“I will always welcome joyfully any opportunity that comes my way to be of service to you.” 
We have moved through many challenges over the last several months, including a number of difficult losses. Now, a new academic year is upon us. What must be done to rebuild and sustain a communal life at DePaul in which it is easier to be joyful and to flourish together? What would this entail in our shared workplace and in the education we seek to offer?
In many settings at DePaul, when speaking about our Vincentian mission, I have shared the maxim that we teach who we are. That is, beyond the content, skills, and knowledge that we share, students learn by observing and interacting with us as human beings. We are always teaching through the kind of people we are and the way we relate to one another, for better or for ill. Would not the joyful person, and the joyful community, then, be teaching something important and of educational significance, whether that be in or outside of the classroom?
Human beings are undeniably social creatures who benefit from living within a community of people that helps to bring out the best in them. This is true of employees in the workplace, and it is true of students within a university. DePaul University employs over 3,000 people in addition to our more than 20,000 students. We are akin to a small town. The experience that people have within our community has a ripple effect, which in turn outwardly affects thousands of other families, communities, and future generations to follow. If those who work and study here have a fundamental experience of joy and flourishing within our DePaul community, we are making a deeply significant contribution to the world.
What constitutes joy and how can we cultivate it? A professor of mine once distinguished joy from happiness by describing happiness as something in the “foreground” of our experience, which may come and go, while describing joy as a more constant state that exists in the “background” of our experience, a constant and creative source of life despite the ups and the downs of our everyday reality. With this understanding, being joyful does not mean the absence of difficulties or challenges, nor the absence of a whole range of emotions, but rather, a way of being that is fundamentally oriented toward hope and a positive vision of life. Joy is a virtue that is cultivated by practicing it over and over with clear intention and with the support of others. We become what we do repeatedly over time. In short, we become joyful by practicing joy and living in ways that foster joy.
Many choose to work and study at DePaul because of our clear sense of a social mission that transcends our individual work or discipline. Together, we are about something beyond our individual roles. Regardless of our discipline, background, or area of work or study, many appreciate being part of a community with a mission to positively impact society and to make life better for others, particularly for those who are marginalized. We gather around our Vincentian mission in large part because it helps to hold these aspirations as a community and keep them as a motivation for what we do each day. Ultimately, like Vincent de Paul, we find a reliable and sustainable source of joy in being of service to each other and to a common good that enables all to flourish.
- What do you need to do personally to cultivate a joyful way of being, working, or studying?
- How might you foster a more joyful workplace or classroom?
- What do you understand to be the place of joy in the vocation of education?
Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate VP, Division of Mission and Ministry
 Letter 1230a, “To Monsieur Horcholle, in Neufchatel,” 28 June 1650, CCD, 4:41.