18 March 2013
Fifth Week of Lent
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
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
It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon
because of an eclipse of the sun.
Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”;
and when he had said this he breathed his last.
With almost every group who comes to serve, we do an exercise that aims to approximate what it is like to shop for food in Camden—with limited money and options available to neighbors at the local corner stores—bodegas. Each person gets two dollars to pool with her/his “family” group; so usually five students have 10.00 to spend for dinner.
The exercise offers many lessons—planned and unexpected. A couple times students have come up short when paying, and someone in the store has given them a couple dollars or fifty cents to make up the difference. Other times they will get the food home and regret that they did not pay attention to expiration dates. In some stores the owner works behind bullet-proof glass; while others are basically an extension of the owner’s home.
I usually go with groups to Maria Violetta’s bodega because is it several blocks away—but also because it’s my favorite. Customers are more like guests there. There are always family members visiting from New York or the Dominican Republic, neighborhood children, or long- time parishioners to meet in the store. Two sons and a brother-in-law take turns working behind the counter, and the daughters come through with grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Last week as the shopping group was taking to Maria, ready to head back to cook their meal, a young man stepped into the group and knelt down on the wooden floor. Maria explained, “He wants you to bless him.” We learned that this cousin, Everisto, had been seriously injured in a car crash last summer and was in ICU for months. His situation was so dire atone point that doctors advised removing him from life-support.
But God gave his life back, and he is overcome with gratitude. So there—with people coming and going, sandwiched between the ATM and an ice cream freezer—we prayed for Everisto and gave thanks with him for life.
-Has there been any point when you feel like your life was given back to you?
-The prayer of Jesus on the cross, “Into your hands…” is huge for Francis de Sales. What does the prayer mean to you?
2. Last Week in Camden
Monday, students from Georgetown Visitation Academy served here for the day. Tuesday students from St. Louis University helped with sandwich ministry and worked at school. Another Salesianum homeroom was here Wednesday. Students from Bishop Ireton High School came Thursday to Saturday.
3. Upcoming Events
A group from King University in Bristol, TN, is staying at the DSW house while working with another service agency, Urban Promise.
Salesianum will be here twice this week, Wednesday and Friday. Judge freshmen serve here Thursday.
Tuesday the bishop of Rome, our new Pope Francis, will be officially installed. It is great how he seems determined to highlight the Church’s commitment to justice and to the poor.
Read past reflections at the archives of Service Matters.
Check out NBC’s reports on our community: What’s the Matter with Camden? and America’s Invincible City Brought to Its Knees by Poverty. They focus on the tragic and dramatic; when daily life here is really more ordinary. However, Camden has very serious problems, and we can be glad Brian Williams is reporting on them—while regretting the lack of balance.
Thank you for reading, thanks for your support,
Mike McCue, OSFS email@example.com