3 September 2012
Labor Day & St. Gregory
22nd Week in Ordinary Time
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
1. Service Word The Letter of St. James
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
How many Camden-ites does it take to change a tire?
The front passenger-side tire of my car deflated because of a nail in the tread. When I began to change the tire late Saturday morning, three Camden neighbors appeared ready to assist with the task. Ken happened to be downtown with Barbie. Two guys who have been camped out for the last couple months near the Cathedral: Craig in the covered entry way to the near-by Verizon building, and Bobby on the sidewalk along the iron fence of the rectory, joined us.
I’ve changed a few tires over the years, but this time the effort did not go smoothly. First Ken and Craig joined in trying to locate the spare tire—not in the first places we looked. Craig eventually found it under the car, and we each took turns sliding under the car twisting and pulling to free the spare from its berth. Advice flowed freely. Bobby came along at this point, a younger guy, who actually trained as a mechanic. He guided us in the ways of 21st century tire release—using a crank inside trunk area to lower the tire. I looked for the owner’s manual, while the others searched in vain for the jack—and for the special “key” required to remove the
Toyota’s lug nuts. The scene was quite comical, and the car is still out of commission, but I feel very grateful for the sharing of concern and talent.
A lot of what I share in this newsletter is pretty sober, and much of it tragic. Our community has so much of that: people with nowhere to sleep but outside; women and men, young and old, caught and dragged down by addiction; children getting spotty parenting; teens selling drugs where in another environment they would be doing homework, in a drama club, or part of a sports team. I could go on—and usually do.
While the sad is a real part of this story; it is only part. Camden is not a grim place. There is much life and humor. The generosity I experienced Saturday is not unusual; so many times people reach out to support one another.
The Letter of James makes the point that the Christian religion is not an abstract, other-worldly philosophy, but expresses itself in concrete works of charity and justice in this world. It is significant that the author uses the word “religion.” It seems that modern writers steer way from that term in favor of “spirituality” or maybe “faith” or “values.” I suppose this is because the word “religion” carries the idea of community with real—flawed—members, leaders, and history. But isn’t this what the Incarnation is all about? God becomes human—not in an idealized, cleaned up, shiny, happy, smoothly functional world—but in the real one where we have to deal with this world’s stains, mistakes, and missing tools.
We did not fix the tire (yet) but each participant brought gifts from above: generosity, tolerance, patience, good humor, gratitude. Here we work with what we have, figure things out, do our best.
-What makes you believe God is at work in this world—despite complications, tragedy, dysfunction?
-What do you love about your religion? What disappoints or annoys you?
-How is God challenging you to good right now?
2. Last Week in Camden
It was a quiet week. There are an number of home improvement projects underway at the DSW house to make it more welcoming for guests.
The DSW calendar is accomodating groups for service trips.
Last Thursday the new Cristo Rey High School celebrated its opening Mass with the first freshmen class, IHM sisters, Oblates, supporters, teachers and staff, with Archbishop Chaput. It was great to see the planning and work of so many take flight. Cristo Rey schools’ approach can be summed up by the motto seen on the van that takes student from Camden across the river to the Philadelphia school. It reads “Cristo Rey, a school that works.” Students attend classs four days a week and work at a business intership the fifth day. This work day offers connection, training, funding from the business world. It is a model that will work well for these at risk kids.
3. Upcoming Events
Classes begin Wednesday at Holy Name School. Looking back over past Service Matters, I notice that I tend to write about drug dealers and homeless people a lot. Perhaps that is because drama and “different-ness” of those situations raise questions to explore in writing. In the interest of accurately conveying service retreats, I need to write more about interactions with kids in our school and in the neighborhood. Groups who come for service interact most with these children. This work is usually not very dramatic, but both students and volunteers get so much out of the encounters.
Past reflections and news in Service Matters can be found at the DSW website .
Have a great week,
Mike McCue, OSFS