Embracing Change: A Vincentian Reflection for Graduates

Graduation season is a time of celebration and reflection. As we stand on the threshold of new beginnings, we are reminded of the words of Saint Vincent de Paul: “Love is inventive to infinity.”[1] This quote resonates deeply, especially during this season of transitions and growth.

I can remember walking onto DePaul’s campus for the first time in 2004. The experiences and knowledge I gained during my time as a graduate student and as a staff member helped shape the person and professional I am today. Returning to DePaul in a different capacity, now serving part-time in the Division of Mission and Ministry, has felt like a full-circle moment. It’s a testament to how life’s journey can lead us back to our roots, often bringing us closer to the things that matter most—family and faith.

Just as it was when I was a graduate student, my connection to DePaul has been a blessing during a private season of change. It has given me flexibility for family, a chance to serve the greater good, and many supportive voices accompanying me while I redefine the path forward. People at DePaul care. Just as I experienced twenty years ago.

Saint Vincent de Paul’s teachings encourage us all to consider love in action and to remain open to change. Love doesn’t give up; it adapts, innovates, and perseveres. Love will always find new ways to express itself. Saint Vincent understood this, calling us to demonstrate faith and treasure community and family through life’s many transitions. Moving forward in this way allows us to boldly embrace seasons of change with confidence.

For the graduates stepping into their own exciting new seasons, remember that even if the journey ahead takes an occasional unexpected turn, it is in these moments that you will discover your true purpose and resilience. Consider committing to memory Saint Vincent’s encouragement to embrace the infinite inventiveness of love. ​It is a love that guides us through life’s challenges, urging us to trust the process and positioning us to make our own positive and unique impact on the world.

Congratulations, Class of 2024! I hope you will find, as I did, that you are a cherished part of the DePaul community no matter how many years may pass. Stay connected. Wherever life takes you, carry with you the values, lessons, and love you gained here to light your path forward.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How has your journey through DePaul University shaped your personal and professional growth?
  2. In what ways can you embrace the changes and transitions in your life to find deeper meaning and purpose?

Reflection by: Jannie Kirby, MA, Mission & Ministry Marketing and Communications Specialist

[1] Conference 102, “Exhortation to a Dying Brother,” 1645, CCD, 11:131.

Lean Into Your Strengths

“May God be pleased to strengthen you in these hardships, enlighten you in your doubts, and bring you safely to the place where Providence intends to lead your little bark. Trust firmly in God’s guidance and encourage your people to have this trust in the present disturbances; the storm will abate, and the calm will be greater and more pleasing than ever.”[1] — Vincent de Paul

Over the past several days, I have found myself repeatedly searching for words that might support my colleagues in Mission and Ministry—and to encourage us to be a support to others—as we move through the many challenges of our current moment as a DePaul community. What surfaced for me in my own prayerful reflection was to share a rather simple message of encouragement to “lean into your strengths.”

Compassion. Kindness. Generosity. Listening. Making space that brings people together as a community. Care. Invitation to relationship. Bridge-building. Hope. Mindful and heart-full reflection and prayer. Love.

There is so much that is beyond us and our ability to control, in our personal lives and in these current times. Remaining grounded in who we are and what we do well is perhaps the best we can contribute for our own good and the good of the whole. This can serve to keep us grounded, authentic, and present to the moment. Each has unique gifts to share for the benefit of the larger whole.

I invite you to join us in Mission and Ministry by considering what strengths you offer that might contribute to the well-being of others in our community right now.

How can you mindfully and intentionally lean into those strengths and offer them generously as gifts for our DePaul community in need of care, healing, and hope?

I would welcome—and I am certain our whole team in Mission and Ministry would welcome—walking with you in any way possible to encourage and support you in bringing those gifts to light.

May we all walk together in the way of wisdom, which Vincent de Paul reminds us, “consists in following Providence step by step.”[2]

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Interim Vice President, Mission and Ministry

[1] Letter 1942, “To Charles Ozenne, Superior, in Krakow,” October 15, 1655, CCD, 5:454.

[2] Letter 720, “To Bernard Codoing, Superior, in Rome,” August 6, 1644, CCD, 2:521.

Understanding the Vincentian Heart

Some years ago, colleagues from Mission and Ministry and many other areas developed an initiative called Explore Your Purpose at DePaul University (EYP). This initiative is for all members of the university community to foster their sense of personal meaning and social purpose as part of the educational environment at DePaul.[1] While I wasn’t part of the initial group that created EYP, I participated in ongoing conversations on how to engage students, faculty, and staff around its four Enduring Understandings and have used its resources with students.

Each winter quarter, during a retreat with scholars in the Division of Mission and Ministry, I ask students to contemplate their DePaul experience. Using the lens of these Enduring Understandings, and depending on their class year, they might ponder living a meaningful life, discerning vocation, understanding the Vincentian heart, or sustaining the journey.[2]

This past January, I asked some DMM colleagues to join me and share a story or experience from their life in conjunction with one of the Enduring Understandings. My hope was that our sharing would help the students to feel more comfortable with the topics and lead them to deeper reflection during this part of the retreat. I spoke about understanding the Vincentian heart and shared, briefly, my experience as a student at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, when the then-worst high school shooting in U.S. history happened, and how that day shaped and formed me and led me to my path at DePaul.

I told them that as I struggled to process the complex emotions involved in experiencing significant trauma, I discovered the joy in helping others as so many had helped my community. I spoke about how, in my current role, I get to connect service-minded students to experiences that help their communities. In other words, I have the opportunity to walk with students as they work to understand their Vincentian hearts, spending time with them on their journeys and witnessing the amazing ways they look at the world and say, “I think we can do better.”

The astute reader of this blog might recall that I wrote on this very topic for a Mission Monday entry a few years ago. You might wonder why I’m bringing it up again. This event is an integral part of who I am, and it’s important not to forget this tragedy. As I write this reflection, the twenty-fifth anniversary of that tragic day is still a week away. When you read this, that day will have just gone by. I haven’t always been able to share about this part of my story, but I’ve learned there is a certain power that comes in naming that I lived through this experience and that it has shaped me—positively and negatively. I’ve also learned that it’s important for me personally to name that I am a survivor of gun violence. Sharing about this part of myself in a public setting isn’t easy for me, but when I do so, I am sharing from a specific understanding of my Vincentian heart.

My Vincentian heart is continuously being molded by all aspects of my life. Every year it is impacted by the students on the Vincentian Service Day Team in the Division of Mission and Ministry and the amazing work they do on this event. I’m not sure the students would articulate their work in this way, but they demonstrate an understanding of their Vincentian hearts every time they plan the DePaul tradition that is Vincentian Service Day (VSD). From the way they brainstorm about engaging more members of the DePaul community in VSD, to the ways they interact with community partners and DePaul partners during the planning process, to the way they interact with each other, they work with a sense of thoughtfulness and intentionality. They continually push me, and each other, to create a VSD that is representative of our Vincentian mission. In working on this tradition for the DePaul community, they create a space where everyone who participates can connect to understanding their Vincentian hearts through an experience of service.

Who or what has shaped and molded your Vincentian heart?

I invite you to join the DePaul community for Vincentian Service Day on Saturday, May 4. Registration closes on Wednesday May 1 at 11:59 AM. 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 Office, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] For more, see: Explore Your Purpose at DePaul.

[2] For more, see: Explore Your Purpose at DePaul University: Enduring Understandings and Learning Outcomes.

Organizational Renewal and Collective Cultivation

When I left home for college, I had not yet come to appreciate the changing seasons of my rural Connecticut childhood. It would be decades before I was again able to experience a four-season climate. After twenty-plus years in Florida and stops in Texas and California, my partner and I arrived in Pennsylvania, where we were greeted by long winters and the life-affirming color of flowering plants and trees upon the arrival of spring: forsythia, tulips, crocuses, magnolias, and daffodils. By the time we moved to Chicago (and DePaul) in 2012, we had grown quite fond of the changing seasons. Planning and cultivating a garden meant a commitment to hard work, communication, patience, and reward.

We seek such meaning in our lives. And it is sometimes our setbacks—in relationships, in health, in our careers—that call out for renewal. However one finds a source for renewal, one hopes for a spark that might revitalize. When that spark ignites, it can feel like Wordsworth’s daffodils, “fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”[1] Whether embodied by the Easter holiday or the seemingly sudden appearance of brightly colored flowers, spring signals new beginnings, hope, and renewal.

Here we are again in the midst of change. I refer not just to the arrival of spring but also the significant work going on right now on this campus to implement Designing DePaul. I was fortunate to be in the audience for President Manuel’s inauguration speech in November 2022, when he previewed the work that so many in the DePaul community have contributed to. He emboldened those of us in attendance when he said, “We must live up to Saint Vincent and Saint Louise’s standards by being people of action and reflection—not only seeing the dignity of each individual, but also seeing their potential and creating the change that cures.”[2] The change that cures. As a health communication researcher, I am entranced by the word “cure.” Etymologically, the verb form of “cure” stems from the Latin curare, which means “to take care of.” In this sense, we also cure food for preservation. The noun form—cura—is drawn from the same Latin root and is both “a means of healing” and, when accented, “a parish priest in France” and “one responsible for the care of souls”—curé.

As Designing DePaul matures from vision to implementation, our community will recognize how the learning organization is one that is always open to possibility and continuous change. Systems strive for, but never achieve, equilibrium. The change that cures is an organizational mindset that encourages its stakeholders to respond to—indeed, to preserve—the inevitability of perpetual change.

How can we become a community that learns and grows together?

As faculty and staff at DePaul University, we embrace the duty of care we have for our students in fulfillment of our Vincentian mission. In the College of Communication, a small group of us has developed a course, Communication Fundamentals for College Success, to help students become more engaged in their learning, develop a growth mindset, and identify campus resources that can aid them. This collective effort was inspired by significant changes we recognized in our students as they emerged from two years of less-than-ideal learning environments during the pandemic. As committed faculty, we recognized a need, worked together, and made something new for the benefit of our students as well as for each other in our small learning collective.

In her Spiritual Writings, Saint Louise remarks on the work involved in establishing the Daughters of Charity and, in so doing, offers a philosophy for all collaborative work. She writes, “I must make good use of the advice which has been given to me concerning the distinctions which appear among persons working together for the same goal, who have similar and nearly equal responsibilities for its outcome.”[3] Margaret Posig draws connections between Saint Vincent’s change efforts and those of John Kotter, an organizational change scholar. As Posig explains, Saint Vincent and Saint Louise communicated their vision via storytelling in letters, newspapers, and brief memos—all the means of connection at their disposal.[4] Margaret Kelly notes the energy Saint Louise exerted in maintaining her correspondence with Saint Vincent as well as recording her private thoughts.[5] In her writing, she expresses joy and devotion but also her uncertainty, apprehension, and confusion. Arguably, Saint Louise was successful because she embraced humility and patience.[6] Deep learning emerges from an almost childlike curiosity of what can happen when we are both motivated for change—for renewal—and humbled by how much we can learn together.

Questions for Reflection:

To revitalize our work in service of the Vincentian mission and Designing DePaul, how can we inspire conversations that acknowledge both uncertainty and joy? In our various enterprises both within and beyond our professional units, how can we encourage curiosity and humility in the service of change that cures?

“Saint Vincent de Paul as a Leader of Change: The Key Roles of A higher” by Margaret Posig Ph.D.

Reflection by: Jay Baglia, Associate Professor, Health Communication, College of Communication

[1] William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” Poetry Foundation, accessed April 11, 2024, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45521/i-wandered-lonely-as-a-cloud.

[2] Rob Manuel, “Inauguration 2022,” DePaul University, November 11, 2022, https://‌offices.‌depaul.‌edu/‌president/‌notes-from-rob/2022-2023/Pages/inauguration-2022.aspx.

[3] Document A. 12, “(Renunciation of Self),” (c. 1633) in Louise Sullivan, D.C., ed. and trans., Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac: Correspondence and Thoughts (New York: New City Press, 1991). Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/.

[4] See Margaret Posig, PhD, “Saint Vincent de Paul as a Leader of Change: The Key Roles of A higher Purpose and Empowerment,” Vincentian Heritage 26:1 (2005), pp. 27-41, at: https://‌‌via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol26/iss1/4.

[5] Margaret J. Kelly, D.C., “The Relationship of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise from Her Perspective,” Vincentian Heritage 11:1 (1990), pp. 77-114, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol11/iss1/6.

[6] Louise Sullivan, D.C., “Louise de Marillac: A Spiritual Portrait,” in Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac: Rules, Conferences, and Writings, ed. F. Ryan and J. Rybolt (New York: Paulist Press, 1995), 39-64.

What Must Be Done to Renew the DePaul Community?

This past Saturday evening, millions of Christians around the world attended the Easter Vigil, the most important liturgy (or religious worship) of the year. With dramatic use of fire and water, prayer and readings, song and silence, the Easter Vigil celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and welcomes new members into the Christian faith. A peak moment that combines these elements during the Vigil is the rite of baptism for adults being initiated into the Church. After months of preparation, those seeking baptism are brought before the assembly. They are invited to renounce sin and profess their faith and then are immersed in the holy waters of baptism, symbolizing cleansing and new life.

Just before this solemn ritual takes place, there is a moment during which the priest leads the worshippers in a unique prayer called the Litany of the Saints. With roots dating back to the founding of Christianity, the Litany of the Saints invokes the aid of those who came before us—angels, saints, and martyrs—to pray for and watch over those of us who are gathered. We are joined with this Communion of Saints through prayer and shared faith. We are in spiritual relationship with them as they give us support and guidance to continue our journeys of faith. The Litany of the Saints is a timeless reminder of our desire for community and connection. It encapsulates the human need for relationships, spiritual and otherwise, that provide care and witness in our lives.

Our need to be in community and relationships, to feel that we are cared for and valued, in good times and in bad, is basic and intrinsic. It is part of what motivates people to join faith communities, as witnessed at the Easter Vigil. Our churches, mosques, synagogues, and other social organizations help meet this need for community. So, too, do our schools, workplaces, and communities. At the most fundamental level, our families and friends are witnesses to our lives whose love and acceptance is enduring, even during periods of struggle and disappointment. As shown throughout human history and within our own personal experience, relationships matter. When healthy relationships abound in our lives, we flourish. When they are lacking, we decline.

This belief in the power of relationships is one that no less a person than the surgeon general of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, endorses. Last year, Murthy issued an advisory calling for all Americans to pay attention to the urgent public health issues of loneliness and isolation that he asserted has reached epidemic levels.[1] In part the result of decades of slowly declining social connectedness as well as the isolating impact of the Covid pandemic, Murthy found that Americans spend more time on the internet and less time with others. They feel less connected with their communities and more alone than ever before. In direct terms, the surgeon general wrote of the importance of rebuilding trust, empathy, and a sense of belonging to help nurture social connections in the face of this growing feeling of isolation.

Despite the vast difference in circumstances between their time and ours, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac understood this basic human need for community and a feeling of connection. At the heart of the service to which Vincent and Louise gave their lives was devotion to those who were abandoned by others,[2] who were the least visible and most marginalized in society. At the same time, in forming faith-based organizations of service such as the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity, Vincent and Louise placed great importance on their followers living in community and serving shoulder to shoulder with each other. They saw these community relationships as providing both an edifying[3] as well as practical[4] benefit for the men and women who were the first Vincentian Family members.

Today, DePaul University members are just as in need of relationships and communities as were those early followers of Vincent and Louise. That need is even more apparent as our university community has been subjected to the same forces of changing social norms and the damages of Covid that have caused the broader social disconnect identified by the surgeon general. These realities present DePaul with challenges as great as those our university faces in the areas of enrollment, retention, consolidation, budgeting, and the like.

But, as in most things at DePaul, our strengths and advantages provide us with an abundance of resources needed to overcome these issues. First among our assets is our Vincentian, Catholic mission, which values the human being and the common good above all else. If all parts of the university reflect on how they are best guided to live by our mission, we will have ample protection against the forces that lead to disconnect. In addition, we have a history of being a strong and supportive community whose members have always been grateful to be in relationship with one another and to call DePaul home. Taken together, if today’s generation of talented students, staff, and faculty recognize and agree on the basic challenges that exist to our communities and relationships and then commit to operating within their spheres of influence to make a difference, we will succeed at renewing a vibrant, joy-filled, and supportive community at DePaul.

What might our committed response to these challenges look like? As a first step, it could simply be reaching out to a friend or colleague and scheduling a time to be together. Beyond that, you could join a group or go to an event that might allow you to develop your skills and meet new friends. At higher levels, university resources of money, energy, and attention could go toward supporting opportunities for community and relationship building so that members feel heard, valued, and supported. There are probably many other ways—modest or grand—that our DePaul community can reinvigorate our sense of belonging and connection and put the forces that contribute to loneliness at bay. It gives me, and I hope it gives you, real hope to imagine these possibilities!

Questions for Reflection:

How are you feeling about your relationships and community connections at DePaul? Who are people you can turn to when sharing a joy or a sorrow? Do you fill that role for others? How might you cultivate these relationships if they seem lacking?

Why not commit to doing something to help strengthen the bonds of community at DePaul? Could you reach out to a colleague and schedule a check-in? Attend an event or join an organization? Does anything else come to mind?

The Division of Mission and Ministry’s Faculty and Staff Engagement team would be delighted to visit with faculty and staff at DePaul at any time.

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

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community,” 2023, at: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-social-connection-advisory.pdf.

[2] Conference 164, “Love for the Poor,” January 1657, CCD 11:349: “Come then, my dear confreres, let us devote ourselves with renewed love to serve persons who are poor, and even to seek out those who are the poorest and most abandoned.” Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_‌ebooks/‌37/.

[3] Conference 1, “Explanation of the Regulations,” July 31, 1634, CCD, 9:2: “What a blessing to be a member of a Community because each individual shares in the good that is done by all!” Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌‌‌vincentian_ebooks/34/.

[4] Letter 1857, “To Charles Ozenne, Superior, in Warsaw,” April 2, 1655, CCD, 5:349: “The … question is whether you can go alone to visit the sick in the parish. O Jesus, Monsieur, you must be very careful not to go alone! When the Son of God determined that the Apostles should go two by two, He doubtless foresaw the great evils of going alone. Now, who would want to depart from the custom He introduced among His own men and which is that of the Company, which, after His example, acts in this way?” Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/30/.


Taking the Long View

Photo Illustration by Jeff Carrion / DePaul University

For the last several years, a group of dedicated managers has been meeting regularly to discuss how DePaul’s Vincentian mission can guide and inform our management practice. A central objective of the committee has been to consider ways in which we might invite DePaul managers to come together on a regular basis to network, share resources, build community, and support one another. Such discussions bore fruit this past May with the inaugural Vincentian Managers’ Forum that was attended by approximately seventy DePaul managers. The committee is now in the process of planning further forums when DePaul mangers will be invited to meet with their peers once again to connect with one another and reflect on the relationship between their work and our common Vincentian mission.

Having served as a manager at DePaul for twenty-five years, it has often occurred to me that a foundational pillar of Vincentian management is to help new staff reflect on what it means to be part of an unfolding Vincentian legacy and to situate themselves within the arc of DePaul’s history. This is especially important whenever we are confronted with challenging chapters in our DePaul story, such as navigating the recent budget deficit. What might the lessons of the past teach us about facing the hurdles of the present?

In contemplating this question, I consulted DePaul’s own record of our rich history, which was written to commemorate our centennial.[1] This collection of essays traces DePaul’s journey from “the tiny parish-based St. Vincent’s College on the north side of Chicago”[2] through many fits and starts, to the culmination of DePaul as the large, multifaceted institution of higher learning that we would recognize today. Through my research, I was astonished that amid the many successes and times of triumph in our history, there were also certain defining moments of adversity that threatened our very survival. However, as I read about these times and learned more about their circumstances, it became apparent that no matter how daunting the path ahead may have seemed, DePaul always managed to traverse these treacherous waters. It may have meant treading water for a while, but usually the university has not only survived but flourished.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. When we do, echoes of old may tell us what we need to hear.

One such echo emanates from the early 1900s when DePaul was still in its infancy. During this period, “the financial panic of 1907 shrank both DePaul’s enrollment and its reputation among its creditors.”[3] As a result, by 1909, our “foundling university (now) found itself bankrupt.”[4] Clearly, this was not the end of the story though. During the next few years, DePaul managed to procure sufficient resources to continue its expansion and academic innovation. Indeed, just a decade later, the university was poised for solid growth.

Many years later, during the period of 1947–1948, another seeming insurmountable obstacle would arise when DePaul almost lost its accreditation as ruled by the North Central Association. This was due to a combination of factors such as DePaul’s “financial instability, its small number of faculty with doctoral degrees, its low per-student expenditures, and its inadequate library.”[5]

To rectify such gaps, a fundraising campaign was launched in 1952 which effectively bridged these shortfalls. Specifically, a significant number of PhD faculty were hired, and the library budget was increased. The crisis abated, and DePaul earned its accreditation.

I would hazard to guess that not many working here today would know of any of these struggles in our history. Yet such defining moments have helped shape contemporary DePaul. Indeed, the way in which DePaul weathered these crises and the innovation that brought us through these storms may have much to teach us still.

In reflecting on the peaks and valleys of our DePaul journey, it may serve us well to return to this small piece of wisdom that Vincent shared with his confreres long before the university’s naissance: “Never … be surprised at current difficulties, no more than at a passing breeze, because with a little patience we shall see them disappear. Time changes everything.”[6]

Reflection questions:

  1. What has been a time in your personal or professional life when seeds of hope from the past have helped show you the way forward?
  2. When was the last time you stepped back and took the long view? What pearls of wisdom did this action reveal to you?

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

[1] Albert Erlebacher et al., “DePaul University Centennial Essays and Images” (Chicago: DePaul University, 1998). Available online at https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/20.

[2] Ibid., v.

[3] Ibid., 53.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 15.

[6] Letter 1075, “To Louis Rivet, Superior, in Saintes,” 15 November 1648, CCD, 3:382. Available online at https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/28/.

St. Vincent’s Extraordinary Pragmatism

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul from whom we derive our name, vision, mission, and identity.

St. Vincent was a visionary. He understood the realities of his time and saw new possibilities for his world within the massive socio-economic and religious chaos of 17th century French society. As he searched for meaning and direction in his own life, he found purpose and direction that always guided his vision and extraordinary pragmatism.

The practical ways of St. Vincent de Paul focused entirely on societal and church transformation by establishing communities dedicated to serving and healing those most in need. The work of St. Vincent de Paul, of some 400 years ago, focused on a new, transformed society, and this should resonate with us today, as we try to respond to our current and chaotic times.

Designing DePaul, our opportunity to shape our own society, allows us to be in touch with the inner soul of DePaul University. During this time of institutional conversation, we acknowledge the values in which we are founded and our collective dreams. We commit to being an educational institution that contributes to social mobility, breaking the cycle of poverty, designing for equity, responding to the challenges of artificial intelligence and technological development, caring for and protecting our planet, and educating leaders capable of generating a societal model where hate and violence have no place.

As you carry out your work, research, and studies this year, please consider the following four elements, which summarize the essence of St. Vincent de Paul as we embrace his heritage today:

  • Focus on a mission-centered horizon. This necessitates understanding your unique contributions to DePaul, firmly grasping the realities of the current situation and institutional needs, and yet also dreaming of what could be and leveraging ethical imagination to move beyond the world we know to what it could become.
  • Create people-centered approaches to all you do as we drive forward the initiatives within Designing DePaul. The wellbeing, the joy, and the fulfillment of individuals in a healthy environment will organically lead to a vibrant organization and better outcomes for those we serve.
  • Amplify a sense of co-responsibility, solidarity, and collaboration at all levels as the goals of St. Vincent de Paul. Our individual work and studies are all a part of an institutional fabric. They are interconnected in explicit and implicit ways because we all serve the same purpose, the same common good, and the same mission.
  • Develop strategies that are implementation-oriented, that respond effectively to real issues based on lived experience, and that systemically address solutions following the model of St. Vincent and the very spirit of our students. At DePaul our students demand that we not only ask the Vincentian question of “what must be done?” but that we also develop our response by understanding the current situation and data-based needs, by adopting a willingness to innovate and break out of old ways of thinking, and by changing our assumptions as we get new information.

And as we say, “Happy Feast Day,” let us also embrace the spirit of St. Vincent in everything we do, and also say to each other, “DePaul – be pragmatic, in a Vincentian way.”

Robert L. Manuel

Fr. Guillermo (Memo) Campuzano, C.M.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry

Seeing the Dignity of Every Person

Please continue to serve … with gentleness, respect, and cordiality, always seeing God in them.”  — Louise De Marillac[1]

One of the things I got to do over the summer was offer a few words of welcome and a prayer for incoming students at the Premiere DePaul orientation. I once heard a colleague observe that just as youth is wasted on the young, orientation is wasted on the new people. Without enough context to know what is important and hit with so much information in a short amount of time, it is not always clear how much information is retained. Having said this, I think orientations are wonderful. Being a part of them always awakens the hopefulness in me. While I may not remember the information from my orientation (to be fair it was over 30 years ago now) I still remember moments and emotions from it.

Perhaps that is why Premiere hits me differently. There are times when the thousands of students are numbers to be managed, event attendees to plan for, or, as the first day of class, when they are minds to be engaged. When I look out at Premiere at these students and their families, I just see hundreds of hearts: nervous, excited, playing it cool, bored, unsure, lost, confident, or triumphant. Like young plants, they seem so fragile yet so full of potential. It really calls out my desire to nurture, support, and protect them. I’m ready to be amazed by who they will become.

We are very familiar with the expression that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.[2] One contention here is that beauty is a subjective perception more than an objective reality. Our understanding of this can vary from simply acknowledging that people will differ on what they find beautiful to a suggestion that how we look will affect what we see. Irish poet and spiritual writer John O’Donohue suggests that “if our style of looking becomes beautiful, then beauty will become visible and shine forth for us.”[3]

O’Donohue goes on to say that beauty in fact is “present secretly already in everything” but one needs to beautify one’s gaze to see it. O’Donohue expands on this concept in his work Anam Cara, where he argues that our “style of vision” affects everything we see. To the fearful eye, everything is threatening, to the greedy eye everything can be possessed, to the resentful eye everything is begrudged and so on.

When we talk to students about our Vincentian mission and the legacy of Vincent and Louise, we focus on their honoring of human dignity. There are many profound implications to recognizing human dignity in all those whom we encounter. For Vincent and Louise there was no more profound way to express this in their Catholic Christian conviction that they saw the Divine in those whom they encountered. That was the style of vision they brought to their mission. This is captured in the advice in Louise’s letter to Sister Jeanne-Francois, who in difficult, lonely circumstances was serving the sick poor and orphans left as a consequence of civil war in seventeenth-century France. For some of us, this incarnational theology remains resonant today.

For others, we may find very different ways of capturing the dignity of every member of our community, as I did when I saw the students and families in front of me at Premiere as “hearts” and remembered how I felt when I was in the place they are now. Whatever ways in which you are moved to this recognition, my advice is to make it concrete as opposed to abstract. As we shape the vision with which we see each other, we will surely transform the ways in which we act toward one another and bring forth the beauty that is present all around us.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do I make the dignity of others in the DePaul community concrete for me?
  • How do the ways I see things affect what I see around me?
  • What are practices that shape my style of vision?

Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Assistant Director, Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care

[1] Letter 361, “To My Very Dear Sister Jeanne-Francoise,” (June 1653), Spiritual Writings, 421. Available online at https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/.

[2] This wording comes from the 1878 novel Molly Bawn by Margaret Hungerford, but phrases with similar meanings go back very far and can be found in the writings of many including Shakespeare and David Hume.

[3] Beauty: The Invisible Embrace (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), 19.

A Joyful Community

“I will always welcome joyfully any opportunity that comes my way to be of service to you.” [1]

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.

Reflection Questions:

  • 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

[1] Letter 1230a, “To Monsieur Horcholle, in Neufchatel,” 28 June 1650, CCD, 4:41.


DEPAUL UNIVERSITY Class of 2023: A Final Invitation Before You Depart from Us

The following reflection is directed to DePaul University’s 2023 Graduates.

Most of the days of our lives pass by without leaving a trace. They accumulate in that nameless tomb that is unconsciousness. But there are a few days that we always remember because they mark moments that summarize long experiences, meaningful achievements, or even dramatic losses and sorrow. These few days define us. They are part of us even when we are not remembering them. It almost goes without saying that we are made of memories. I can anticipate that your graduation in June 2023, which most of you will remember forever, is going to be one of those days.

This day will always accompany you. It represents an important rite of passage, yet another representation of the inner liminality of your existence. Graduation day is a beginning and an end. A lot has happened, much more is to happen, more than you could and can ever imagine.

DePaul Class of 2023, during these last few years you have learned several things, some essential, some simply useful, and some unrelated to what you will need in life to find fulfillment and joy. You have made some friends for life, maybe even found first love, or perhaps love forever. You have met some people and events that inspired you, who changed your way of seeing the world, and who helped you find a life purpose that today seems like a destiny. We won’t ever forget that all of you even went through a global pandemic together!

In the past years, you have experienced epiphanies that are now leading your way into a future that we hope you are less afraid of than before. The constant experiences of perplexity, doubt, or simple frustration at the complexity of the world are also there in your growing experience, and they, too, slowly shed light onto the mystery of your life.

You’ve led the rhythm and intensity of your integral development over the past few years, and you’ve been inspired and supported by your families, friends, professors, and even the new people you met during university activities. The sum of all these relationships and interactions has probably been the most impactful dimension of your own epiphany at DePaul University.

I personally hope that in those nights of profound solitude, in moments of intense tension and academic anxiety, in relational, intercultural, interfaith, multiconvictional conflicts at the heart of this fascinating and diverse community, you grew closer to finding yourself. Never forget the moments of tears, fear, anxiety, and even anguish, the moments in which you were exposed to your own vulnerability, nor the moments of laughter, joy, innocence, inner peace, love, solidarity, and compassion—all those moments in which you became more aware than ever of your gift, your potential, your passion, your real purpose in life.

We all hope that after these past years at DePaul, in the Vincentian spirit, you came to understand more clearly the beauty and the challenges we all experience living in diverse communities of thought, faith, and action. I hope that you have learned that ethics belong to the order of relational practice and not simply of theory.

Before you go from our midst, I would like to invite the Class of 2023 to incorporate forever in your ethical imagination, if you have not yet, a Vincentian principle that will help you to be fully human in your thought, faith, and action: the principle of compassion that guided the lives of Vincent and Louise and that was the real engine of their individual and common imagination.

In the past years most of you probably have become aware, as Vincent did when he was young, of the unbearable levels of suffering throughout world history, the scandalous levels of violence and inequity, the progressive and dangerous growth of polarization, and the endless loneliness of millions and millions of people who carry the very heavy weight of injustice, discrimination, misunderstanding, and bitterness.

My friends, in your hearts there is written a human ethos that makes you want to include all those people—who, deep down, are each one of us—in the collective ethos of a humanity that is undeniably walking toward transforming change, real civilization, and a common home where there is radical hospitality. That space where tears can be cried without shame, or kindly wiped away.

The compassion I am talking about is not having pity for others, a feeling that reduces them to a condition of helplessness, without inner energy to stand upright. Compassion means being together in a shared passion. This ethos of compassion gives us the capacity to suffer with others, to rejoice with them, to walk with them together, elbow to elbow. Compassion was for Saint Vincent an ethical and spiritual path.

In your life, how are you be able to free yourself from suffering, loneliness, and fear?

In the Buddhist world tradition, they might respond to this question saying, “through compassion, infinite compassion,” and people from many worldviews could agree. In the Vincentian, Christian world we believe the same and invite others to do so as well, from wherever they stand.

To find your compassionate soul, as you graduate from DePaul University, have the courage to detach yourself from the apparent inner need of possessing things and people. Only in this way will you be able to transition by finding the most profound aspiration of our human existence, which is in communion. This communion always respects otherness and difference. Please be a light in this contradictory age, connect with others to exercise the human ethos of solidarity in all circumstances, let compassion guide your life … be an ethical person in all your words, faith, convictions, and actions. Thank you from all of us to all of you for the grace you share with us when you let us into the beautiful mystery of your lives. Congratulations Class of 2023. Never forget that you belong here at DePaul!

Reflection by: Fr. Guillermo (Memo) Campuzano, C.M., Vice President of Mission and Ministry