30 January 2012
Fourth Week in 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. Periodically people have let me know that they have somehow stopped receiving the weekly newsletter. Know that if this happens, there must be some error with our newsletter service or a spam filter. Service Matters will always come out on Mondays for the foreseeable future. No address will be dropped! Please e-mail if you fail to receiver the weekly update firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. I should mention that, out of concern for privacy, I routinely change the names of people I write about.
3. Thanks for reading.
1. Service Word Mark 1:21-28
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
God knows who we are—our Creator and biggest Supporter.
Wednesday night at Joseph’s House two men shared observations about the shelter from staying there. John and Robert interspersed their critique with expression of gratitude for all the effort that makes the project possible. We open at 9:30 PM; couldn’t we open sooner? There is nothing to do and no where to go—especially after dinner time. People hang out looking for places to escape the cold. They stay at the nearby transportation center until the police shoo them out or ticket them. Later people might stand for hours outside our building, in all weather. Joseph’s House serves coffee at the shelter; we call it a “homeless cafe.” And it seems the caffeine, plus the loads of added sugar, gets some guests charged up, making it hard for everyone to sleep. No one can be sure if they will get in on any given night— it all depends on how many other people come for shelter. Finally they wondered if we do something special for everyone on Superbowl Sunday?
They really know what it is like to live homeless here. They offer valuable insights on their experience. I tried to tell them that we just started last January; we are learning how to do this. We hope to expand beyond the present set up—45 individuals in a big room together. I let them know the managing board is meeting Saturday to work on these types of things.
Their concerns come from desire for human dignity. Future plans don’t help John and Robert this night. But Joseph’s House aims to find ways to help people know their dignity and to offer ways out of a life-destroying existence without a home. God knows who we are; no amount of addiction, wrong steps, mental confusion, falls, sin, time, fear—no unclean spirit— can hide that from God. Francis de Sales’ most famous quote sums up the life’s task for ourselves and for us for our neighbors: “Be who you are and be that well.”
-Are you able to stand up for yourself?
-What meaning does the De Sales quote have for you looking at yourself? —or in looking at others?
-Can you imagine God’s view of you—your core, your actions, your dreams, your shortfalls?
2. Last Week in Camden
January 24th I joined Bishop Ireton High School for a beautiful Mass to celebrate the feast of St. Francis de Sales. Students collected coats and blankets to bring to Camden.
Friday, Oblate Salesianum School welcomed Oblates, family, and friends for the ordination of Michael Anthony Vogt to the priesthood. As part of the campus ministry team at Sallies, he brought the entire sophomore class here in the fall, one religion class at a time, for day retreats. We can be grateful for Mike’s vocation!
Joseph’s House board decided not to fight community pressure against the second homeless cafe, in the Fairview section of Camden. The local paper reports on it (with apparently characteristic imprecision). There was a group solidly opposed to having the program there.
The board also met Saturday and heard from Joan McConnon one of the founders of Philadelphia’s Project Home. They have been working with homeless people for thirty years and she had a lot to share. One key concept is continuum of care; the idea that emergency housing is good but, the way to really help people is making permanent affordable housing available that includes vigorous support to help people with mental health and addiction issues.
3. Upcoming Events
Thursday a service groups from Ireton will travel to Camden.