13 May 2013
Seventh Week of Easter
Our Lady of Fátima
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 John 20:19-23
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Have you noticed that I most frequently write about addicts and drug dealers? I do this even though most DSW volunteers’ experience of Camden centers around the kids in our grade school, work and play in the park, service at New Visions or Joseph’s House homeless shelters, or interacting at “sandwich ministry.”
I suppose this is because drug dealing carries with it the aching contradiction that we can know, joke with, and even have serious conversations with guys who are selling poison to people. They are breaking the law, enabiling addiction, wasting their own robust work ethic, sales skills, winning personalities on a dead end enterprise. And their product in some cases connects across borders to drug lords and helps finance war and terror.
Versace is one of these guys, in his mid-twenties, who first stood out because, for some reason, he would greet me with gusto, “hey, Priest.” Usually he would be at a distance and would greet in a loud voice. I learned quickly that I shouldn’t call back,“how are you doing, Versace?” He wouldn’t answer. “Some people don’t want their real name known out here, you know,” he told me when I got closer.
“Priest” he calls me. He now regularly asks, “How is Mary?” I introduced him to my mom when we she was visiting at Easter time.
Saturday a four-person Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish group and I went to the Northgate Park. Versace and his team, including two other guys I talk to all the time, Hector and Ned, were set up at a bench just inside the gate. They offered pleasantries and thanks for our work, but began to move on—as they do whenever there is “positive activity” in the park.
However, Versace engaged us further—maybe because the scale of the group and the fact that all but one were adults. He suggested that we store a box of big trash bags in the park so they could keep up with litter and with garbage cans that get over-full. Maybe to head off any surprise that a guy dealing drugs would care about a tidy environment for kids to play, he let us know, “I have a heart, you know—even though I’m doing this out here.”
“I have a heart.”
He has a heart. Presently it is locked in an occupation that can only be called evil. But he is not evil, God is alive and will not be locked out.
Pentecost is not simply the memorial of a past event; the Holy Spirit descending upon Mary and the other disciples around 33AD. God is here and now—and not just in special events accompanied by tongues of fire and driving wind. The Holy Spirit is as close as the inspirations and longing that we can feel within us.
Versace’s enjoyment of banter with the priest and his need to connect with people outside his fear-filled occupation offers evidence of God at work.
The attraction, rewarding sense from serving, the unsettled feelings experiencing poverty and injustice, the inability to forget Camden, the desire to assist—that so many volunteers experience serving here—all points to God calling us to expand the love and generosity of our hearts.
-Paying attention to your heart, can you sense what direction God might be calling you?
-How do you do separating sin from sinner?
-If you have been to Camden, or have had other powerful experiences that “stretched you” (i.e. parenting, love, failure, etc.) what ways can you see God at work there?
2. Last Week in Camden
HopeWorks of Camden Trauma Summit hosted a diverse gathering 150 community members to deal with violence in this community. The presenter highlighted the physical, chemical effects of pain, abuse, and trauma on people who experience it.
Saturday the final Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School group of the school year served here. About 10:00 a group from the Oblate parish in Vienna, Virginia joined them. This Our Lady of Good Counsel group worked the rest of the day, ending their time with a delicious meal from our favorite North Camden bodega.
3. Upcoming Events
Saturday Ethan Stortz and Mike Morgan will host a service group from Visitation Academy in DC. I will be with my Mom, Mary, and neice, Rachel on a trip to Ireland and France May 13 to 24. A highlight will be visiting DSW man, Raphaël Garagnon, in the hometown he shares with St. Francis de Sales near the end of the trip.
DeSales Service Works Summer Internship
Session I May 26-June 16 Session II July 7-28.
For information contact program director, Mike Morgan, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Fr. Mike McCue at 215-582-1666.
Please offer a prayer for our kids, homeless parishioners, addicts and dealers. Especially Bill, Juan, Adam, Peaches, Steve, Gary, Versace.
Have a very good week. Mike McCue, OSFS