The Constancy of Community

Springtime in Chicago is a tricky season. One day the weather is warm, the sun comes out, and everyone goes outside; there is a sense that we are coming out of hibernation. Then there are the days when winter seems to be keeping Chicago firmly in its grasp, warmer weather feels a long way off, and it seems like maybe we should hibernate just a little bit longer. This springtime dance happens every year, but I feel more ready than ever for sunshine and flowers in bloom and going outside without multiple layers to keep me warm.

I think I am also feeling the need for sunshine and warmth because at the beginning of this month, I had to say goodbye to one of my dogs, Finley. She had been diagnosed with a tumor at the end of March 2021 and the prognosis was dire. The vet thought she probably only had days, maybe weeks, to live. Yet she defied the odds, shocking the vet, and me, by living one year and two days past her diagnosis.

In reflecting on the last year with Finny, as I usually called her, what is most clear to me is the constancy of support I had from my family, my friends, my DePaul University colleagues, and even the staff at our vet’s office. Sharing how she was doing became an almost daily part of some conversations, and I am so grateful for the ways in which people cared enough to check in, especially as our world continues to grapple with the massive grief caused by the pandemic. The constancy of community helped me get through Finny’s time in doggie hospice, which is how I often described the last year. Without community, I know that it would have been a much more difficult journey.

As my other dog and I adjust to Finny’s absence, I am acutely aware that there is no way around grief. Grief impacts all of us. I also know from past losses that finding ways to connect with others is one of the things that helps me navigate the grieving process. At this moment in my work at DePaul, I am planning for Vincentian Service Day 2022, which is set for Saturday, May 7, and will have in-person service opportunities for the first time since 2019. Preparing for this DePaul tradition is not without its difficulties, but the planning process helps me right now because it involves connecting with community partners, mentoring students on the Service Day Team, and inviting the DePaul community to a space where we can live our Vincentian mission. It is my hope that through the relationships that we are able to build and sustain together, our DePaul community may be a constant for our community partners and their needs.

Registration for Vincentian Service Day 2022 closes on Tuesday, May 3, at 11:59 PM. For more information about participating in VSD, visit: http://serviceday.depaul.edu; or email: serviceday@depaul.edu.

Reflection by: Katie Sullivan, Program Manager, Vincentian Service and Formation, Division of Mission and Ministry

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