Gentleness in Our Relationships

Vincent de Paul with Francis de Sales, Jeanne de Chantal

“Kindness is the key to hearts.”[1]

—Saint Vincent de Paul

Last week (and every year on January 25), on the Catholic feast day of the conversion of Saint Paul, Vincentians around the globe celebrated what we have come to know as Foundation Day. Vincent de Paul remembered this day as the critical moment when his mission began, the day he gave a powerful sermon at the church in Folleville, France. The sermon came in large part from his lived experience of witnessing the great need among the rural poor for material and spiritual care, and most likely, after hearing the probing question of Madame de Gondi—“Vincent, what must be done?”

What I always find interesting and so very appropriate is the Catholic feast day that falls each year on the day before our Foundation Day, on January 24. This day is celebrated each year as the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, a spiritual giant and contemporary of Vincent de Paul. Francis clearly had a deep and transformational impact on Vincent and on the way that Vincent eventually came to understand and practice spirituality in the latter part of his life. “Vincent I,” the person Vincent was in the first part of his life, was by all reports what we might call an average and (at times) self-serving priest, who then transformed into “Vincent II,” the person who came to be regarded by many as a saint.[2] In addition to the pivotal events of 1617, which many have deemed as the turning point from “Vincent I” to “Vincent II,” it seems quite clear that Francis de Sales contributed significantly to shaping the spiritual framework of the transformation that took place in Vincent de Paul.

Saint Francis de Sales, the bishop of Geneva, was highly regarded and well known in Vincent’s time and he continues to be famous for his practical application of the spiritual life to everyday life and relationships. At the very least, Francis’s pragmatic spirituality clearly had a marked resemblance to what emerged as the spiritual vision of Vincent de Paul. This vision solidified after their face-to-face encounters in Paris beginning around November 1618. It was then that Francis came to Paris for a ten-month period on business. And, indeed, Francis’s influence is reflected by the particular ways in which Vincent continued to grow and express himself spiritually in the second half of his life.

Vincent helped to petition the pope for Francis’s beatification nearly forty years later. What seemed to impress Vincent—and most people—about Francis de Sales was his kind and gentle spirit. According to Vincent, the two “had the honor of enjoying [a] close friendship.”[3] Vincent is reported to have called Francis “a living gospel.”[4] Known for the now popular spiritual advice that “a spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar,” Francis preached the way of gentleness in relationships, recognizing that our everyday encounters with others are the consummate opportunity to practice love and to grow in virtue. Later, we see the emergence of Vincent’s emphasis on the virtue of “meekness,” which has been translated as becoming “approachable” by and for others. Vincent had previously noted that Francis “made himself accessible to all, without distinction—religious as well as secular and laypersons—who came to consult him …”[5] Additionally, Francis was known to have emphasized the importance of spiritual zeal and humility, which are virtues that Vincent eventually identified as foundational to his vision for the Congregation of the Mission.

Louise de Marillac was also someone who held Francis in high esteem. The quote from Vincent shared above about kindness occurred while he was speaking to the Daughters of Charity about the practice of mutual respect and gentleness in their interactions with others, particularly with those who are poor and whom we wish to serve. He suggested such virtues must be characteristic of all those seeking to practice this mission of charity and care for those in need.

Vincent de Paul was a unique person who initiated a great mission that we continue to live and benefit from today. We remember him now as a saint, as one to emulate. We look to his example for inspiration and guidance as we continue to carry forward his legacy and mission in our work at DePaul University.

And, at the same time, no human being grows into the fullness of their identity and vocation without others who support, inspire, and mentor them along the way. We, like Vincent, most commonly gain and sustain a vision for our own life through the relationships and vocational narratives that we have been blessed to encounter along the way.

Reflection Questions:

  • In what ways do kindness and gentleness resonate with you in relation to what you have come to know about living our Vincentian mission at DePaul? How might you integrate them more intentionally into your daily interactions?
  • Who are foundational spiritual influences in your own life?

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

[1] Conference 27, “The Practice of Mutual Respect and Gentleness,” August 19, 1646, CCD, 9:207.

[2] Hugh O’Donnell, C.M., touches on this idea in Frances Ryan, D.C., John E. Rybolt, C.M., eds., Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac: Rules, Conferences, and Writings, Classics of Western Spirituality (Paulist Press, 1995), 15ff.

[3] Document 29, “Deposition at the Process of Beatification of Francis de Sales,” (April 17, 1628), CCD, 13a:81.

[4] James Dyar, “‘To listen like a Disciple’ (Is. 50:4),” Colloque 9 (1984), at We are Vincentians: The Vincentian Formation Network, Know More to Serve More (blog), July 12, 2016, http://vincentians.com/en/to-listen-like-a-disciple-is-504/. Citation refers to the blog post.

[5] Document 29, “Deposition at the Process of Beatification of Francis de Sales,” (April 17, 1628), CCD, 13a:83.

Designing DePaul and Anchoring Ourselves in St Vincent’s Original Intuition

This week and every year on January 25, the Congregation of the Mission celebrates Foundation Day.

In my heart, our foundational story never grows old. In celebrations of this type, something stirs within me. I feel connected to our origins. I feel inspired to recalibrate my existence and set out for new adventures in serving others, especially those living in poverty and exclusion, and investing my best energy in the structural transformation of our many realities.

Saint Vincent always considered 1617 as the birthday of the mission. Even though his three principal foundations had distinct juridical birthdates—the Confraternities of Charity in 1617, the Congregation of the Mission in 1625, and the Daughters of Charity in 1633, Vincent consistently looked back at 1617 as the year when everything began. On that year, he had two powerful experiences, one in Folleville and the other in Châtillon. These became two life-changing experiences for him. It was on January 25, 1617, in Folleville where he preached a powerful and inspiring sermon about general confession. Vincent himself referred to this as the first sermon of the mission. Later that year in Châtillon, he passionately invited the community to support a poor family through acts of compassion and charity. Vincent witnessed the impact of his words in a solidarity chain (organized charity) that he helped to create to support this family fully recover from their many struggles.

Vincent de Paul was fired by passion to meet the integral (spiritual and material) needs of persons who were poor. With a talent for organizing others who shared his passion, in 1625 he began a group of priests and brothers, the Congregation of the Mission, for the integral attention to the poor and the formation of the clergy.

The original intuition of St Vincent de Paul is underway at DePaul University today

The identity of the Congregation of the Mission has evolved and adapted to different geographical and historic realities. It was in this process of constant evolution that the Congregation founded DePaul University in 1898, and therefore, this year we celebrate 125 years of our institutional foundation. DePaul’s history and identity are naturally and deeply linked to the values and convictions and even to the historic flaws of the Congregation of the Mission.

Our collective Vincentian mission and all the institutions grounded in it are not immobile and finished realities. They are projects that are open to the signs of the times and to the realities and challenges of the places where they are located. They are constantly transformed to become more credible and coherent, to keep alive the original spiritual intuition in the heart of Vincent de Paul, and thus to be a real contributor to the systemic change of our world today. DePaul will accomplish this change by supporting our students’ integral development so that they themselves can become agents of social transformation.[1]

Designing DePaul

Our new strategic planning process, Designing DePaul, begins this week on Thursday, January 26. This process takes place at a time when it seems that the fruit that needs to be gestated may be greater than our abilities to fully commit ourselves to the challenges of reality, to understand history, and to recreate ourselves, our structures, and our workplaces with courage. There are so many things that distract us, paralyze us, and disturb us. DePaul University is today like fragile clay in the hands of all who, loving it, are open to invest the best of their energy, ideas, and passion to envision its own recreation. This must become a time to honor and re-envision the legacy that has shaped where we are today and a time to find new ways to live our call to service (social and environmental justice), community (common good) and spirituality (connection and collaboration at all levels for a greater good).

The decisive thing for us is always to recreate our identity in the daily work and commitment of the Mission given the needs of the reality before us. The reinterpretation of our identity and mission, the new systemic and structural emphasis, the new focal points of attention, and the new curricular and pedagogical approaches must be done from the cultural and structural context of our time and at the heart of the transformation that Pope Francis has proposed to all Catholic Institutions.

I hope that Designing DePaul will be a great opportunity to redefine our most basic connections around our common mission and to heal our institutional fabric wherever and at any level in which it may be broken.  As President Manuel has said repeatedly, I hope that we will be bold enough to solve old structural problems and to achieve financial sustainability.

I hope that Designing DePaul will be an opportunity for us to collectively decide the meaning and institutional implication of our Catholic Identity in a multicultural, multi-faith and multi-convictional environment.

I hope that this new strategic plan will be the opportunity for DePaul University to finally advance in making the ecological leap and the ethical leap to commit our educational, structural and economic resources in a pedagogical and  institutional model that is fully committed to the sustainability of life, with special emphasis on all forms of life that are most vulnerable, and to commit to the Common Good, to ensure the sustainability of our planet and our common human existence.

May the remarkable freedom and innovation of Vincent de Paul be a real source of inspiration during our strategic planning that reinforces in us the urgent sense of community we need to build in our midst, the profound spiritual connection within a community that celebrates and deeply honors its rich and vast diversity, and our pledge to equity and sustainability.  At DePaul, we are committed to recognizing, respecting, and protecting the dignity of all so that everyone in our community, in their own individual identities, can say “I Am Somebody,” as the Rev. Jesse Jackson so famously said, without fear and without the risk of becoming a victim of any kind of violence.

Reflection Questions:

How are you planning to engage in Designing DePaul, our new strategic plan?

From your area of work and commitment, what do you think should be a couple of non-negotiables in DePaul’s new strategic plan?

Do not forget that the Office of the President is open to hear and to receive all your recommendations!


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

[1] Cf. “University Mission Statement,” Division of Mission & Ministry, DePaul University, adopted March 4, 2021, https://offices.depaul.edu/mission-ministry/about/Pages/mission.aspx.

Lawful Assembly Podcast – Episode 33: New Year, Same Problems

Show Notes

This is an interview with Rev. Craig B. Mousin, an Adjunct Faculty member of DePaul University’s College of Law, Refugee and Forced Migration Studies Program, and the Grace School of Applied Diplomacy. The podcast critiques Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas’ recent NPR interview for what the interview omits in explaining 2023 asylum policies.

ACTION STEP

Imagine you are an asylum-seeker who has left your homeland.  Listen to the interview with Secretary Mayorkas and consider its impact as you.  Then write to the White House and Secretary Mayorkas and urge the Biden administration to follow the procedures and procedural protections of the Refugee Act of 1980: https://www.npr.org/people/4080709/steve-inskeep

RESOURCES

Dr. Shailja Sharma: “The Border ‘Crisis’ Is a Crisis We Can Solve,” January 9, 2023:  https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-border-asylum-seekers-resources-title-42-20230109-g3aoghdnn5avxavszsfcln7viu-story.html

Paul Schmidt quotes several experts on the new policy and adds his critique: (January  6, 2023):   https://immigrationcourtside.com/2023/01/06/%f0%9f%a4%af%f0%9f%91%8e%f0%9f%8f%bc-experts-condemnation-of-bidens-latest-anti-asylum-border-gimmicks-swift-brutal-true/

Law professor Karen Musalo: “Enough with the Political Games.  Migrants Have a Right to Asylum,” January 6, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2023-01-06/biden-border-immigration-asylum-title-42

The National Immigrant Justice Center’s FAQs on these policies:  https://immigrantjustice.org/staff/blog/recycling-trumps-asylum-bans-expanding-title-42-how-bidens-new-policies-threaten

For information on U.S. policies undermining democracy, see, Mousin, “You Were Told to Love the Immigrant,” https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2784951, text between fns. 161-166.

For documentation on the violence caused by soldiers trained at the School of the Americas Watch, now WHINSEC:  www.soaw.org

The statistics on the violence at the border: US/Mexico: Expelling Venezuelans Threatens Rights, Lives Restore Access to Asylum at the Border, (October 21, 2022) as cited in https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2022/10/human-rights-watch-usmexico-expelling-venezuelans-threatens-rights-lives-restore-access-to-asylum-at.html

We welcome your inquiries or suggestions for future podcasts.  If you would like to ask more questions about our podcasts or comment, email us at: mission.depaul@gmail.com

Vincentian Personalism and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Personalism … gave me metaphysical and philosophical grounding for the idea of a personal God, and it gave me a metaphysical basis for the dignity and worth of all human personality.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.[1]

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most inspiring and influential figures of the twentieth century, not only in the United States, but throughout the world. As is the case with most if not all such heroic figures, any careful study of King’s life shows that while he was indeed a unique figure in some ways, he did not accomplish anything alone. His achievements were done in cooperation with countless other people, a few who are famous to us and many unknown to us. As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 16, we are not only honoring him as an individual but also those countless people and the principles for which they stood and sacrificed.

In reflecting upon the ideas and ideals that drove Dr. King and that he communicated to us in both words and deeds, it is compelling for us here at DePaul to note Dr. King’s connection to personalism. We at DePaul, especially in the context of our mission, speak often of Vincentian personalism as a driving force in both the “why” and the “how” of what we do. Personalism is not a term that we take directly from Vincent but one that we have found fitting to describe the core values he lived and, perhaps even more so, the values that the men and women who have served the organizations he founded lived out under his inspiration and guidance. As a philosophical or theological term, it has been used in different ways by many different thinkers starting in the nineteenth century.[2] There are deep connections between Kingian and Vincentian personalism.[3]

As my opening quote illustrates, Dr. King’s understanding of personalism was at the heart of his understanding of the world. In a way that resonates with Vincent’s understanding and with our commitments here at DePaul, personalism defined how Dr. King saw God and how he saw human beings. Each human person was filled with dignity and worth. For King, as for Vincent, this dignity was honored more in practice and in relationship than in abstract philosophy or even theology. King famously hoped that after his life he would be remembered not for his education or awards but as someone who “tried to love somebody …to love and serve humanity.”[4]

For Saints Vincent and Louise and other Vincentians, just as for Dr. King and the countless other leaders and participants in the African American freedom struggle, the sacred insights of personal encounter and individual dignity led to a realization of the need for organization and movement for systemic change.[5] Above all, it led to an understanding that the material and spiritual needs of individuals can only be met in community. DePaul University has the size, resources, and organization to serve many people well. Still, at our best, our students experience DePaul through personal relationships in which they feel seen and honored, relationships in which they feel that they belong.[6]

Dr. King popularized the vision of a beloved community where the dignity of all could truly be honored. He identified the primary obstacles to making this a reality amid the evils of poverty, racism, and militarism.[7] The practice of personalism can give us not only a “why” and a “how” but hope and a deep faith in the purposefulness of our work. We embrace challenges along the way, profoundly trusting in the destination of our journey.

What inspirations do you take from the legacy of Dr. King, personally and professionally?

What challenges do you think these concepts invite us to address as DePaul?


Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Asst. Director Religious Diversity & Pastoral Care, Muslim Chaplain

[1] Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010), 100.

[2] See Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, s.v. “Personalism” by Thomas D. Williams and Jan Olof Bengtsson, 2022, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/personalism/ and Wikipedia, s.v. “Personalism,” last modified December 27, 2022, 10:50, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personalism.

[3] King and Vincent would both see all of these concepts as rooted in their shared Christianity and in the teaching and example of Jesus (peace be upon him), but the concepts have also been resonant and inspiring to many who are not Christian, including myself.

[4] See King’s sermon, The Drum Major Instinct, which he gave on February 4, 1968. For more on this, see: https://www.africanamericanreports.com/2018/01/transcript-martin-luther-king-jr-drum.html.

[5] As Guillermo Campuzano, C.M., shared last year, “The systemic racial justice of Dr. King’s utopia is a Vincentian issue that we embrace from our own convictions and for our vocation. His dream is not strange to us. Our Vincentian sociology, theology, and anthropology naturally bring us to this cause. We are on the move, marching with God for a world free of hate.” See Campuzano, “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘We are on the move now… Our God is marching on,’” The Way of Wisdom (blog), January 10, 2022, https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2022/01/10/rev-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-we-are-on-the-move-now-our-god-is-marching-on/.

[6] On the complementary relationship between Vincentian personalism and professionalism, see Mark Laboe, “Both/And: Vincentian Personalism and Professionalism,” The Way of Wisdom (blog), November 8, 2021, https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2021/11/08/both-and-vincentian-personalism-and-professionalism/, and Edward R. Udovic, C.M., “Two Sides of One Vincentian Mission Coin: Personalism and Professionalism,” The Way of Wisdom (blog), January 10, 2019, https://‌blogs.‌depaul.‌edu/‌dmm/‌2019/‌01/10/two-sides-of-one-vincentian-mission-coin-personalism-and-professionalism/.

[7] “The Triple Evils,” The King Philosophy, The King Center, accessed January 5, 2023, https://‌thekingcenter.‌‌org/about-tkc/the-king-philosophy/.

Happy New Year, DePaul!

Usually, when sitting down to compose a Mission Monday reflection, I try to find something … topical … to write on. A matter that is, I trust, of relevance or interest to at least a portion of the DePaul community. Once I have selected a topic, I search for a Vincentian quote to apply, a nugget of wisdom from our institutional legacy that I think sheds light on the chosen subject, provides hope or even connects the challenges of today with the ones faced by our Vincentian forebears. The result, ideally, is a piece that engages readers in a meaningful way with our Vincentian heritage as well as with their own lived experience and insight. At least, that is what I hope happens!

Given the freshness of the year 2023, today’s chosen topic is … new year’s resolutions. I admit that I am hesitant to make new year’s resolutions this year, despite doing so most of my life, considering all we have been through personally and as a community over these recent months and years. Why would I voluntarily invite more tests of my character when those already present seem to be ample enough?! However, old habits die hard, and I am not willing to forgo tradition before asking what Vincent de Paul might have to say about the matter. What wisdom might this man of action, who lived through great upheavals all the while exhibiting faith and common sense, have to say about new year’s resolutions? After digging around, not surprisingly, I found a little something.

At a conference he was giving in November of 1656 for members of the Congregation of the Mission (whom we know as the Vincentian priests), Vincent was discussing their growing in virtue by living out the Rules of their Company. His message to them was pragmatic, encouraging, and reasonable. Vincent did not set unrealistic expectations. He did not expect success all at once. He had this to say: “[I]f today, for example, someone practices one degree of an act of virtue, tomorrow he [sic] will practice it to the second, then the third degree of perfection, and that’s how we grow little by little.”[1]

Little by little. Change, growth, success do not happen suddenly. Progress, not perfection, is the goal. Patience and dedication toward our goals is the key. With the support of community, reasonable efforts on our part, and faith in something larger than ourselves, Vincent believed we would experience this progress. Little by little.

I like that. It makes modest new year’s resolutions like watching what I eat, sending a note to a friend, saying yes to a community service opportunity, or completing compliance training in a timelier manner seem … doable. Making progress “little by little” gives me hope. To be sure, it does not absolve me, or our community, of taking on the larger, systemic problems that we know need urgent attention. Those larger needs should always have some of our attention and energy. But accomplishing small tasks inevitably equips us to better take on the bigger issues. Being mindful of Vincent’s practical wisdom, committing to even simple new year’s resolutions gives me confidence that personally, and communally, we can make progress and that the year 2023 can be a year of growth and peace for each of us, for DePaul and for our beautiful, challenged world.

Invitation for Reflection:

As the year 2023 begins, take a moment to close your eyes, breathe deep, and lift up a hope for greater love, justice, and flourishing throughout the world in the coming year.

Is there a new year’s resolution that you would like to make, perhaps one that is modest and makes you feel hopeful?

Is there someone in your network, perhaps a co-worker at DePaul or a family member, with whom you could share your new year’s resolution and who could support you along the way? Perhaps you could do the same for them too.


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

[1] Conference 162, “Repetition of Prayer,” November 19, 1656, CCD, 11:346. Available online at https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/37/.

Lawful Assembly Podcast: Episode 32: “Fear Not”

Show Notes

This is an interview with Rev. Craig B. Mousin, an Adjunct Faculty member of DePaul University’s College of Law, Refugee and Forced Migration Studies Program, and the Grace School of Applied Diplomacy. The podcast explores how the claim for a fully secure border has stalled immigration reform for over three decades.  It calls for comprehensive immigration reform to address many of the issues the failed policies of detention and deportation have been unable to resolve.

ACTION STEP

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is hosting a week of action highlighting the theme “migration Join AFSC, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC), and #WelcomeWithDignity  You can find suggestions for action at: bit.ly/AsylumDay22Toolkit  

RESOURCES

The Prophet Haggai’s words are at Haggai 2:5 and the angels’ proclamation at Luke 2:10 (KJV).

Governor Johnston’s 1776 “Address in Answer to the King’s Speech” was quoted in Jack P. Greene, The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution, (Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 166.

John Higham’s “American cosmopolitan faith” can be found at “Instead of a Sequel, or How I Lost My Subject,” Reviews in American History 28 (2000), 327, 329, cited by Jerry Kammer, “Historian John Higham’s Widening Views on Modern Efforts to Limit Immigration, It’s Not All About Nativism,” May 23, 2010, https://cis.org/Historian-John-Highanms-Widening-Views-Modern-Efforts-Limit-Immigration.   His comment on the disparities can be found at “Sequel,” p. 330.

The mileage of our borders is in, R. Jones, Nobody is Protected, How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States, (Counterpoint, Berkeley, 2022), p. 45.

Information on the safety statistics:

We welcome your inquiries or suggestions for future podcasts.  If you would like to ask more questions about our podcasts or comment, email us at: mission.depaul@gmail.com

How might the DePaul community be a living sign of hope through our life and work together in the coming year?

Christians around the world currently move through the season of Advent, the four weeks of joyful anticipation leading up to the celebration of Christmas Day (December 25), which commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth over 2,000 years ago. At the popular level, the Christmas holiday is now perhaps more associated with the figure of Santa Claus and commercialized through the associated ritual of giving gifts, such that the profound meaning of this holy day for Christians often fades to the background.

As a remembrance of the Christian belief in the incarnation of God in human history, Christmas has stood the test of time as an eternal source of resilient hope for many around the world and across many cultures. Coming in the midst of the darkness of the winter season in the northern hemisphere, and always in the face of society’s violence and injustice, Christmas enters again each year as a reason for, and as a symbol of, hope and possibility. Says the Gospel of John: “The light has entered into the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

For Christians, the Christmas holiday reminds us that there is always room for hope because of the in breaking of God’s grace into human life, with which we are invited to join and participate. As the words of author, theologian, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman remind us, this hope of the Christmas season truly begins when made visible through our actions.

 

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman
The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations[1]

As we soon enter a time of holiday break from our work routines, may we enjoy the rest and time with loved ones that often accompanies this season, and prepare for the continued work ahead in 2023.

Reflection Questions:

  • How will you make hope active and real in the weeks and year ahead?
  • How might the DePaul community be a living sign of hope through our life and work together in the coming year?

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Assoc. VP, Mission and Ministry

[1] Howard Thurman, The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations (Friends United Press, 1985), 127 pp.

How do you know when you belong?

In her work with new students, a dedicated DePaul staff person I happen to know well often draws upon her own experience as a DePaul freshman and her courageous struggle to find community and a sense of belonging. As a first-generation college student, she was particularly excited to be in college and eager to get involved. However, due to a three-hour roundtrip commute on public transit and her introverted nature, becoming engaged proved harder than originally anticipated. Indeed, her attempts to join student organizations and make new friends were usually thwarted by the fact that, as she said, “I was never in a space long enough with people to really get to know them.” As a result, as a freshman, she often felt relegated to the margins. Many painful memories of eating alone in the cafeteria or studying long hours by herself in the library drove home a palpable sense of isolation and loneliness.

Such feelings of invisibility and alienation continued to grow during her first year at DePaul. Indeed, by the beginning of her sophomore year this young woman was considering transferring to another college. She decided to give DePaul one last quarter. It was during this pivotal time that she encountered a DePaul staff person who welcomed her in such a way that she felt as though someone was truly seeing her for the first time. As she vividly recalls, “It was during the involvement fair when I was trying to make my way around a display table that a staff person kind of corralled me, and even before telling me about the program she was representing, asked me “What’s your name? How is the quarter going? What year are you? What are you studying?”

What may appear to be such simple questions today communicated a profound truth in that moment: “You matter. Your life and reality matters and we are glad you are here.” The sense that a DePaul staff person truly wanted to know who she was and cared about her stayed with this young student for years. Indeed, she ended up remaining at DePaul and finding a peer community in which she thrived, and in which she eventually became a senior leader. Today, serving in the role of a DePaul staff professional, she continues to model a praxis of radical hospitality to all who have the privilege of interacting with her.

“That feeling of being recognized made me realize this is exactly where I need to be—that I wanted to be part of a community that believed in recognizing the dignity of every single person.”

Vincentian wisdom calls us to create a sense of belonging, welcome, and inclusivity. A pillar to building such a community is by embracing a spirit of radical hospitality. In the words of Saint Louise de Marillac:

As for your conduct towards [others} never take the attitude of just getting the task done. You must show them affection; serving them from the heart; enquiring of them what they might need; speaking to them gently and compassionately; procuring necessary help for them without being too bothersome or too eager.[1]

Reflection Questions:

  • At what point did you feel that you truly belonged at DePaul?
  • What conditions were integral to you feeling you belonged and finding community?
  • How are we called to create a culture of radical hospitality and inclusion where all may feel welcome?

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

[1] Document A. 85 “(Instructions to the Sisters Who Were Sent to Montreuil),” (1647), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 773. Available online: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/21.

 

The Art of Hospitality: A Day with Vincent Retreat

You are warmly invited to join colleagues on the afternoon of December 15th (12:15-4:15 pm) for a Day with Vincent exploring the “Art of Hospitality” together at the Art Institute of Chicago. The program will involve lunch, meaningful reflection and dialogue with DePaul faculty/staff colleagues, a guided visit to the Art Institute, and a lot of fun and good cheer!

RSVP here

Gratitude, Self-Acceptance, and the Unapologetic Cringe of Tumblr

“Every day of life more and more increases my gratitude to Him for having made me what I am.”[1]
– Elizabeth Ann Seton

What do cringe, gratitude, and Vincentian service have to do with one another? And how can we apply it to our own vibrant community here at DePaul? Let’s find out.

First, let’s dive into this first quote from Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the American Sisters of Charity, modeled after the Daughters of Charity: “Every day of life more and more increases my gratitude to Him for having made me what I am.” We can read this statement in any number of ways: gratitude for simply being alive, appreciation for her privilege and station, thankfulness for gifting her with certain talents and capabilities, or even endowing her with a particular personality and passion. Perhaps the most Vincentian thing to do would be to take an “all of the above” approach: an appreciation of the whole person, of all that she is, and can be. This might sound a little conceited (thanks for making me so incredible!), but I think it points more towards an inspiring model of self-acceptance. Seton, who is pointedly aware of her own shortcomings, still accepts herself as she is—oddities, weaknesses, talents, and all—and is grateful to be herself.

Which brings us to the concept of cringe and unapologetic self-acceptance. As bit of backstory, the social media landscape has been … going through a bit of transformational collapse. We need not go into every sordid detail, but the memes have been hilarious even as the demise of Twitter has been bittersweet (with a heavy dose of Schadenfreude). Many are looking for a new social media home with no real viable candidates. It’s into this gulf that Tumblr, which never really went away, has emerged its cringy head.

The blog site, home to niche fandoms and a quirky sensibility, has found a resurgence. If Twitter is (was?) the land of hot political takes by ‘professional’ journalists and pseudo-intellectuals, Tumblr is currently where users are, en masse, deciding to make up a fake 1970’s Martin Scorsese movie that they have all pretended to see (which again, doesn’t exist), and then arguing about it. They’ve even created a fake trailer. It’s a weird place. But at its best it’s a place where people are unapologetically themselves and embody a kind of self-acceptance modeled in that Seton quote. There’s power in that: a community that not only recognizes but celebrates each other’s delightful individuality and quirks. It’s also very Vincentian: a recognition and celebration of each person’s sacred dignity.

But why bring up Tumblr, cringe, and unapologetic weirdness in a post about gratitude? How does this have any bearing on our own DePaul community and mission? There are many different things that might make us cringe, but usually they say more about ourselves (and our lack of self-acceptance) than the object of our embarrassment. By accepting ourselves—most especially the cringiest aspects of ourselves—and being grateful for the way we are and can be as whole people, we can accept others and flourish as a community. Vincent de Paul was no stranger to this: his lifelong partner in service, Louise de Marillac, found him utterly repugnant upon first meeting him! But they were able to work their way through these differences and we are still living out their mission today, four hundred years later.

This brings us to a final quote from Louise de Marillac herself: “I hope that your gratitude will place you in the disposition necessary to receive the graces you need to serve your sick poor in a spirit of gentleness and great compassion.”[2] Ultimately, our gratitude and self-acceptance should be directed outwards, in compassion, and in pursuit of the mission. Let’s celebrate our community’s own idiosyncrasies and be grateful for the wonderful diversity of personalities and passions.


Reflection by: Alex Perry, Division of Mission & Ministry

[1] 7.98, Draft to Mrs. William Raborg, [June 1817], Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings, 2:488, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/11/.

[2] L.383, To My Very Dear Sister Anne Hardemont, November 13 (1653), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 434, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/.

Lawful Assembly Episode 31: New Light to Pierce the Logjam


This is an interview with Rev. Craig B. Mousin, an Adjunct Faculty member of DePaul University’s College of Law, Refugee and Forced Migration Studies Program and the Grace School of Applied Diplomacy. The podcast explores a recent speech by Pope Francis involving responses to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable immigrants.  Pope Francis suggests that, through our common humanity, our collaborative efforts can build a safer world.

ACTION STEP

Read and respond to Pope Francis’ “Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants in the Meeting on Refugees Promoted by the Pontifical Gregorian University,” September 29, 2022: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2022/september/documents/20220929-incontro-rifugiati.html

RESOURCES

You can read more about Drew Edwards and his work with Pangea at:  https://www.pangeaeducation.org

He also wrote a report of his attendance at the meeting of educators in Rome:

https://www.pangeaeducation.org/news/pope-francis-a-champion-for-refugee-education

For information on the DePaul Migration Collaborative:  https://law.depaul.edu/academics/centers-institutes-initiatives/depaul-migration-collaborative/Pages/default.aspx

Other information on programs sponsored by DePaul’s Division of Ministry and Mission at:  https://offices.depaul.edu/mission-ministry/Pages/default.aspx 

MUSIC FOR THE JOURNEY

As we work together for our common global world, listen to Wiyaala sing Osibisa’s song, Woyaya (We Are Going) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwckMpR9V-Q

We welcome your inquiries or suggestions for future podcasts.  If you would like to ask more questions about our podcasts or comment, email us at: mission.depaul@gmail.com