The Essential Ingredient

DePaul University’s St. Vincent’s Circle celebrates its 20th anniversary October, 2015, since its dedication in 1995. (DePaul University/Josh Woo)

What does it mean for our beloved Vincentian mission to be integrated effectively into the daily life and work of the university community, in and out of the classroom?

This question is often top of mind for those of us working in Mission and Ministry and for many leaders for mission across the institution. Collectively, we hope that tangible evidence of our mission is woven regularly into the fabric and culture of all that happens at DePaul. Into the workplace environment. Into the classroom and the student experience. Into how decisions are made. Into plans for the future. Into how we evaluate our efforts and programs. In the way we frame our daily work as part of something bigger than ourselves. At DePaul, our mission is the essential ingredient mixed into all we do and create.

One theologian used the metaphor of yeast to describe the integration and flourishing of mission within Catholic universities in a pluralistic context. [1]  Another metaphor often referenced in the world of Catholic theology is that of seeds already present in different contexts and cultures, needing only to be nurtured to flourish. [2] You may recall a somewhat recent campaign we did at DePaul called “Seeds of the Mission,” which built on this idea. Both metaphors help us to recognize the ways in which our Catholic Vincentian mission is already present and has opportunities to grow and be deepened among us and in our shared work.

But what does mission integration mean?

As we reflect on our work in light of the ongoing responsibility to understand more about DePaul’s stated mission and its deeper Vincentian roots, a shorthand construct and starting point emerge from the recognition that our mission is relevant in several different ways:

Why? What is motivating and orienting our actions and choices? How do they reflect our fundamental purpose and deeper sense of vocation, individually and collectively, to contribute to a more just and compassionate society?

What? How do the choices we make about what we do or how we spend our time and resources reflect consideration of our mission? How do we include care and concern for those who are marginalized?

How? How does the way we do what we do reflect the personalism, professionalism, and institutional values that we have come to understand as essential to the Vincentian way?

Who? How do I understand my own unique vocation as a person, an educator, a professional, or a leader and how does this frame my specific work and role? And, how do those we include and invite reflect the rich diversity of our human community? Are we paying attention to equity, to who is “at the table,” and to those who may be excluded?

Of course, even responding to these questions and different dimensions of mission integration requires additional considerations if we are to move toward concrete action. This is the careful discernment and collective wisdom that precedes action and that we have reclaimed again recently as Vincentian Pragmatism, which is qualitatively different from “just do it.”

The vital work of mission integration requires intentionality and care on the part of everyone at DePaul. The distinctiveness and foundational spirit of our mission are sustained only when it is thoughtfully and habitually part of our daily actions and choices and the way we function together as a human community, whether that be facilitating programs for students, teaching, leading teams of people, making budget decisions, doing research, or relating to one another. Each of these actions can reflect the underlying spirit we have come to identify as characteristically Vincentian, infusing our DePaul community and the work we do with a deeper sense of purpose and what many of us deem a sacred dimension.

Reflection Questions:

Which of the mission integration questions or dimensions (why, what, how, and who) do you most easily answer in relation to how mission is relevant to your life and work at DePaul? Which is most difficult to answer and why?

What ideas do you have for further integrating or sustaining Vincentian mission in your own area of work or within the university community?


Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Interim VP for Mission and Ministry

[1] Walter Ong, SJ, “Yeast,” America April 7, 1990. Reprinted and available here: https://‌‌www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/mission/pdf1/cu13.pdf. 

[2] The image of the “seeds of the Word” is used by Saint Justin Martyr in the second century and is highlighted often in the field of Catholic missiology. One helpful summary of this idea, framed by a larger conversation about the importance of interreligious dialogue, is written by one of the leading Catholic theologians in this field, Stephen Bevans, SVD. See his “Practices of Mission: Interreligious and Secular Dialogue,” convocation speech, 2013 Missional Church Convocation, July 2013, Chicago, IL, https://‌‌centerforparishdevelopment.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/interreligious/.

 

Depaul 2018/2019 Interfaith Scholars

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Aliza (Max) Bromberg

Major: Psychology      Minor: Religious Studies

From: Bostan, MA

Faith Identity: Jewish/Spritual

Fav Junk Food: Salt & Pepper chips (the wavey ones!)

Fav Music: Regina Spector/ Bohemian Rhapsody (ALL of Queen!)

Person you’d like to chill with: Lenard Nemoy (but also Spock the character!)

 

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Name: Olivia Adams

Major: Psychology & American Studies

From: Indianapolis, IN

Faith Identity: Non-Religious/ Spiritual

Fav Junk food: Hot Cheetos dipped in Ranch

Albums on repeat: Remain in light – Talking heads

I’m in your mind fuzz – King Gizzard and the Lizard

Head Hunters – Herbie Handcock

Person to chill with: David Byrne or Jim Morrison

 

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Name: Fatima Mohammed

Faith identity: Muslim

From: Buffalo Grove, IL

Fav Junk food: Potato chips

Current Music on Repeat: Taylor Swift 1989

Dinner with Anyone: F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Name: Pat Stienman

Major: Applied and Computational Mathematics.

Faith Identity: Catholic Christian

From: Winnetka, IL

Fav Junk food: Goldfish (…as long as it’s whole grain)

Fav Bands: Swans, Idles, Death Grips, Julia Holter, Pearl Jam

Fav Song: “words I hear” by Julia Holter

Person to chill with: Dany Carey (Drummer from TOOL)

 


 

Name: Jacky

Major: Media & Cinema Studies/ Film and TV

Faith Identity: non denominational Christian

Nationality: Tanzanian

Fav Junk food: FRIES!

Fav Band: The Neighborhood

Celeb to chill with: Jesse Eisneberg or Theodore finch (All the Bright Places)

 


Name: Sofia Kroll

Major: Fiance

Faith Identity: Orthodox Christian

From: Cary, IL

Fav Junk Food: Hersey Kisses

Fav band/album: Meaning of life (Kelly Clarkson)

Dinner with anyone: Ryan Gosling.

 

 

 

 

Colombia – a Reflection

Our Catholic Interfaith Scholar, Justine Carlson, traveled to Bogotá in December 2016 through the University Ministry service immersion programs. The following is a reflection of her trip.

Human dignity is not negotiable. This was a nugget of wisdom that I learned back in December while I was in Bogota, Colombia. It speaks volumes as to how one would answer the Vincentian question; What must be done? There is more that needs to be done than I realized. I was catching up with an old friend the other day and he asked me about my trip to South America a couple months back. I was taken back to the place where forgiveness, human dignity, reconciliation, faith, education, and power were normalized and brought into a new light.

IMG_3775

One of the several greatest lessons I learned in Colombia was how education, religion, politics, and social justice can be intersectional. I am still trying to figure this out today as I witness several minority groups suffering and not provided with the same rights as the majority. As a Roman Catholic, my continuing question is how can I be an ally? How can I help? My time in Colombia has made me appreciate religious diversity, even more so than I did before. While most the country identifies as a Catholic/Christian country, how one lives out their faith there is different based on the individual through education, political participation, giving back to their local communities, and many other ways.

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Another highlight that I took away from this experience was their approach to nonviolence. In Colombia during this time, part of the national peace agreement had passed, which grants equitable and equal human rights for all. This was a true historical moment for them. One last piece of wisdom that I’ll never forget is that faith is about uncertainty. Similarly, to the United States, many are uncertain of what their future will hold for them. It is not as easy as it sounds, but having a small bit of a hope and/or ounce of faith is how the people in Colombia that were experiencing trauma, homelessness, violence, whatever it may be, continue living the fullest life. Faith through resilience.

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Perseverance and Faith: A Hindu Perspective

By Priyanka Patel

“Work hard” they say. “Everything will work itself out”.

Phrases every individual has grown up hearing. They’re the same phrases Michael Jordan’s mother told him when he didn’t make the high school basketball team. They’re the same phrases that J.K Rowling told herself when publishing companies closed their doors to her. They’re the same phrases that Thomas Edison heard each time he invented yet another lightbulb that just wouldn’t work.

We know that perseverance is the key to success, yet we fail to recognize what it is that allows one to persevere in the face of failure. “It’s not about how many times you’ve failed, it’s how you many times you get back up that matter”. As a senior about to complete her undergraduate studies and prepare for the next stage of life, it is not graduating or being on my own that frightens me, it is having to persevere when I am unable to achieve my dreams that scares me the most.

Don’t get me wrong – I know that hard work is the key to success. But what happens when you try your hardest and it just isn’t good enough? How come there aren’t stories about those that tried their hardest and had to settle for average? Are those people not worth learning about?

Test anxiety is a common experience, especially for those that are familiar with the LSAT. I’m surrounded by great role models that have persevered through their failures and are now living their dreams. I want nothing more than to be one of those people.

mountains

As my Law School applications begin to come together, these are the questions that linger on my mind the most. It is in times like these that I turn to my one constant in life. The outlet that never seems to falter. The rock that never withers. My faith.

My guru (spiritual leader) tells me, “Do your best. Leave the rest.” As I open up my exam results, these are the words that spring to mind. I may not be happy with the results, but I am content with myself. At the end of the day, a person is not measured by their successes, but rather the way they make others feel. My religion has taught me that. And during these moments when I feel as though my dreams are too far out of reach, I find comfort in knowing that I have already achieved what matters to me the most – living a life of sacrifice and service of others.

Perseverance comes in all shapes and sizes. My faith has taught me that. A Hindu perseveres on a daily basis by controlling their mind, the hardest battle to win. Having the strength to refrain from indulgence is what perseverance means to me. My guru teaches me that. When I think of my faith, I know that there is no end to what I am able to accomplish.

With this in mind, I stop staring at my LSAT score, and remind myself that I’ve already accomplished what so many others are unable to, and my life is a strong testament to that.

Failures will not define me. Numbers will not define me. A career will not define me.

My faith is what will define me.

Hinduism will define me.

I am a Hindu.

 

 

 

Importance of Interfaith Dialogue

By Priyanka Patel

While most college kids look forward to spending that beautiful, stress-free week in March on a beach in a tropical climate, I chose to spend mine volunteering with the Daughters of Charity in Bladensburg, Maryland. Upon arrival to Bladensburg, we were told we’d be staying in a convent with the Catholic nuns that were kindly hosting us. This was the first time I’d ever seen a nun, let alone step into a convent. I was born and raised a devout Hindu, and still practice my faith on a daily basis. I wear a red vermillion mark on my forehead to symbolize my affiliation to the Hindu faith. Nonetheless, each of the nuns greeted me warmly and were careful to ask about my religious dietary restrictions so that they could prepare food for me accordingly. The next morning, we headed to Church. I sat in amazement witnessing the love and devotion among the Catholic devotees. While serving meals to the homeless, I watched as the community came together, gathered in small Church basements serving what they could and bowing their heads in prayer in unison. It was these small moments that I realized the importance of interfaith dialogue. Though my religion is much different than the Abrahamic ones that surround me, we are all essentially devoted to one cause – social upliftment. Through this mission, we can find our similarities and coexist. As my Guru, H.D.H Pramukh Swami Maharaj once said at the United Nations’ Millennium World Peace Summit in 2000,

“Just as the unity of our followers makes our religion strong and protected, the unity of all faiths will make our common future strong and protected… True progress of any religion lies not in growth by numbers but by the quality of life and purity and the spiritual awakening in the adherents. Thus every Hindu should become a better Hindu, every Jew a better Jew, every Christian a better Christian and every Muslim a better Muslim and every follower should become a better follower… Religious leaders should not dream of establishing their religion as the one religion of the world, but dream of a world where all religions are united. Unity in diversity is the first lesson of life. Flourishing together by working together is the secret behind peace.

 

Colombia…4 months later

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(by Justine Carlson)

Human dignity is not negotiable.

This was a nugget of wisdom that I learned back in December while I was in Bogota, Colombia. It speaks volumes as to how one would answer the Vincentian question; What must be done? There is more that needs to be done than I realized. I was catching up with an old friend the other day and he asked me about my trip to South America a couple months back. I was taken back to the place where forgiveness, human dignity, reconciliation, faith, education, and power were normalized and brought into a new light.

 

One of the several greatest lessons I learned in Colombia was how education, religion, politics, and social justice can be intersectional. I am still trying to figure this out today as I witness several minority groups suffering and not provided with the same rights as the majority. As a Roman Catholic, my continuing question is how can I be an ally? How can I help? My time in Colombia has made me appreciate religious diversity, even more so than I did before. While most the country identifies as a Catholic/Christian country, how one lives out their faith there is different based on the individual through education, political participation, giving back to their local communities, and many other ways.

 

Another highlight that I took away from this experience was their approach to nonviolence. In Colombia during this time, part of the national peace agreement had passed, which grants equitable and equal human rights for all. This was a true historical moment for them. One last piece of wisdom that I’ll never forget is that faith is about uncertainty. Similarly, to the United States, many are uncertain of what their future will hold for them. It is not as easy as it sounds, but having a small bit of a hope and/or ounce of faith is how the people in Colombia that were experiencing trauma, homelessness, violence, whatever it may be, continue living the fullest life. Faith through resilience.

Who do you Know?

By Katie Hoffman

 

Who do you know?

 

It is interesting to sit back and think about all of the people we know… do you ever think about your backgrounds and how that has perhaps defined some of the interactions you’ve had with that person? It’s intriguing to ponder how cultures can change and even enhance some of our relationships and allow us to be more altruistic.

 

For me, I think about my living situations through my time at DePaul; each year sharing a home with someone of another faith tradition. My freshman year I lived alone and then with a friend of mine who happens to be Muslim and through our conversations it was easy to note how similar she and I are. My sophomore year, I shared an apartment with a very good friend of mine who is a non-practicing Lutheran and hence, religion and culture affected by religion were not large parts of our relationship but we were still able to share values. Junior year I was lucky enough to live in the Vincent and Louise House–this perhaps was the most rewarding and challenging living situation, especially being the only Jew in a house with seven Catholics, a baptist and a non-denominational Christian.  It was a home in which ideals were always challenged; but with love and the hopes of understanding.

 

Now, as a senior I share an apartment with another Jewish girl and a good friend of mine. One would think it would be a lot easier when considering culture, however it is quite the contrary. However, through our discussions it has allowed my eyes to be opened to truly how different one person may believe and practice their faith tradition and allowed this to be compared to my own experiences; this has made all the difference and has allowed me to appreciate Judaism so much more and it’s multifaceted approaches. This understanding I have begun to apply to learning about others and their cultures and I invite you to try to do the same.

Religion and Politics: What Do I Believe?

By: Olivia Hollman

Alright, Olivia. What are you doing here? Don’t you know that those are the two things you should avoid talking about? For 21 years you’ve avoided talking too passionately about or taking too much of a stand. Why change that now? Because it’s been 21 years and I need to stand up for something; I can’t keep on “going with the flow”, acting like a coward. So here we go.

My life started in the red state of Arkansas and I have been raised in a conservative, Catholic family. In 2005, my family moved to the blue state of Illinois, but anyone who knows the political climate of the state knows that it’s only blue because of Chicago. A rural city in southern Illinois definitely falls within the red realm of the state. Having no interest in politics and developing my own opinions, I went along with my family’s conservative views. Liberalism and the Democratic party had it wrong and that was all I needed to know.

The stage is now set for my transition to college at the largest Catholic university in the nation in a very diverse, liberal, Democratic city.

I found myself no longer living in a mostly white, Christian, heteronormative, conservative small town. I began to encounter races, cultures, faiths, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, and values different than my own. In the beginning, I thought “Wow. Look at how my worldview has broadened because I’ve seen people different than me.” And that is where the “experience” ended.

As I began to see my friends and people close to me taking stances on issues, I started asking myself what I believed and what I stood for. This has been something I’ve shaped over the past 3 years (and will continue to shape) due to my friends’ views, faiths, expressions of Catholicism, conversations around events on campus, and my Vincentian education.

So what do I believe? What do I stand for?

I believe:

in one God.

nutrient-rich food and clean drinking water are basic human rights.

society needs to stop sexualizing women.

that just because you’re white, doesn’t mean you’re right.

it is not enough just to do something, it must be done well.

love is for everyone and heteronormative and non-heteronormative commitments to love should be universally accepted.

a country founded on the principle of religious freedom that calls itself a “melting pot” cannot choose which religions to grant freedom or which races to accept.

everyone should have access to shelter, especially from inclement weather and harsh climates.

one doesn’t need to follow Jesus “to be saved”.

I am not persecuted or discriminated against because I am Christian.

the death penalty, abortion, and euthanasia are fundamentally wrong because human life is sacred.

I have privilege because I am white and the “accepted racial majority”.

Vincentian simplicity (transparency) is important in relationships—work, friends, significant others, etc.

gender is not a “male or female”, black and white identity.

as human beings, we have a responsibility to address the needs of our fellow humans.

Jesus’ resurrected, spiritual body and blood are actually present in the Eucharist.

all lives matter, but not all lives are respected, honored, and valued, which is why movements like Black Lives Matter is necessary and crucial.

I must use my privilege to fight for and stand up for those who do not have the benefit of privilege.

sexual assault and rape are not the fault of the victim.

everyone should have access to higher education, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or financial status.

free speech does not encompass hate speech; if it disrespects the life of someone else, you should not have the right to say it.

people don’t “choose” their gender to “act out”, but choose to live out their authentic gender expression.

the Catholic Church is not universally “female or noncisgender friendly”.

everyone should have access to affordable healthcare.

everything can be prayer.

sexual orientation is not just classified by “heterosexual” and there is no “wrong” orientation.

These are absolute truths for me; I firmly believe there are no universal absolute truths. This is also not a complete, static list. It’s going to be changed and edited as I grow and my beliefs and values evolve. But for now, this helps me know who I am—A liberal Catholic firmly rooted in the Vincentian spirit. Who are you? What do you believe?

Give, Even If You Only Have a Little

By: Melanie Kulatilake

We think that giving falls in the hand of those who have money and power. They have more access to give to those in need then let’s say a college student. The Buddha would argue otherwise. Giving falls in the hands of everyone.

How can a person give when they are poor? The truth is that there is always something to give. What if the poor person lives off of the minimum wage in America and has a household of three. How does one expect them to be able to give in this type of circumstance? Here is the solution:

  • What you give to others does not always have to be new
  • It does not have to be a material item
  • It can be a priceless action

When you give something to others it does not have to be new. You can always give away an old clothing that might not fit you or a family member anymore. Was it worn before? Yes. But, if the person really needs that material they are usually not too concerned whether or not the item was worn. In this instance giving is for any of those who have material items to give.

What you give does not have to a material item. What you give can always be a service. If you don’t have any material to give then you always have the option of service. You can help an elderly bring their bags in. You can work at a food pantry. There are several opportunities where you can help another without having to give away any material items.

Okay. Well what if you don’t have a material item to give and you don’t have time to volunteer. What can you give then? You can give something that is priceless and timeless. One thing that is always an option when it comes to giving is just having a conversation with a person on the L on the way to work. That doesn’t waste your time and you can really make someone’s day. What if you don’t have time for even a conversation? You always have the opportunity to change someone’s day by smiling to them. Let them know that you acknowledge them and that you care. That is something that everyone can give to anyone.

The next time you think that you can’t give to someone else in need because you have “too little” I would ask you to think again. There is always something to give. It just might take creativity.