Channeling Grief into Love and Service

Photo courtesy of Maura Sullivan

“Love one another, bear with one another, support one another, and be united in the Spirit of God.”1     Vincent de Paul

April is a weird month for me and has been for a long time. On a sunny spring day twenty-two years ago, gun violence overturned my life, my family’s lives, and the lives of everyone in my community. I was a student at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. While I cannot articulate fully the impact of that day on my life, I would like to share a little about how it shaped me. I write this also as our country today repeatedly reels from gun violence in all its insidious forms, from police shootings of unarmed persons of color, to mass shootings, to communities daily experiencing the traumas that come with gun violence in their neighborhoods.

I’m sharing this deeply personal and private part of myself because in so many ways it led me to DePaul and to the work I do in the Division of Mission and Ministry.

As a high school student struggling to process the emotions involved in experiencing significant trauma, I discovered the joy I felt in helping others as so many helped my community in the aftermath of our tragedy. That joy led me down many roads, including the one that leads to DePaul. I connected my faith to service and helping others and ended up working in ministry in higher education. I helped students passionate about service as they processed their experiences, sometimes connecting service to their faith and spiritual journeys as well. Along the way, I have learned a thing or two, discovered more just ways of connecting with communities, and been reminded that because of the color of my skin, I have had opportunities to process my trauma that people from some communities never get.

The work I currently do in the Division of Mission and Ministry involves coordinating Vincentian Service Day (VSD), what I like to think is one of DePaul’s greatest traditions. Last year, when our world was first rocked by the pandemic, I couldn’t imagine moving Vincentian Service to a remote event, yet we did so successfully. Now, it’s one year later and we are about to have our second remote VSD. Though we have remained physically distant and we may be feeling the sting of ongoing physical isolation, community is still very real and very necessary. We can “love one another, bear with one another, support one another” much like the Columbine community did for each other in 1999.

We all have our own stories, our own motivations, our own reasons for being on the paths we are on. I hope my story will lead you to consider participating in DePaul’s 23rd annual Vincentian Service Day. On Vincentian Service Day, you can channel whatever you may be feeling after more than a year of grief and anger into service, and into a way of loving and supporting one another.

Registration closes for Vincentian Service Day tonight, Monday, April 26th at 11PM. For more information about participating, visit: http://serviceday.depaul.edu; or email: serviceday@depaul.edu.


1 Letter 1930, To Several Priests of the Mission, [Around October 1655], CCD, 5:441.

Reflection by: Katie Sullivan, Ministry Coordinator, Vincentian Service & Formation, Division of Mission and Ministry

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