REFLECTION FROM THE ATLANTIC LIFE COMMUNITY RETREAT
by Martha Hennessy
Earlier this fall the Atlantic Life Community held a Labor Day weekend retreat at the Romero Center of St. Joseph’s Parish in Camden, New Jersey. Camden, scorned among many other great, fallen American cities, struggles to regain it’s dignity and right means of livelihood after moving from a war economy of the shipyards in the 1960s to very little economic opportunity today. The state has taken over failed school systems and local government from the people here. Yet we were heartened by the attempts of both St. Joseph’s and Sacred Heart parishes in the rebuilding and reclaiming of their neighborhoods. Our retreat title “Continuing Warfare and Other Social Thefts” reflected and illustrated the history of Camden. The outcome of class, race and economic warfare and the continual practice of a war economy is written on the faces and in the hearts of this city’s people. Destitution is reflected in the streets and the lack of upkeep of well built buildings from a prosperous past. Our task: Find hope, sustenance, and share in our expectations of a better future. And we found this hope in each other and with activists and organizers of Camden. The gardens and house projects of St. Brigit’s revealed this sprig of life coming up amid the fallout of our capitalist system. Liz McAlister told family stories of her siblings; leaving wife and children to build a nuclear power plant in Kuwait, or of returning to Vietnam for another “tour of duty”. And her vocation of “hammering swords into plowshares” was viewed as the least noble, even traitorous. This is our expectation, to be scorned, judged, outcast, as Jesus was. Where will we find our strength to go on? From each other, our community, from our love for one another and this world. There is a certain mystery and grace that comes from letting go, knowing we will fail or that our solutions may not see the light of day. But our choice and free will to act for the common good opens up the way with small miracles. How else would we have it?