23 May 2011
5th Week of Easter
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 John 14:1-12
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”
It looks like God was ready for the end of the world, in case it did occur on Saturday as predicted, because this gospel selection is perfect for that occasion. Nothing, not even Judgement Day needs to trouble us from our bedrock conviction that God is good and powerful.
Our world has many troubling realities coming from every direction: illnesses, relationships, family, communication, work, church, environment, natural disasters, corporate greed and this economy, our broken justice system, poverty, drug and alcohol misuse, war, violence, politics —plus our own mistakes, sins, and shortcomings. Yet the Lord counsels us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
No place is without troubles, but Camden is one “ground zero” where sad things couldn’t be more obvious. Just to pick out a small example: recently one of the neighbors down the block had a party that began around 8:00PM and went to 2:30AM. The gathering was outside and featured loud music. What would lead someone to do that in a dense, city neighborhood of row houses? A particular Camden flavor to the situation is that there are many things that strongly suggest this guy is a upper level drug dealer. One way or another, we have gone out of our way to be good neighbors, and he knows that. I have to find a way to talk to him and do my best to bring God’s power and goodness to this situation.
The image we saw in the gospel a couple weeks ago of the disciples’ “hearts burning within them” offers a helpful distinction from today’s gospel’s troubled heart. Anyone paying attention has to be bothered by many situations we encounter each day—- in person or via the news. We can respond with sadness, despair, cynicism, blaming, or coldness— a troubled heart. Or we can let our hearts burn with our efforts to try to understand and to do what we can to help. And this is the key difference: we can turn all that concerns us over to God—knowing we can have faith in him.
-How do you generally respond to troubling realities you encounter in your personal life?
-How do you deal with more global troubles?
-Do you find ways to give all sorts of troubles to God and to remind yourself God is powerful and loving all situations?
2. Last Week in Camden
Eleven students with two teachers from King College in Bristol, Tennessee, spent the week living at the DSW house and working with Urban Promise, a service agency with several projects in Camden. Friday they worked with us at sandwich service, Holy Name School, and Northgate Park. Despite the rainy week they did great service.
On Wednesday Camden’s Bishop Galante lead the community in dedicating four paintings of the Blessed Mother that Oblate Mickey McGrath painted for the Cathedral. They represent the devotion of four of our ethnic groups, including Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag from the Philippines (I couldn’t spell her title last week.)
Saturday Holy Name grads worked together painting over graffiti and maintaining the Northgate Park.
3. Upcoming Events
Monday and Tuesday DSW will be doing something new. We will have volunteers staying at the merged Fatima Parish’s hall. It is set up for retreats with dorm rooms, shower facilities, kitchen, and a meeting room. So 60 students from a charter school, Renaissance Academy in Phoenixville, PA will be be based there as they go out for various service projects arranged by us and by their school. In the early evening all 60 will gather for a joint project in the neighborhood, for a Latin dinner, and for discussion lead by Ken and me.
Read past essays from the Peace & Justice Blog.
Mike McCue, OSFS