Recentering on Our Vocation

“Holiness consists in this: doing well what you do, in conformity to your vocation.”

  Vincent de Paul

We have enough on our plate. And please remember, no one is asking us to be Saint Mother Teresa. We are all challenged enough each day with the ongoing invitation to become most fully and authentically who God has called us to be. That is, to become self-giving, for our own fulfillment and joy, as well as for the benefit of others. Therefore, what I do ask is that you consider what you must do to attend to your unique talents and how to offer them to a world greatly in need of them.

This ever-present call to honor our unique vocation is true for individuals—and it is also true for institutions. We are not Harvard, nor Notre Dame, nor a public state-sponsored university, nor are we called to be. Rather, we are DePaul University, with our own unique history, present-day context, and reason for being. Institutionally, we, too, can benefit from remembering who we are and thereby growing more into who we can become for the world’s sake.

It has long been my contention that this focus on vocation—or purpose, mission, reason for being, or contribution to the world—is at the heart of what our Catholic and Vincentian mission is for all those who work and study here at DePaul. It is a threshold concept that moves or reframes our thinking about who we are into a transcendent dimension while grounding us in the realities of the present moment. It is a concept that can be articulated or understood in different ways appropriate for the diverse community we are and seek to serve. It is relevant to every academic discipline and area of work. It names a profound aspect of the human experience that is essential to the “integral human development” and the “way of wisdom” that we profess are central to our institutional mission. What is the unique contribution we can make to the world and those around us—in this moment, and in the entire arc of our lifetime? This question always beckons us forward.

This summer, all those around you at DePaul and beyond will benefit if you do what you must to reconnect to who you are most deeply, to that which you know you have to offer our community, and to what makes you come alive. If you work for the university, take a moment to re-center on what you know that you and DePaul have to offer to our students and to society. Envision your work within this larger frame of reference.

It is a simple concept, but that does not mean it is easy to do or to sustain. Yet taking time and space now and again to remember who we are, and to re-center ourselves in our vocation, makes a world of difference to our lives and to those around us. Therefore, I encourage you, in the words of Vincent de Paul, “Please be steadfast in walking in the vocation to which you are called.”

Reflection Questions:

  • When you engage the question, “What must be done?” in your own life and growth as a person to become who you are called to be, what comes to mind for you?
  • How do you understand DePaul University’s institutional vocation?
  • How can you use the summer weeks—individually and with those you work most closely—to re-ground yourself in your own vocation or connect your daily work more consciously to DePaul’s mission?

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

1 Conference 116, “Uniformity (Common Rules, Art. 17)” November 15, 1657, CCD, 10:284.

2 Howard Thurman, well-known theologian and spiritual advisor to many in the US civil rights movement, once famously said: “Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

3 Letter 1824, “To a Priest of the Mission,” January 2, 1655, CCD, 5:256.

At the Heart of Our Mission

Recently, I was asked, “What is at the heart of DePaul and its mission?” After a brief pause, I responded that, for me, what best captures the heart of our mission is the concept frequently referenced here: Vincentian personalism.

In my thinking and experience, Vincentian personalism is the foundational building block for all else that we understand our Vincentian mission to be about as an institution. However, as frequently as the term is used, I believe it requires further explanation and nuance if it is to be understood in its fullness. So, bear with me. As this is the last regular Mission Monday for the academic year, I hope you will permit me a longer reflection on this topic … you do have all summer to read it!

I put Vincentian personalism at the heart of our mission because I clearly see its vital relationship to all of mission’s dimensions that so many care about. For example, I can see how the following flow from and are sustained by Vincentian personalism: effective education, caring and inclusive community, collaboration, service, social and environmental justice, systemic change, and sustainability.

On its own accord and most simply, Vincentian personalism involves recognizing and caring for the unique personhood and sacred dignity of the other. In the concrete and everyday realities of our life and work, it demands that the person before us be treated respectfully, even reverently. It is about affirming their unique personhood and vocation, understanding their story, and appreciating the way they contribute to our community and world through who they are and what they do. From our Vincentian perspective, the idea of “radical hospitality” naturally stems from a focus on Vincentian personalism, as does our understanding of inclusive community and the roots of our work around diversity and equity. We are distinguished in our Vincentian mission by creating and sustaining a culture of care for each other, first and foremost. All else grows from this foundation.

While Vincent de Paul didn’t use the term, at DePaul University we trace the concept of Vincentian personalism back to his recognition of the sacred dignity of those who were poor and abandoned and to his faith-inspired belief that they deserved to be treated honorably and with great care. As practiced by Vincent, personalism requires attending to the obstacles that prevent a person from flourishing and that prevent their God-given potential from being realized. Barriers may be systemic at the societal level, but they may also be intra- or interpersonal in nature. Therefore, Vincent’s example of personalism included attending to the spiritual and physical needs of those he sought to accompany and recognizing and affirming their unique personhood.

Theologically, from a Vincentian Catholic perspective, this commitment is rooted in modeling God’s love, the love of Jesus, and the work and movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God always invites us into a way of being which fosters and embodies loving and life-giving relationships and systems, and that heals and restores relationships that are broken, hurting, or causing harm.

History suggests that the concept of Vincentian personalism was first coined at DePaul by a Jewish member of our community, Howard Sulkin, founding dean of DePaul’s School of New Learning (now the School of Continuing and Professional Studies). In trying to capture the heart of the Vincentian mission through his Jewish lens and experience, Sulkin connected Vincentian personalism to an I-Thou relationship, a concept developed by renowned philosopher Martin Buber. Buber contrasted an I-Thou relationship with an I-it relationship, or one which merely objectifies others rather than honoring their distinctiveness and dignity. Interestingly, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also grounded his own philosophy in personalism, apparently deriving it in a substantial way from Buber.

COVID and the work-from-home realities emerging since 2020 have made cultivating relationships in the workplace more challenging, and therefore, we have learned we must be more intentional in attending to them. Human connection and the business outcomes of effective relationships are still as valid and as needed as ever. When Vincentian personalism is remembered and reinforced at DePaul in how we go about our work and our relationships with one another, it is deeply impactful in terms of the quality of the workplace and the effectiveness of our work.

When Vincentian personalism remains primary, our relationships with one another are more likely to be loving, life-giving, and joyful. We remember that we are ultimately a community of human beings seeking to do something meaningful and good together, and that we are dependent on each other to do so. Our work involves actively and intentionally creating environments and ways of operating that affirm, support, and at times, challenge each other to be our best. With Vincentian personalism, we recognize our capacity for compassion for those who struggle, who feel on the outside, or who need additional encouragement or assistance.

Vincentian personalism most frequently plays out in small ways and in regular practices that help us to remember and reinforce the centrality of relationships in our lives. It may be practiced in how we greet one another, by thoughtfully remembering to check in with those who may be struggling, or caring enough to ask them about their needs and hopes. It may come in building regular time and space within our teams and among our colleagues to stay caught up on the goings-on of each other’s lives and work projects, or for moments of deeper personal reflection and sharing. Or perhaps, it may mean that advising or managerial sessions go beyond the surface level to also include a recognition of the other’s unique personhood and their deeper sense of vocation in relation to their academic choices or career pursuits.

Vincentian personalism also involves a commitment to look deeper, beneath statistics and headlines to the nuances of individual human lives and stories, or to look systemically to find ways of operating that serve the needs of those who are often excluded. It invites us to actively collaborate with others in meaningful ways, rather than go it alone. It might surface in holding one another accountable to agreed-upon expectations, whether for a class or job. For us, Vincentian personalism means acknowledging that everyone is a whole person living a whole life, and that their time at DePaul is just one part of that larger whole.

Here at DePaul, the heart of our mission is centered in Vincentian personalism. If you’d like to learn more about it, there are many past reflections on Vincentian personalism on our Way of Wisdom blog site. (It’s been a popular theme over the years.) For a summer reading list on the topic, you might also try entering other related terms into the search box on the site, such as relationships, community, care, or charity. (Or just explore your own themes of interest.)

Now, let’s put the question to you to ponder over the summer: What do you think is at the heart of DePaul and our Vincentian mission? [If you’d like to write a blog post detailing your answer this summer, let me know! 😊]

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

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.

Finding the Holy Spirit in Chaos

Recently, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity invited academician and scholar Maureen H. O’Connell to speak about her book Undoing the Knots: Five Generations of American Catholic Anti-Blackness.[1] In her remarks, which drew from her own personal history as well as the history of the American Catholic Church, O’Connell examined Catholic anti-blackness and its mournful legacy of slave ownership, segregation, inequity, and exclusion. She also did something unusual and juxtaposed this history with the Synod of Bishops currently taking place in the Catholic Church.

For those unfamiliar, a Catholic synod is a body made up of selected bishops from around the world. Their purpose is to advise the Pope on myriad issues pertaining to the Church and to help the Pope grow closer in understanding and relationship with the bishops, clergy, and indeed, all members of the Catholic community. This current synod was called by Pope Francis and is scheduled to last until late 2024. Its themes revolve around communion, participation, and mission, as Pope Francis endeavors to make real his vision of a more inclusive Church—one that is open, collegial, and supportive; a Church that walks with its members with mutuality and care.

It is provocative that O’Connell chose to review one of the darkest chapters of American Catholicism through the lens of a forward thinking, hope-filled synod. For whether we are looking back at our history or taking stock of our present reality, it can be difficult to build a convincing case that humans, Catholic or otherwise, can live as Pope Francis dreams. The scourge of enslavement and racism, inequity and exclusion, the ongoing wars in Gaza, in Sudan, and Ukraine, and even the unrest on our own campus are but some examples that illustrate the long reality of discord throughout both the Church and the world.

However, O’Connell offered a radical response to the tumultuous and disordered reality of the human condition: the Holy Spirit can be found in the chaos. If we are people of faith and hope, then somewhere within us is a belief that disarray in the world may be transformed into something beautiful and good. In a letter to Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac herself proclaimed this belief when she said: “I see such disorder everywhere that I feel overwhelmed by it. Nevertheless, I continue to hope, and I wish to place my trust in Divine Providence…”[2] Likewise, Pope Francis has acknowledged the brokenness of the world and the role of the Church when he said, “We have to learn to live in a church that exists in the tension between harmony and disorder, provoked by the Holy Spirit.”[3]

Saints Vincent and Louise, Pope Francis, and Maureen O’Connell share this in common. Each holds fast to the belief that chaos can be transformed into something good; that the Holy Spirit can be found in the brokenness. From this shared belief, each has worked in their own way to realize this hope. Vincent, Louise, and their followers have done so by serving those most in need of spiritual and material support, while Pope Francis and O’Connell have used their gifts to help bring needed reform and reconciliation to the Church and the world.

At DePaul, we are the fortunate beneficiaries of the faith and wisdom that Vincent, Louise, Pope Francis, and O’Connell pass on. Like them, we can choose to believe that good will make its way through the chaos, and that the Holy Spirit, however understood, is alive in us even during our most stressful and disordered times. And, like them, we can commit to do all we can to bring these hopes to life.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Have there been times of chaos in your life or, like Louise, times when you have felt overwhelmed? How did you get through those times? Looking back, are you able to see any good that came from the chaos?
  2. If you believe, like Vincent and Louise, that challenging and tumultuous times may be transformed into something better, what is something you can do to help that transformation occur? How can you help make a challenging circumstance better?

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

[1] Maureen O’Connell, Undoing the Knots: Five Generations of American Catholic Anti-Blackness (Beacon Press, 2022), 272 pp.

[2] L.10, To Monsieur Vincent, (Between 1639 and 1647), Spiritual Writings, p. 335.

[3] Austen Ivereigh, “An Interview with Pope Francis: ‘A Time of Great Uncertainty,’” Commonweal Magazine, 12 March 2023, at:


Finding Our Way

Vincent reflects on corruption of the former queen’s court

In today’s turbulent world of polarizing opinions, how often do we find ourselves residing in echo chambers surrounded by those who think like us? This dynamic offers little opportunity to truly listen to and dialogue with others. What would it take to build bridges to greater understanding across the many divides that separate us today? And, how might a seventeenth-century French priest help us find our way?

As Margaret John Kelly writes, “Vincent de Paul changed history because he was a creative reconciler.”[1] In fact, because he “was able to successfully harness competing interests and make them work together in concrete ways for the service of the poor,” you are reading this reflection today in a university that bears his name and continues to be infused by his spirit.[2]

While Vincent lived more than four hundred years ago, parallels between his time and ours abound. During his lifetime, Vincent witnessed much national and international strife. He lived through the Thirty Years’ War and the civil war known as the Fronde. He also weathered numerous ecclesiastical controversies. Not unlike today, at that time, territorial rights were often the cause of much bloody conflict, and peace was more of a distant dream than a reality.

Seventeenth-century France was also beset by the overwhelming problem of “resettling refugees who were fleeing economic or political oppression, insufficient healthcare for the poor, a high level of unemployment, inadequate housing, and, of course, an astounding rate of malnutrition.”[3]

Like so many others, Vincent could have chosen to ignore the challenges of his age in favor of accepting the status quo, but he refused to accept the brokenness he saw around him. Instead, he committed his life to finding solutions to what may have seemed to be intractable problems. He used his keen imagination and a spirit of inventiveness to build what his heart longed to see: a more just world.

How did he do this? In addition to asking why such complex problems existed, Vincent would call upon the goodwill and wisdom of those around him to address them. Part of Vincent’s genius was that he knew he couldn’t engage these issues alone. He valued relationships and relied upon them to help reveal manifest sides of an issue, which he would have been unable to identify alone. Such a process involved gathering with others, including those with whom he disagreed, and painstakingly listening to diverse opinions with respect and dignity. It also required Vincent’s openness to being wrong. This method allowed Vincent to become more informed and, with others, to identify or create new possibilities.

Vincent’s North Star was always his faith in a loving God who calls for us to recognize and uphold the dignity of the other. Such a belief grounded all Vincent’s actions. Others around him, like Archbishop of Cambrai François de Fénelon, chose to “berat[e] the rich from the pulpit.”[4] But Vincent always insisted on the dignity of all, including royalty and the aristocracy. Rather than “otherizing” those with whom he may have disagreed, Vincent chose to steadfastly uphold the goodness of the human person. He would appeal to that goodness to serve the needs of the most marginalized. Indeed, Vincent’s ability to build bridges with the wealthy allowed him to “capitaliz[e] on their generosity” to serve the poor.[5] Through such networking and creative reconciliation efforts, he established myriad social development ministries, many of which exist to this day.

Today, when the challenges of our time feel overwhelming and risk obscuring the humanity of the other, Vincent’s voice still rings clear, inviting us to work for just and creative reconciliation against division.

Reflection Question:

As Margaret John Kelly notes, “The challenges of our day could lead us to despair or indifference; but we remember that our religious/political/social/economic environment is not unlike the one in which Vincent lived.”[6] These similar circumstances inspired Vincent’s quest for justice and creative reconciliation.

In what ways do you find yourself experiencing this call?

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

[1] Margaret John Kelly, D.C., “Saint Vincent de Paul: A Creative Reconciler,” Vincentian Heritage Journal 12:1 (1991): 2. Available online at:

[2] Untitled abstract to Kelly, ibid.

[3] Kelly, 4–5.

[4] Ibid., 12.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 14.

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.

Leading by Listening

Carter Webb: I pride myself on being this great listener, but whenever I meet somebody new, I find I’m doing all the talking.

Sarah Hardwicke: Maybe you’re not a great listener.

Carter Webb: Hmm?

Sarah Hardwicke: Maybe you’re not such a great listener.

Carter Webb: No that’s not it, I’m a great listener.


“In the Land of Women” script by Jon Kasdan


In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr. famously and compellingly makes the case for nonviolent direct action against injustice to an audience that claims to be sympathetic to the goals of his movement but worried about the discomfort and tension his methods may create. King argues that the purpose of nonviolent direct action is to force attention to an issue that a community seeks to ignore. King further argues that “constructive nonviolent tension” is not something to be feared but is actually “necessary for growth.”1

I have been struck recently in sessions learning from Grace School of Applied Diplomacy Practitioner in Residence Rafael Tyszblat by the emphasis placed on deep listening. This includes paying attention to emotions. Tyszblat is insistent that conflict will necessarily involve emotions and that attempting to suppress or ignore those emotions is not helpful. Listening to those expressions of emotion by others and paying close attention to our own emotions is essential to constructive engagement amid conflict. Those emotions, while they may contribute to tension, if fully engaged rather than suppressed or ignored can teach us a great deal. Tyszblat argues that we are afraid of emotions because of fears they can lead to violence or other great harms, but in fact most often that escalation proceeds from suppressing or ignoring emotions, not from acknowledging and engaging them. Listening is not always easy but may be most important at times when it is most difficult.

A commitment to listening to and hearing others is central to the Vincentian worldview to which we are committed at DePaul. Vincent included meekness or gentleness as one of the primary virtues necessary to those who lived out the Mission.  Vincent’s understanding suggests that honoring the dignity of all leads as much to listening to others as preaching to them, to serving others as much as directing them. We have seen attempts to live out this commitment in recent times through processes of listening and gaining wisdom such as the crafting of the revised Mission statement,2 the Synodal process in the Catholic Church,3 and Designing DePaul.4

Many people feel that they are not truly seen or heard. Our initial response to a reminder about the importance of listening may be “Yes, people should definitely do a better job of listening to me.” People who have been marginalized or ignored in the past may hear calls for them to listen as calls to continue that marginalization. The primary responsibility for fostering a culture of listening must be on those who have power and privilege in any space.

We may see a call directed towards leaders, and think, “Yes, they really need to do better.” That is likely valid, yet everyone in the University community has some kind of privilege, certainly compared to the population of the world. Of course, some enjoy much more than others. The Prophet Muhammad in a famous tradition taught that “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for their flock.”5 We all have spaces where we are in charge, where we are responsible, as a teacher in the classroom or perhaps supervising a student worker. Let us continue to search for ways that we can lead by listening in those spaces, by doing our best to truly hear the experiences, the concerns, and the wisdom of others.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What are essential tools or techniques to being a better listener? What can get in the way of listening to others or make it difficult for us?
  • In our political life, many people express a feeling that their concerns and wishes are not listened to, yet many people also rarely participate in opportunities like public meetings or voting. Sometimes at DePaul there can also be a lot of processes meant to foster listening, but people do not always find participating in them possible or worthwhile. Why do you think that is? What are barriers to meaningful participation? Are there times when lack of participation reflects satisfaction, comfort, or trust in decision makers? Are there creative ways to “listen” to people outside of formal processes in which they may be reluctant to engage?

Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan








Doubt, Certainty, and Louise’s Lumière

On June 4, 1623, Pentecost Sunday, Louise de Marillac experienced a transformation in her life. She would later write, “On the Feast of Pentecost, during holy Mass or while I was praying in the church, my mind was instantly freed of all doubt.” (i)  Louise’s doubt disappeared in a powerful mystical experience that she would call her lumière, or light. She had a vision of her future, in which she lived the life she had always wanted, serving the poor as a member of a religious community. Her current hardships would not last forever, and her newfound certainty would give her the strength to persevere.  

When I read stories of saints and holy people, I envy the turning points that are often part of this genre. Imagine: All at once, you know what you are meant to do with your life! You are gripped with conviction, freed from insecurity and uncertainty, and fortified by a singular, powerful purpose. Vincent de Paul experienced such a moment when he realized his calling to serve the French peasants. Oscar Romero did too, when the assassination of his friend Rutilio Grande called him to criticize the oppressive Salvadoran government. Perhaps most famously, Saint Paul experienced such a moment on the road to Damascus, when a light from the heavens knocked him to the ground. In the Christian tradition, these can be called moments of conversion.  

Maybe you’ve experienced a sudden certainty or conviction that changed your life. Personally, I haven’t. Unlike Louise, I’ve never seen my future in a flash of light. My life changes gradually, more like a cycle of sunrises and sunsets. The sun doesn’t just appear at its high-noon zenith. First, the sky fades from black to gray, and then the sun peeks over the horizon. It climbs slowly, serenely, and the day unfolds. If I’m lucky, each day illuminates some small truth for me, helping me understand myself and the world just a bit better. And then the sun sets.  

While I long for Louise’s certainty, she also put up with a lot of unhappiness along the way. Her lumière vision told her that she needed to stay put for the time being. Despite the “spiritual anguish” she felt over her husband’s deteriorating health and difficulties with her son, she continued to accept her spiritual director’s calming advice, and bore with her marriage even though she longed for something more and suffered through depression.(ii) Her lumière showed her the way, but it didn’t eliminate the sorrows, the headaches, the day-to-day drudgery that we all experience. When I think about her lumière that way, it becomes a lot more relatable. She had a vision, but her life still had to unfold, and that took time. 

The Feast of Pentecost is commemorated fifty days after Easter. According to scripture, the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus’s apostles and Mary, his mother. We often see them depicted with tongues of fire floating above their heads, representing the spirit within them. You have to remember that this community was heartbroken; just fifty days earlier, their beloved friend and community-member had been tortured and killed on the cross. This traumatic event surely took a toll on their bodies and spirits. It was in the midst of this mourning that God appeared to them in another form, coming down upon them in flame. This fire fueled them to continue Jesus’s mission, to spread his teachings, and to keep building their community.  

This is the story that Louise would’ve been reflecting on when she had her vision. Her lumière was a Pentecost moment, a moment of God’s sudden, surprising presence in a time of sorrow. Like the apostles, she found the strength to continue. And like the apostles, she still had to deal with pain and suffering as she worked to realize her vision. Her transformation was both sudden and slow.  

As we remember Louise’s lumière over 400 years later, let us open ourselves to the presence of a higher power within and among us—in all of God’s many forms. Let us experience the slowness of daybreak and a fire that emerges from within each one of us. Let us be patient with ourselves—and let us be agents of our own transformation.

Reflection Questions: 

  • Have you ever experienced a sudden turning point like Louise’s lumière? 
  • How have you experienced God’s presence in the ordinary moments of your life?  

Reflection by: Abigail Rampone, Ministry Coordinator for Vincentian Service and Immersions 


i A.2 Light, The Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, ed. and trans. Louise Sullivan, D.C. (New York: New City Press, 1991), 1. Available at: 

ii See Kieran Kneaves, D.C., “A Woman Named Louise: 15911633,” Vincentian Heritage 12:2 (1991): 126. Available at: 

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://‌‌ 

[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://‌‌


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:; or email:

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.