace & Justice Blog. Also see other resources: Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/DeSalesServiceWorks. Mike Morgan’s blog- http://camdenchronicles.wordpress.com/.
God bless you, Mike McCue, OSFS