Saturday, May 27, 2017

Come into the World

For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."  John 16:27-28

A Prayer for Camden
Almighty God, we praise you for all you have done.
Help us with all that you want us to do!
Come, Holy Creator, and rebuild the City of Camden
So that we do not labor in vain without you.
Come, Holy Savior, and heal all that is broken
In our lives and in our streets.
Come, Holy Spirit, and inspire us with energy and willingness
To rebuild Camden to your honor and glory. Amen.

The further out in time we go from the days when Christ walked the earth, the more life today is like the early church.  In the Acts of the Apostles,

Apollos was one of the principal preachers of The Way in along with Peter and Paul. As we contemplate the world without the physical presence of Christ, the Holy Spirit and other representatives will (eventually) be there.  Preachers like Apollos stepped in to teach. However, Apollos (like us) did not have first-hand knowledge of Jesus. That did not stop him. Two women in the community who had a broader knowledge of the life of Christ – the model for the way the early church was modeled – took him aside and filled in more of the story.

When Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos, I imagine that they gave him a short course in Christianity.  Christ came into the world because the Father loves us.  Jesus lived among us and taught us how to live and love.  Even though many loved him, the Romans and some of the Jews executed him on the cross.  After Christ died, he came back to life and instructed us further.  Christ then returned to the Father and sent an Advocate to live amongst us along with clergy, saints, and others to teach and support us along the way. Kind of like a Cursillo weekend when the team takes us aside from daily life at Missionhurst or San Damiano and through talks and prayer, teach us the Cursillo method (the Way).

Apollos went out into an unfriendly world to spread a message of love.  Fr. Michael Doyle and the teachers and parishioners of Sacred Heart School do the same in Camden, NJ.

Located in the neighborhood of Waterfront South, Sacred Heart School serves the K-8 children of Camden City. Sacred Heart is a safe environment within a challenged city that empowers students to develop respect and a sense of justice rooted in Gospel values. To call Camden a “challenged city” is an understatement. 

It is not easy to grow up in Camden, one of the poorest cities in our nation. Since the closing of the New York Shipyard in 1967 and the flight of thousands of city residents to the suburbs, Camden has been battered, abused and largely forgotten, even by its very close neighboring communities.

Yet, while thousands left, many stayed, determined to make their lives in this city that was their home and, in many cases, home to their parents and grandparents as well. But for many, it was terribly difficult. Businesses closed, jobs became scarce and families were fractured under the weight of the hardship. Parents struggled to provide for and protect their children.

The parents of Camden’s children have the same dreams as parents everywhere –that their children will be healthy, happy and safe; that they will have the opportunity to get an education in a nurturing environment, and that a bright future awaits them. And the children dream, too – of friends and fun, school, college, a career, a family. Just like children everywhere around the country. That is where Sacred Heart School comes in. 

The school day is focused on piety, study, and action throughout.  Part of the daily rhythm at Sacred Heart School is prayer.  The work there is an inspiration to me within the confines of a city torn by violence and gangs and drugs.  

Praying together as a school community is a very important part of the day at Sacred Heart School.  They begin the day by praying the Our Father (led by an eighth-grade student over the intercom).  All conversation and activity in the school stop as the students stand for Morning Prayer. A prayerful spirit does not end there.  It continues with grace before lunch.  It continues in their studies as teachers place the life of Jesus before the students throughout the day.  In action, the school expects the students to treat one another with peace-filled kindness and respect. Through all three legs of the Cursillo tripod, they hope to break the cycle of violence that grips this city.

Finally, they pray together again at the end of the school day. At the end of every school day, they pray The Prayer for Camden. This prayer was created and first prayed at Sacred Heart Church on April 5, 1997, when there were 1,000 days until the year 2000.  Sacred Heart Parish continues to pray these words of spirit and life every day for the re-birth of Camden.

You can take part in the re-birth of Camden by sponsoring a child to attend Catholic school at Sacred Heart.  Your sponsorship of a Sacred Heart student is the only way to keep the dream alive for the children of Camden. The Catholic school budget for the school year is more than $1.2 million dollars. With the help of Sponsors and Donors like us, Sacred Heart Parish can raise the funds needed beyond what families pay in tuition, to keep the vital school open.

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