The Call to Sacrifice: An Invitation to Community

This year Muslims at DePaul and around the world celebrated our most important holiday of the year, Eid-ul-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, on July 20.(1) This holiday comes at the end of the Hajj Pilgrimage season. It commemorates the sacrifices made by the Prophet Abraham and his family, especially his son Ishmael and Ishmael’s mother Hagar, recognized as the founders of the holy city of Mecca.(2)

An insight into our human experience found both in spiritual traditions and in human psychology is the value of sacrifice in nurturing love. It creates powerful relationships and builds real community. This can be seen in the relationship between the human and God, but also in relationships amongst people. During the Hajj Pilgrimage rituals and Eid celebrations, as Muslims we remind ourselves about how Abraham and Hagar and Ishmael drew closer to God through the sacrifices they made for God. We encourage ourselves to follow a similar path. In our Vincentian tradition, the importance of sacrifice is linked closely to the Vincentian virtue of mortification. It is sometimes described as giving up something we value for the sake of something more valuable.(3)

I was moved by a powerful conversation related to this theme between journalist Ezra Klein and child psychologist Alison Gopnik.(4) They discussed the question of why parents care and sacrifice so much for their children. A common answer might be that parents do so because they love them. Of course, this isn’t wrong, but Gopnik suggests that we look at it the other way around. It could be said that parents love their children because of all they have sacrificed and done to care for them. We see this not only in interpersonal relationships but in people’s relationships with projects or achievements. For example, we might feel that a DePaul degree is especially precious when it results from a great deal of sacrifice, not only by the student but by the family and their broader community. We also may feel that our DePaul community itself is most precious to those who have sacrificed and cared most for it, and not just to those who have concretely benefitted most from it.

Considered this way, the invitation to sacrifice for each other is a valuable opportunity to build community. In reflecting on our lives we realize that whenever we truly work for something we believe in or make the effort to care for others, that although we speak of sacrifice, in the end we gain much more than anything we give up. In fact, we often do not feel that whatever we sacrificed is “lost” to us at all. Those who have experienced this learn that a community created by shared sacrifice is not a burden on some but a gift to all. However, when based in an institution, the sacred potential of such community must be protected by those who have power or authority. This must be done to ensure that the community lives up to the hope and trust people are placing in it, and to make sure that none are oppressed or taken advantage of.

Does this idea of sacrifice making relationships more meaningful and communities stronger resonate with your experience? In this respect, are family or other personal relationships different from how you see the role of your workplace in your life?

Some people may have experienced personal disappointment or even abuse resulting from invitations to sacrifice. As alluded to above, the invitation to sacrifice undoubtedly involves vulnerability. How would you describe the difference between healthy, more meaningful sacrifices made for the sake of individuals, institutions, or communities from those which are unhealthy and can lead to abuse?


1) As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the days on which holidays are observed on the solar calendar shift from year to year.

2) See Guillermo Campuzano, C.M., “The Gift of DePaul’s Muslim Community,” 20 July 2021, at: DePaul University Newsline

3) See Tom Judge, “What Beautiful Opportunities…”, 27 January 2020, at: Mission Monday on mortification

4) See “This changed how I think about love,” Vox Conversations podcast, at: How I think about love

 

Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Muslim Chaplain and Assistant Director of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, Division of Mission & Ministry

 

 

What would Vincent say about my Performance Appraisal?

This week I received an e-mail reminding me that my annual DePaul Performance Appraisal is due soon. Quite honestly, this email is never one that fills my heart with joy. It triggers familiar and frustrating thoughts I would rather avoid. “How can I possibly capture a year’s worth of toil and effort in an electronic template?” “Be honest, Tom, have you really been doing your best work lately anyway?” “Performance Appraisals, Teacher Evaluations, Annual Assessments…why are we always being judged?!”

Fortunately, before dwelling too long on these self-defeating thoughts, I received another e-mail from a colleague. It contained, serendipitously, a quote from Vincent de Paul: “God is satisfied with our good will and honest efforts.”1

God is satisfied with my good will and honest efforts. Huh. Really? That’s all? My good will and honest efforts? Not that those are always easy for me to produce, but at least I can wrap my head around the concept. I usually have an idea when my attitude may be lacking, or my efforts failing, and I can work to correct this.

Vincent, in collaboration with others, oversaw a large network of organizations and services. However, neither he nor his great colleague, Louise de Marillac, seemed to lose sight of their own humanity. Nor did they lose sight of the humanity of those with whom they worked and served. Vincent understood that the future was not always clear, and that perfection was not attainable. Nevertheless, he had faith that if people did their best, with good will and honest efforts, all would be well. God would be satisfied, and good would result.

Almost 400 years later, I appreciate these thoughts immensely. Particularly as I approach my performance appraisal! They motivate me to stop worrying about being perfect and to simply do my best, as well as encouraging others to do the same. They also make me grateful for our DePaul community, built around a wise, timeless heritage and people who do so much with good will and honest efforts.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

As you reflect upon the past year and your role at DePaul, where do you witness your good will and honest efforts? As you look ahead, what tasks or responsibilities in your role at DePaul make you feel especially motivated or excited? If you ever notice that your attitude is faltering, or your efforts are dwindling, what do you do to revive yourself?


1 Letter 962, To Etienne Blatiron, Superior in Genoa, 21 June 1647, CCD, 3:206

Reflection by: Tom Judge, Assistant Director and Chaplain for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

A Summer of Sustenance

As a child growing up in London, before I would head out to school, my mother would often seek to entice us to finish up our breakfast by saying, “Eat up all of your breakfast before you leave. You’ll need energy for the day. It’s like a car; if you don’t give it petrol it can’t run.” Her words still give me pause for reflection these many years.

Where do we find sustenance for life?

In our time the importance of self-care is frequently emphasized. It makes sense. If you don’t take care of your body, mind, and spirit, how can they take care of you?

During their time, in their own way, both Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac embraced such seeds of wisdom. Because their ministry could certainly take a toll and came at a personal cost, these longtime, caring friends sometimes challenged each other and their communities to take a step back to replenish dwindling reserves. Indeed, as Vincent himself knew, “[I]t’s impossible for us to produce good results if we’re like dry land that yields only thistles.”1 After all, “no one can give what he [or she] does not have.”2

How will you replenish your reservoir this summer? As we combat a global pandemic, this question seems all the more poignant now in light of what has been, and continues to be, one of the most challenging periods in living history.

How are you being invited to nurture your mind, body, and spirit? And how will you recharge the spirit within yourself that invites all to flourish? The invitation awaits. How will you respond?


1 Conference 202, Gentleness (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 6), 28 March 1659, CCD, 12:157. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/coste_en/

2 Letter 1623, To a Seminary Director, CCD, 4:570.

Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director of Faculty/Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

Blue Demons and Butterflies

When you see a butterfly fluttering its wings, what comes to mind? For some, possibly the complete metamorphosis from eggs to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult; others might imagine grace and beauty. In the richness of its diverse expressions, nature provides many images of transition and change like the dynamic life of a butterfly. For example, the genus Morpho butterfly includes 29 species and 150 sub-species. Living harmoniously, the size, color, and wingspan of each manifests its unique beauty amid natural diversity. The life and behavior of butterflies teach many lessons if we take time to observe them. Ponder the possibilities.

The royal blue color and dazzling iridescent wings of Morpho butterflies reminds me of the Blue Demons of DePaul University wherein true blue signifies respect, loyalty, and search for truth. As nature is enriched by its diverse expressions, diversity enriches our academic community. When embraced and celebrated, diversity inspires transformation, which butterflies symbolize.

The fleeting, flickering presence of butterflies reveals not only delicate designs but also fragility. Their ongoing fight for survival challenges us to sustain their existence in our world. Created to flourish, human life is also fragile. Human and natural diversity challenges us to live, work, and play together harmoniously—to care for one another, to tend our common home, and to nurture the earth community. Personalism makes that possible.

As a diverse, multi-faith, and inclusive community Vincentian personalism enables us to uphold the dignity of everyone. Respect for each person is foundational. Vincent de Paul taught, “Respect is an expression of the esteem you have for the person you respect…Respect has its source in the understanding because it comes from the knowledge of a person’s worth.”1

We honor one another as Blue Demons and show our Vincentian spirit when we wear DePaul blue on Thursdays or at events. Like the Morpho butterfly with its royal blue robe and fluttering wings, Blue Demons wear blue with pride as their DePaul robe of distinction. Vincent de Paul encouraged his collaborators to “Strive always to have the robe of charity” because that signified love of God and love of neighbor.2 Actions, attitudes, and attentiveness to others express our Vincentian values—the spirit of DePaul.

  1. Just as a caterpillar undergoes change and transformation before spreading its wings as a butterfly, what new attitudes, or behaviors must I develop to appreciate and respect others who do not believe or look like me?
  2. In what ways can I participate in cultural transformation for greater equity and justice for the DePaul community? For the global city of Chicago? For the neighborhood where I live?

1 Conference 96, Cordiality, Respect, and Exclusive Friendships, 2 June 1658, CCD, 10:394. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/coste_en/

2 Conference 93, Mutual Charity and the Duty for Reconciliation, 4 March 1658, CCD, 10:379.

 

Reflection by:    Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., Vincentian Scholar-in-Residence, Mission & Ministry

What a Week!

This last week at DePaul has been unprecedented even by the standards of this past, most challenging, year. First, our hometown of Chicago became the largest city in the country to fully reopen following the outbreak of Covid-19; and so, after 15 months of restrictions, we contemplate a “return to normalcy” with care and even a little hesitation. Also, we celebrated commencement and the end of an academic journey, virtually but with style, for graduates who confront a world tested, humbled, and changed by pandemic and social upheaval. Finally, and most unexpectedly, we learned that Dr. Gabriel Esteban will step down as DePaul’s president as of June 30, 2022. All of which underscore that transition and adaptation, daunting but hope-filled, will continue.

During times of more-than-usual change and challenge, it is natural, even necessary, to gravitate towards things that help to ground and guide us. Our Vincentian mission is one of these things. Tried and tested over the centuries and capable of being adapted when need be, what wisdom does our Vincentian tradition hold for us at this moment? Here are a few suggestions:

RARELY IS ANY GOOD DONE WITHOUT DIFFICULTY.(1) Do not expect things to be easy but accept and even embrace that there will be challenges on the road to success. Challenges we can learn and grow from and eventually overcome.

BY UNION AND COUNSEL, WE CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING.(2) Working together respectfully, dialoging and listening deeply to each other are the best ways for us to make progress as a community.

BE COURAGEOUS.(3) Now is not the time to act from fear, but instead we need to act from love with boldness and creativity.

MAKE GOOD USE OF THE PRESENT.(4) Opportunities to do good abound, if we are mindful and attentive and take advantage of this moment. The future will take care of itself.

GOD HAS GREAT PLANS FOR YOU.(5) For each one of us and for our university, choose to believe that we matter, that we are doing worthwhile things and that our story continues to unfold with hope.

Reflection questions: How do you understand these words of wisdom from our Vincentian tradition? Which of them is most timely for you in your current reality? How or why? What are other sources of guidance or inspiration for you?

Follow this link to access online resources centered upon our Vincentian mission and tradition: All Things Vincentian


1) Letter 1487, To Philippe Le Vacher and Jean Barreau, [1652], CCD, 4:361. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌‌depaul.‌edu/coste_en/

2) Ibid., 360.

3) Conference 135, Repetition of Prayer, 22 August 1655, CCD, 11:265.

4) L.328, To My Very Dear Sister Jeanne Lepintre, 22 September 1651, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 371. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/

5) Letter 1202, To A Priest of the Mission, In Saintes, 27 March 1650, CCD, 3:615.

 

Reflection by: Tom Judge, Chaplain, Faculty and Staff Engagement, Mission and Ministry

 

Actions More than Words

In the stories that we often hear about Vincent de Paul, many touch upon his “love of the poor.” For Vincent, this meant recognizing the sacred dignity of persons so often abandoned and marginalized in seventeenth-century French society. He understood that God was present in and through them. His work began with those in rural communities who did not have the resources, services, or opportunities necessary to survive and thrive physically and spiritually. Eventually, his work also included those he encountered in urban Paris, such as abandoned children and the sick, as well as the galley slaves that he encountered through his connection to Monsieur de Gondi, a French naval officer.

Vincent de Paul’s sense of mission resonates with what we now know as Catholic Social Thought (CST) or Catholic Social Teaching, a body of thinking and practice that has emerged over the last 125 years in the Catholic Church. In both Vincent’s example and in CST there exists a principle known commonly as the “preferential option for the poor.” Even as we understand God’s love for all people, this principle suggests we see God’s way more fully when we understand that those suffering from poverty and marginalization need distinctive aid and attention. Demonstrating love involves helping the marginalized to overcome and change oppressive situations and systems that do not enable them the opportunity to thrive either as individuals or in communities.

We see this theological principle reflected in Vincent’s mission to the rural poor. We see it in the Abrahamic traditions, most poignantly in the stories of Moses leading the Hebrew people to liberation from their oppression in Egypt. We also see it when we understand Jesus as a liberator, one who sides with the downtrodden and recognizes them at a common table. In other words, in the Vincentian and Catholic tradition, God has a distinctive love for the poor and the oppressed precisely because God’s aim is a justice that enables the flourishing of all people and all Creation. Theologian James Cone once said: “God’s liberation of the poor is the primary theme of Jesus’ gospel.”1 This is the story of who God is and always has been. It is also who we are invited to be and to imitate through our actions and Vincentian mission. Unfortunately, however, we also know that the image and theology of God as liberator can be preached but not actually put into practice.

This narrative about Vincent de Paul and the Catholic-Christian tradition serves as a lens through which to view society and our vocation. Who amongst us is being marginalized by the economic, political, and social structures that govern our society? What systems or social habits of thinking or doing exist that do not enable the flourishing of all?

This Saturday we celebrate Juneteenth (short for June 19th) in the United States, a holiday which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in our country. This commemoration began in recognition of the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation.

First issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, one should note that it took more than two years after the proclamation was read for the abolition of slavery to be enforced in Texas, as well as in other Confederate-controlled areas. This example illustrates that emancipation from systems of oppression can be publicly proclaimed without being acted upon or fully realized. In fact, nearly two hundred years later, we are still seeking to bridge a gap between the freedoms from oppression promised in the proclamation and the reality faced by persons of color in our nation today.

Our Vincentian mission challenges us to continue the ongoing work of narrowing this gap between words and actions, between our ideals and reality, both individually and systemically. Vincent reminds us, “We have to preach mainly by good example.”2 If the God we proclaim is a liberator who seeks justice that enables all to flourish, this is also our charge. There is always more to do in our personal lives, in our institutions, and in our society to realize this vision. Juneteenth reminds us yet again that the work needed to fulfill the freedoms declared in the Emancipation Proclamation continues.

What might you do this summer in your own life and your work at DePaul to bridge the gap between your words or ideals and your actions, particularly related to the work of racial justice? How might you help contribute to DePaul being an institution that more fully realizes the mission, values, commitments and ideals that we proclaim?


1 James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2011), 154.

2 Conference 134, Method to be Followed in Preaching, 20 August 1655, CCD, 11:252.

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate VP, Division of Mission and Ministry

Lawful Assembly – Episode 15: Home

This is an interview with Rev. Craig B. Mousin, an Adjunct Faculty member of the DePaul University College of Law and the Grace School of Applied Diplomacy.  This podcast links the loss of homes felt by many of the freed slaves after the Civil War, including George Floyd’s great-great grandfather, with the loss of home many refugees face when forced to flee their nations due to state sanctioned violence and the consequences of the breakdown of the rule of law.  We face challenges both at our borders, but also when we contribute to the conditions that force families to flee their homes.  We need to address ways to provide the rule of law and justice for all.  The story of George Floyd’s family history and the loss of his great-great grandfather’s 500 acres comes from Toluse Olorunnipa and Griff Witte, “Born with two strikes, How systemic racism shaped Floyd’s life and hobbled his ambition,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/national/george-floyd-america/systemic-racism/

Senn High School, located in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago, is one of the most diverse high schools in the nation.  Its students and their families speak over 80 languages and claim over 60 nations as their birth homes.  Congratulate its graduates and learn more about our neighborhood high school at:  https://www.sennhs.org

Frederick Douglass’ call for simple justice comes from David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom, (N.Y., 2018), 558-59.

Rev. Garrison   Frazier and the black leaders’ activism in Savannah, Georgia comes from Eric Foner, Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877, (N.Y., 1988), 70.

 

Action Steps:

Information about the Community Renewal Society’s Juneteenth film screening of “Crawford: The Man the South Forgot,” can be found at:   https://www.communityrenewalsociety.org/events/juneteenth-film-amp-discussion   You can find some of the current programs CRS sponsors to seek simple justice toda at: https://www.communityrenewalsociety.org/platform?sectionscroll=just-economy

Information on the National Immigrant Justice center and the “We Are Home” campaign,  can be found at:  https://immigrantjustice.org/press-releases/civil-rights-groups-send-letter-dhs-secretary-calling-meaningful-opportunity-return

Information of the proposed Berta Caceres Human Rights Act of 2021can be found at:

https://soaw.org/BertaAct2021

 

 

Let us Dream

This is a time of creativity and innovation. We are emerging from a global pandemic with new eyes to see. While acknowledging the privilege that Americans have access to vaccinations, we see the disparities and dysfunction of our nation and systems. We have a chance to change the way we operate in the world. Will we seize this opportunity? Will we use our creativity and innovation to make a difference?

We have seen incredible innovation and ingenuity in how we approach our struggling world. The adaptations we have made to meet our needs virtually have been amazing! I have been in awe of the graduation celebrations on campus and the creativity used to help our community celebrate the achievements of students. There have been so many unique ways we have connected and celebrated, mourned, and symbolically held one another during this trying year. Let us continue to dream big of what could be.

In Let Us Dream, Pope Francis says: “The world is always being made. Paul in his Letter to the Romans 8:22 says creation is groaning from birth pangs. God wants to bring forth the world with us, as partners, continually. He has invited us to join Him from the very beginning, in peaceful times and in times of crisis—at all times.”(1)

We are invited to be co-creators in the world. Just like, together with God, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac became co-creators by answering the call to be innovative, so must we. Our Vincentian charism invites us to create a just world. Louise and Vincent did that through responding to the cry of the poor. They created communities of people to do that very thing. We, too, are called to respond to the cry of the poor in new and creative ways while ensuring all are seen as valuable and needed.

So, I invite us to embody the Vincentian virtue of zeal. Zeal propels our creativity and innovation in the direction of change. Vincent describes zeal this way:

Zeal, consisting in a pure desire to become pleasing to God and helpful to our neighbor: zeal to spread the kingdom of God and zeal to procure the salvation of our neighbor. Is there anything in the world more perfect? If love of God is a fire, zeal is its flame; if love is a sun, zeal is its ray. Zeal is unconditional in the love of God.(2)

Let us dream over the summer. And, let our Vincentian zeal flow from a space of creativity and love for all people as we accompany one another on this journey of life.

How can I use my creativity and innovation to reach out to my community? What ways can I work towards a more just human community and world?


1) Prologue of Pope Francis, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020).

2) 211, The Five Characteristic Virtues (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 14), 22 August 1659, CCD, 12:250.

Reflection by: Amanda Thompson, Director, Catholic Campus Ministry, Division of Mission and Ministry

Managing Life’s Transitions

There is transition happening all around us.

Academically, we are nearing the end of the school year. Graduating students will be leaving and moving on to the next stage of their pilgrimage through life. Current high school seniors will graduate and join our community next year. Students who will transfer to or from DePaul over the summer are also preparing for their transition, as are potential adult students looking to advance their education and career development.

A large percentage of people have been vaccinated, or soon will be, and so many of us are preparing to regularly go back to our offices after more than a year of working from home.

In the Upper Midwest we are moving from spring to summer as the weather warms and the days become longer. In Chicago, we might even revel in the fact that we had an actual spring. Some years ago, I heard on the radio, “spring will fall on a Thursday this year!”

In the Christian liturgical tradition, the season of Easter has just ended. After celebrating Easter for 50 days Ordinary Time resumes.

We are certainly in the midst of many different transitions. But that doesn’t need to be a reason for us to fret, to become stressed out, to try to do too much, or to hurry the process.

In writing about one of the greatest transitions we face, at the end of our lives, Vincent de Paul once said, “In fact, experience has shown us that those who have gone to heaven most likely advanced the time of entering their new life by endangering their lives by too much hard work.”1 In other words, Vincent suggests that while entering heaven is certainly a goal for many people, we shouldn’t try to rush the process!

Our lives may be in a state of turmoil in going through so many different transitions at once—and it can be overwhelming—but the more we remain calm, the easier these transitions will be. So, before the school year begins again in earnest, do what you can to take some time this summer to relax, enjoy the warm weather, and just be. This will enable you to be more present and attentive to your life and the work before you. The transitions you are moving through will occur on their own time.

What kinds of transitions are you experiencing right now, both personally and professionally?

How will you make time for yourself in the coming weeks and months? How will you remain calm and grounded and avoid becoming too overwhelmed?

What are your practices of self-care when the busy-ness of life takes over?


1 Letter 2948, To François Feydin, In Richelieu, 24 August 1659, CCD, 8:103-04.

Reflection by: Matt Merkt, Chaplain for Liturgy/Music, Catholic Campus Ministry, Division of Mission and Ministry

How Vincent and Louise Challenged State-sanctioned Bias

Today, both in public and private forums, bias is an unfortunate reality with which most of us are all too familiar. It may be the biases of others, who seem so easily to marginalize and discriminate, or our own prejudices that lead us to make easy judgments. Whether conscious or not, bias has often plagued humankind.

This was no different in seventeenth-century France. In fact, the era of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise was cruelly stained by explicit, state-sanctioned bias against those who were socio-economically poor. This was epitomized by the “War of the Great Confinement” which began in 1656 with a royal prohibition against all manner of public begging by the destitute poor.1 All forms of private almsgiving were also outlawed. Indeed, over the course of several years, more than five thousand poverty-stricken people were deprived of their freedom and forcibly contained in a series of institutions known as the General Hospital of Paris. Such actions were an explicit manifestation of sociocultural bias, enshrined in state policy and enforced by police and the judiciary.

Amidst such persecutory and punitive acts towards the poor, Vincent and Louise committed themselves to those whom French society had most abandoned and disenfranchised. Their ministry stood as humble testimony that another world was possible, a world in which the poor were honored and respected, not criminalized. In coming to know and love those whom society had shunned, Vincent and Louise were invited to stand in solidarity with those on the farthest margins. Their praxis testified to the inherent God-given dignity of all, but most especially to those who were poor. In seventeenth-century France, for some, this was a radical belief.

We may sometimes think that the lives of those who have gone before us are encased in history, with little to say about our current reality. However, I choose to believe this is not so. If you are reading this, may I invite you to pause for a moment and consider the following?

Are there still strong societal biases today that marginalize or alienate some individuals or groups of people? How might your values and beliefs compel you to act to expose and work against these biases in order to affirm the dignity of all? Are there ways in which, like Vincent and Louise before, you are being called today to make real with your hands what your heart longs to see?


1 See Edward R. Udovic, C.M., “‘Caritas Christi Urget Nos:’ The Urgent Challenges of Charity in Seventeenth Century France,” Vincentian Heritage 12:2 (1991), 86, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/‌vhj/‌‌‌‌vol12/‌iss2/1/

Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director, Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry