29 November 2010
First Week of Advent
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
- Salesian Peace and Justice Blog
1. Service Word Isaiah 2:1-5
In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it: many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, no shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
Tuesday I went with Delia Lugo, the parish secretary of 20 some years, to visit the family of a three year-old girl who had just died. Ashley Guadalupe was born severely handicapped and was never expected to live. Born on December 12, the great Mexican holy day, her family naturally named her for their patron, Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Every day of her life, she required special care from her young parents and extended family, but they considered her life an answer to prayers.
The very un-Mexican name “Ashley” came from their desire to make her at home in the United States. But the family lives on a terribly broken down street in North Camden that many Americans would not recognize as the U.S.A. However, inside their home, everything was orderly and scrubbed clean. Delia knows the family from their struggles and their connection with the parish. So, on that sad afternoon we sat with them. She offered words of faith and encouragement—as well as guidance with the funeral process. I brought my few Spanish words of empathy and prayer.
Mountains regularly appear in the Bible as places of important events, of encounters with God. Think of Jesus with the Sermon on the Mount, his transfiguration on Tabor, the Mount of Olives—the place of both Jesus’ agony in the garden and of his ascension into heaven, and Mount Calvary. Part of the reason must be because high places offer a different view, a fuller picture than the view from the ground. This is the view God enjoys at all times.
Sr. Claire Sullivan says, “we don’t look down in Camden; we look up.” Focusing only on the ground here you see rubbish, syringes and drug baggies, human waste, broken sidewalks, neglect, failure, constraint—swords and spears. Here, like every other place on earth, loss, illness, broken friendships, death do their best to draw our vision down. Faith, hope, and love—plowshares and pruning hooks—enable us to look up and to do good.
A mountain top view allows us to see Camden as a “city invincible” —as the city motto puts it— with possibility and promise. We do not reach the full completion; we do what we can, eye on the goal. It is terribly sad for a child to die—and to have so many hardships during a short life. Nothing can change that, but the love and care shown that child can lift us up and inspire our efforts for good.
What sorts of things draw your vision down?
What acts as a mountain top for you?
Isaiah’s vision doesn’t see destroying or discarding “swords and spears” but transforming them in to productive tools. What in your life has the potential for such reshaping?
2. Last Week in Camden
The time around Thanksgiving was what you would expect for a place like this; we were a channel for much needed food from many generous people to our needy neighbors. I should note that we also get observe the poor being generous as well. Very often hungry people who come here will share what they have and will get food for others. For example Ken and Barbie bring food to an older man who lives alone in their apartment complex. They also repeatedly invited the volunteers and me to their Thanksgiving dinner—if we could not get home to family.
Again, thank you for your friendship, support and encouragement.
3. Upcoming Events
Thursday through Sunday a groups of students will be here from Bishop Eustice High School in nearby Cherry Hill, NJ.
4. Peace and Justice Blog Check out the Oblate Justice and Peace Blog. Look for a reflection on learning Spanish.