7 November 2011
32nd Week of 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
1. Service Word Matthew 25:1-13
At midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Raking leaves in the park Friday, I had the opportunity to talk to one of the guys who jumped in to help us with that task. John has been out of prison for three years, after thirty years incarcerated. He is having a hard time finding a place for himself in the town he grew up in, after so many years wasted behind bars. He is 50 years old; so he was maybe 18 or 19 when he did whatever he did that got him locked up. Even though he readily answered any questions, I didn’t ask what he did to be locked up. I kept thinking what it must be like to have missed so much of life, stuck in a cell where he could touch both walls with his arms outstretched lying in bed.
Francis de Sales recommended deliberately bringing to mind good thoughts to color our attitudes throughout each day. For example he counsels: “If they awaken during the night, they will stir up their heart immediately with these words: At midnight someone shouted: The bridegroom is here! Come out to meet him!” John has been through so much darkness, he did not pretend otherwise in talking to his priest. And ironically now on the outside, the challenges are multiplied. But his gentleness and goodness are amazing. He talked about how his grandmother raised his brother and him right—if only he had listened as a kid. He is involved in a program where he talks to teenagers, offering his experience as a wake up call for kids who are getting in trouble. Though he can’t find a job and is often homeless, he just jumped in with us to help maintain the park.
-What offers you light and direction in dark moments?
-Do you have “good thoughts” that you bring to daily life to shape your attitude?
-What has life so far taught you that would be helpful to others?
2. Last Week in Camden
St. John Neumann Parish in Northern Virginia collected hundreds of coats for our school children that they packed into three cars and drove to Camden. Holy Name School principal, Pat Quinter, invited parents to shop for their kids. We are very grateful for this timely and practical donation. Next weekend the remaining coats will be available to parents of children who do not attend our grade school.
All Saints Day DSW supporter Paula Riley organized a service trip with her four grade school kids, and five of their friends, along with two other parents. They brought supplies for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with cookies to share. Everyone took turns giving food to guests at the window, celebrated Mass, and then participated in a “saint search” in the church. The children picked out bios of the various saints on slips of paper from a basket and then located their image in the Cathedral.
Joseph’s House “homeless cafe” opened on Tuesday with 28 guests. Wednesday, and each night since, we have given shelter to our capacity of 45 people. The sense of community picked up right where we left off in April with a sense of calm and friendliness. We brought coffee, sugar—very popular items—and the blankets Sr. Bethany and her friends collected and brought in September.
Ten students from Bishop Ireton High School arrived Thursday and got right to work playing with students in the after school program. That night half the group went to Joseph’s House to assist welcoming our guests there, offering food and friendly conversation. Friday was a very full day of service that we ended with Mass and reflection. The young women did not hesitate to reach out to people they met here—young or old.
3. Upcoming Events
Monday Jesuit Volunteer Corps communities will use our house for a day retreat. Father Judge freshmen are back Tuesday. Wednesday through Friday we will host eight volunteers with the service agency Urban Promise. During the day they will attend a retreat at one of their sites in Camden. The presenter for the gathering is the amazing Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM. Thursday I travel to Washington for Mass at the Oblate seminary and a service fair at Catholic University.
The DSW website www.oblates.org/dsw. features pictures from recent service retreats as well as insightful essays on a range of 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/.
Mike McCue, OSFS