Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We are on the move now… Our God is marching on”


“Today I want to say to the people of America and the nations of the world, that we are not about to turn around. We are on the move now…. Let us march on segregated schools until every vestige of segregated and inferior education becomes a thing of the past, and Negroes and whites study side-by-side in the socially-healing context of the classroom.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March 25, 1965[1]

The words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose memory we celebrate in the coming week, are an eloquent reminder for all races and ethnicities that dreams have not been defeated. This is not a post-utopian era. Utopias are alive in the hearts of all who struggle to build true democracies in which all people, especially the “most abandoned” (as Vincent de Paul called them), can finally live with dignity. The memory of Dr. King should always awaken a belief that a better world is still possible.

History is a continuum—in the utopia of yesterday, the reality of today was incubated, just as new realities will breathe from the utopias of today. The utopia of one century often becomes a simple fact of the next century. Utopian vision is the beginning of all true progress and the design of a better future. I believe it’s not too late to make real Dr. King’s utopia of a just world in which people of all cultures and races are treated equally and given the same opportunities to flourish.

In our encounters within the Vincentian Family, we constantly realize that our creativity is not exhausted and that we are still too far away from the realization of a world in which all forms of life are respected and protected. We must ensure ‘the most abandoned,’ as Vincent called them, are taken care of, and provided with everything they need to live with dignity.

In a 1965 sermon, Dr. King explained that the “majestic words” of the Declaration of Independence, “all [people] are created equal,” were the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement.[2] He did not see that document as a lie but as an unfulfilled promise, “raised to cosmic proportions,” that the movement was now struggling to realize. When we see the unbearable suffering of so many people in the United States, especially so many people of African descent, we understand the current challenges of the movement Dr. King championed.

DePaul University is built on top of this same foundation, this universal truth. Vincentian understanding recognizes the dignity of every human story, and especially those persons that are broken because of systemic injustice, structural poverty, inequity, exclusion, or social and racial discrimination. We recognize the essential equity among all human beings of so many diverse backgrounds.

In many places of the world, I have seen a growing movement of intersectional liberation and social transformation. We, the Vincentian Family, are bearers of just part of this seed of life that has been entrusted to all races, religions, cultures, social classes, and nations of the earth. This seed is hidden in the heart of the Vincentian charism, a charism that belongs to the reign of God and his justice. It is deeply connected with all the other seeds entrusted to humanity to make dignified life on our planet possible and sustainable. The vitality and relevance of the Vincentian spirit can only be guaranteed if a connection with this universal movement is kept alive.

The Vincentian charism is pro-cultural. We are at the crossroads of history alongside the excluded of the earth, and of the earth itself, and our horizon is the same that the universal movement of justice and peace envisions: “a new heaven and a new earth”![3] 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. DePaul should be a school where the equitable new world is designed, where students of all racial identities and diverse cultural backgrounds come together “side-by-side in the socially-healing context of the classroom” as Dr. King envisioned in 1965. That is the dream.

In 2022, the memory of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can give us all the elements we need to understand that the emancipatory movement is urgent today and needs support from every angle. It is deeply connected with all social and environmental movements of liberation and transformation.

We are on the move, we cannot stop marching, and we won’t turn around now! We will continue resisting the hegemonic ego- and capital-centric narratives that are destroying our planet, making life unsustainable, and oppressing human beings. It is an urgent necessity that all human, social, and environmental movements of systemic change work together side by side to be effective. As Dr. King said, “The battle is in our hands. And we can answer with creative nonviolence the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summons us. The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. But we must keep going.”[4]


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

[1] Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Our God is Marching On,” speech, March 25, 1965, Montgomery, AL, transcript, https://‌kinginstitute.‌stanford.‌‌edu/‌our-god-marching.

[2] Ibid.

[3] For biblical examples, see, e.g., Isaiah 65:17-19, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1, and Isaiah 66:22.

[4] Ibid.

Be a Community Builder in 2022!

“What a blessing to be a member of a Community because each individual shares in the good that is done by all!” — Vincent de Paul[1]

When we pause to consider all that the world needs as we begin the year 2022, many would agree that, among other things, we certainly could use more people who are motivated and able to act as community builders. This holds true not only for broader society and in our neighborhoods and families, but also within our DePaul community. The challenges of the past 20+ months of the pandemic, including our increasingly virtual and remote existence, have frayed the relational fabric of our communal life. If we at DePaul are to continue as a “community gathered together for the sake of the mission,” then we need community builders to help weave together new bonds of connection that ultimately benefit us all.

Among your New Year’s resolutions, I invite you to ask yourself: What can I do in the days and year ahead to build or rebuild relationships, bridges, bonds, shared memories and experiences, shared understanding, a greater sense of belonging, and a common purpose among my DePaul colleagues?

A strong sense of community among us creates a healthier and more vibrant workplace and an educational environment that better serves students. In our broader society and in our neighborhoods and families, a little bit of intentionality in connecting with others and weaving relational bonds improves the quality of life for all.

Vincent de Paul recognized that the mission he envisioned was only possible through a community. It was not something he could do on his own. The same is true of the Vincentian mission we envision at DePaul—and perhaps also of the big-picture vision you have for your own life and work. We need others to join us, support us, and challenge us in positive ways if we are to succeed. This is made possible largely through and because of the relationships we have taken the time to cultivate and sustain.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to be a community builder in some concrete ways. Here are ten suggestions. Just pick one and do it, or come up with your own!

  1. Serve as a hospitable, cheerful, welcoming host to a newcomer or simply to people who have been away for a while and whom you haven’t had the chance to see in person.
  2. Affirm or give thanks to a colleague for something they have done or just because of who they are and what they mean to you.
  3. Connect to other people across departments/divisions/silos during or through meetings, a coffee or lunch gathering, a handwritten card, or a simple phone call or email offering a random hello or “thinking of you.”
  4. Make note of the significant life events of others and follow up with them later to see how they went.
  5. If you are feeling irritated or out of sorts, make a commitment to hold your tongue and consider possible constructive solutions and words first, rather than bitter or harmful ones.
  6. Make more of a conscious effort to stop what you are doing and truly listen when interacting with a colleague or neighbor.
  7. Follow through on an idea that emerges for you regarding how you might show compassion and care toward another.
  8. Just simply show up for the life events, programs, presentations, or celebrations that are important to others and for which your presence would be a show of support.
  9. Find ways to share fun and laughter with friends and colleagues.
  10. Read and share a meaningful quote, article, or book with another person.

None of these alone will “build community” once and for all. They are clearly not shared as a panacea or solution to some of the complex societal and institutional challenges and structural problems that we face collectively. However, if we follow these ideas, they will put us all in a better position to work together to do “what must be done.”


Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate VP, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] Conference 1, “Explanation of the Regulations,” July 31, 1634, CCD, 9:2. Available at https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/34/.

Saint Nicholas, Wonder-working, and Mischievous Joy

I never celebrated—or even knew about—Saint Nicholas Day until I met my wife, but it is now one of my favorite holiday traditions. Observed more widely in Europe, especially Eastern Europe, December 6 is the day that Saint Nicholas comes to give presents—or coal—to the hopeful who put their boots outside. Don’t worry, you still have time to put yours out for tonight!

The celebration originated in the feast day of Saint Nicholas of Myra—a fourth-century bishop nicknamed the Wonder-worker who was known for secret charity to those shunned by “reputable society” (such as prostitutes, thieves, and sailors), and for helping those experiencing poverty, especially young women. But the day’s traditions, and the figure at the heart of it, soon gained an imaginative life of its own outside of the ecclesiastical calendar.

The myths surrounding this secret gift-giver adapted to different cultures and found new faces over the centuries (transforming from the dark-skinned Saint Nicholas to the rosy-cheeked Santa Claus and Father Christmas). However, two core elements remained: selfless compassion, and acts that bring about an almost mischievous, joyful surprise. The original stories surrounding Saint Nicholas are full of these. In one, he secretly tossed bags of gold into a house of an impoverished family over three consecutive nights to help their three daughters (the bags of gold are now represented by the oranges that sometimes fill Christmas stockings). In another story, a terrible storm was sure to destroy the ship on which he traveled and drown all the sailors. In an unexpected turn of events, he rebuked the waves, and all lived to see the shore. In yet another story, three innocent men were about to be executed, but he appeared, pushed the executioner’s blade away, and chastised a juror who had been bribed. What all these stories have in common for me is the power of unexpected wonder and joy—imagine waking up and finding your life utterly transformed with a bag of gold. Imagine the waves crashing—or the executioner’s blade swinging—only to stop, and you realize that your life is saved.

For me, Saint Nicholas Day is a reminder to bring some of that inspirational wonder-working and playful compassion to my daily life and interactions. While our dear Saint Vincent lived more than a millennia after Saint Nicholas, you can see something Vincentian about Saint Nicholas’s attention to the poor and helping the hungry, even if his efforts lacked our namesake’s organizational prowess (and critical collaboration with Saint Louise). Our mission—much like Saint Nick’s—is vital and needed in our world. But we need joyful sustenance to carry it forward and not be overcome by the waves and storms of the times.

What are some ways that you can bring playful, supportive, unexpected joy to your colleagues?[i]

Reflection by: Alex Perry, Program Manager, Division of Mission and Ministry

[i] Vincent said, “Another effect of charity is to rejoice with those who rejoice. It causes us to enter into their joy. Our Lord intended by His teachings to unite us in one mind and in joy as well as in sorrow; it’s His desire that we share one another’s feelings.” Conference 207, “Charity (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 12),” 30 May 1659, CCD, 12:222. Available at: https://‌via.library.depaul.edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/‌36/.

Reminder: We will be hosting (virtually and in-person) a festive Day with Vincent on December 15 titled “Inspired by Joy.” Fill your reservoir before the holiday break with a morning retreat grounded in our mission and focused on reconnecting to what brings you joy. You can register and learn more here: https://december-day-with-vincent.eventbrite.com

 

 

Do You Feel Lucky to Be at DePaul?

No words can express my gratitude for the many benefits and favors we constantly receive…

– Saint Vincent de Paul[1]

Recently, I enjoyed gathering with a group of newly arrived DePaul international students. Over lunch at the Student Center in Lincoln Park, we chatted about various things like their impressions of American food, the changeable weather in Chicago, and the best ways to get to the Loop Campus. I asked them what they planned to study, and they asked me about my role at the university. At a certain point in the conversation, I paused and then asked each of them what I hoped was not too personal a question: how do you feel about being at DePaul University? It seemed to me they took a moment before responding, but when they did, all gave the exact same answer. They felt lucky.

I don’t know what I expected them to answer, but I did not expect that. I then asked why they felt lucky, and a range of responses came pouring out: their residence hall rooms are beautiful; the people are so nice; all of their friends from home would like to study in the United States; and, they will have so many opportunities as a result of being here. As they shared their reasons, I could not help joining in their spirit and feeling excited for them.

That conversation has stayed with me. Especially the part about feeling lucky. Since that chat, I turned the tables and asked myself the very question I asked the students. How do I feel about being at DePaul? Do I, too, feel lucky to be here? Whatever responses I come up with usually resemble something like a math equation with variables and constants, factors and expressions, positives, and negatives. Yet the result is always the same. Yes, I do. I do feel lucky to be here.

I am conscious I have privileges others do not have. I am aware DePaul’s path has not been entirely smooth and more bumps surely lie ahead. I know that neither I, nor this place, are perfect.[2] I am also mindful that work must be done to build bridges between faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders so that DePaul will have a more just and sustainable future. But, overall, when I consider my job, the people who make up our community, and the mission and purpose of DePaul, I feel grateful. And, like those students, I feel something I might even call “lucky,” or hopeful, or maybe it’s simply faith in the future.

How do you feel about being at DePaul? What are things that make you feel grateful to be here? How might you be able to share these with others?


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

[1] Letter 1787, “To Étienne Blatiron, Superior, in Genoa,” 23 October 1654, CCD, 5:205. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/30/.

[2] As Vincent de Paul said, “Wherever we go, we always take ourselves and our imperfections with us.”Letter 2123, “To Brother Pierre Leclerc, in Agen,” 1656, CCD, 6:69. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/31/.

What are Your Gifts?

“What a blessing to be a member of a Community because each individual shares in the good that is done by all!”[i]

When considering the continued vibrancy and sustainability of DePaul’s mission—especially in the context of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday— I like to think of the image of a potluck dinner in which each member of a family or community brings their special dish to the common table. Almost miraculously, a feast of widely varied food results, and there is always more than enough for everyone to leave satisfied. The legendary children’s story, “Stone Soup,” echoes a similar wisdom.

As we approach Thanksgiving, we are naturally encouraged to reflect on the place of gratitude in our lives. Especially during a difficult time, making space to feel and express gratitude is beneficial to our psyche, to our relationships, and to our overall feeling of well-being. We feel more wind at our backs in recognizing the many gifts we have received, especially those not of our own making that came to us through the generosity of others or through the surprising and unmerited blessings of our lives.

The flip side of gratitude for gifts received is to share them generously with others. The flow of receiving and giving freely is one of the great spiritual insights at the heart of many religious traditions, including the Catholic Christianity which formed Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac and so many of our beloved Vincentian saints of history and contemporary companions on the journey. Simply put, this insight is the ongoing invitation to receive graciously and then to share generously from what we receive.

One way to imagine the spiritual transformation of Vincent de Paul is to note that once he realized the calling to devote his energy and commitment to serve society’s poor, it became clear to him that this mission was well beyond what he was capable of doing on his own. He understood that only a community of people formed and gathered for this shared mission could accomplish such a massive undertaking. Framed in this way, the emergent mission of Vincent de Paul carries with it an important truth of the Vincentian spirit and one that he carried forth in his work and ministry for the remainder of his life. That is, the effectiveness and sustainability of this mission he envisioned was dependent on how a community could be effectively formed, motivated, and guided to contribute toward achieving it together, collaboratively. This truth becomes a helpful lens through which to interpret much of Vincent de Paul’s life and ministry and the Vincentian tradition that followed.

At DePaul, we are fond of calling ourselves “a community gathered together for the sake of the mission,” a modern translation of the name Vincent de Paul gave to the religious community he founded, the Congregation of the Mission. One of Vincent’s important insights was that this mission can be effective and sustained only when the gifts present in individuals who make up the community are shared freely and generously in its service.

As you reflect on the many gifts present in your own life during this Thanksgiving season, pause also to recognize the gifts, talents, and resources that you have to offer to others. Begin with what has been given to you in your life and has helped to shape the person you have become, but consider also what you, in turn, can generously share with others in the communities of which you are a part, including our DePaul University community. Only through such sharing will our common mission flourish.

This Thanksgiving season may an abundance of gifts flow freely both into your life and outward from you into the different communities of which you are a part!

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Division of Mission and Ministry


  [i] Conference 1, Explanation of the Regulations, 31 July 1634, CCD, 9:2. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌‌edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/34/.

 

Inspired by Joy:  A Day with Vincent Program (Wednesday, December 15th)

“We must be full reservoirs in order to let our water spill out without becoming empty, and we must possess the spirit with which we want them to be animated, for no one can give what he does not have.” Vincent de Paul

Fill your reservoir before the holiday break with a morning retreat grounded in our Vincentian mission and interfaith wisdom. Reconnect with what brings you joy…the greatest gift you can offer to those around you!

You can participate in two ways:

  • Join us in person: 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, including breakfast, lunch, and some fun surprises (LP Student Center 314)
  • Join us virtually:  9:30-11:00 am (Zoom)

Register now at: https://december-day-with-vincent.eventbrite.com

 

Both/And: Vincentian Personalism and Professionalism

The great genius and the challenge of the Vincentian way lies in simultaneously bringing together a keen attention and care for the dignity and uniqueness of each person, particularly those who are marginalized, with a zeal to do good well: that is, to improve systems that are ineffective and to innovate thoughtfully and creatively to best meet current needs. In the Vincentian tradition, the ongoing question—What must be done?—requires the integration of the affective and relational dimensions of our humanity with the effective, pragmatic, and systemic dimensions of the social challenges that we face. This both/and approach was at the source of Vincent’s transformative, generative, and long-lasting mission, which continues today through our work at DePaul University as well as in the work of those who serve in the larger Vincentian family.

When we reflect on the fruitful tension or balance between these two equally important characteristics of our Vincentian mission—whether these are seen as personalism and professionalism, affective and effective, interpersonal and systemic, or charity and justice—and the particular problems we face in our work or in broader society, we see how often one is favored or valued over the other. We may find, quite frankly, that it is much easier to sustain a driving focus on excellent performance and achievement at the expense of compassionate care and attention to the unique circumstances of each individual. On the other hand, it may be simpler to be permissive, flexible, and accommodating without regard for maintaining high standards of consistent quality and excellence. At a university like DePaul, the tendency to collapse the creative tension between these two characteristics in favor of one or the other may happen in the workplace, the classroom, the boardroom, or the playing field. Discerning the best approach in any given situation requires careful thought, a discerning heart, courageous patience, and the wisdom of experience, which is so often gained by drawing on the insight and support of others.

Maintaining an integral approach, bringing in both “sides” of this Vincentian way, is not easy. Perhaps this is why Vincent and Louise and those who followed them made a habit of regular meditation and prayer and lived and served within a community of belonging and accountability as they sought to fulfill the mission entrusted to them. When facing complex problems or social issues, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions or clear roadmaps that can steer us around the collective care needed to balance Vincentian personalism and professionalism. Vincent would tell us that “wisdom consists in following Providence step by step.”[1]

In what ways do you attend both to Vincentian personalism and professionalism at the same time in your individual and collective work at DePaul? What are the habits or strategies that you and your team have found to do so?                     

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate VP, Division of Mission and Ministry


[1] Letter 270, To Bernard Codoing, Superior, in Rome, 6 August 1644, CCD, 2:521. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/27/.

 

Join us for these upcoming programs focused on bringing together Vincentian personalism and professionalism:

Vincentian Mission and Management: Walking the Talk   

Thursday, November 11th, 3:00 – 4:30 pm

Virtual Event

Register Here

Our cherished Vincentian mission at DePaul is made real in the daily actions implemented, decisions made and relationships formed by those who make up the university community – and that especially includes those who manage other people and play a distinct role in helping to establish and maintain the working environment and culture enabling all to flourish. This program is designed specifically for managers at DePaul to gather with other managers who regularly ask themselves how our Vincentian mission can inform and guide them in what they do and balance Vincentian personalism and professionalism. After some introductory comments and ideas shared by experienced managers and Mission Ambassadors, Darryl Arrington and Hiwote Tamrat, there will be an opportunity to raise questions and glean from the wisdom of those gathered. Based on interest, we will consider future ways to provide ongoing support to managers around the practice of mission integration in their daily work as managers at DePaul.

—–

Sustaining the Mission

November 16, 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Virtual event.

This virtual workshop from Mission and Ministry is focused on the practice of “mission integration,” that is, ways of applying DePaul’s Vincentian mission to one’s daily life and work at DePaul. Participants will be invited to reflect on how they might be agents or leaders for mission in their areas of responsibility and influence.

Registration: Sustaining the Mission Fall Quarter 2021

Who Has Shown You the Way?

Image of torch lighting the way

“Let us often recall all the actions of the life of our Beloved so that we may imitate them.” [1]

Today marks the annual Christian feast of All Saints Day, commemorating those who preceded us and are recognized as saints for their exemplary lives of faith and service. Regardless of your background, you probably know a few official Catholic saints, starting with Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, of whom we speak often around here. Or you may know of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, influential in early Catholic education in the United States and founder of the Sisters of Charity, a part of the Vincentian family. Perhaps you’ve also heard of such popular Christian saints as Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominicans, or Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. Each of them are remembered and honored for the way in which they modeled values and virtues that we admire and for their long lasting legacies sustained by their followers.

Beyond formally recognized saints, we might also take this opportunity to consider those in our own lives, whether living or dead, personally known or admired from afar, who have shown us a way of living that we admire and may even want to emulate. It has been said that saints are people through whom God’s light shines.

We may never think of ourselves as being anywhere near the level of sainthood, and yet even in our simple and sometimes fumbling humanity, in any moment or situation of our lives, we can be people through whom love and generosity shine for the benefit of others. As we reflect this month on those who have gone before us, let us be inspired by the evidence of goodness in the lives of so many others and the way they have helped to show us a way forward. May we each contribute plenty of evidence of a similar goodness in the way we live our lives here in our DePaul community and beyond.

For your reflection:

Who has modeled a way of living that you aspire to emulate? Who are the people who have preceded you in history who have been torchbearers for you, lighting the way forward? Who have you learned from … perhaps simply by watching the way they live their lives … and who has inspired or challenged you to grow into new levels of wholeness, service, or commitment?

Share your responses to these questions in the comments below!

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

Please join us for our annual Gathering of Remembrance honoring the lives of loved ones and family members of those in our DePaul community. The gathering will be broadcast on Wednesday, November 17th at 4:00 pm as a premiere video on YouTube Live.

If you have names of loved ones you would like to be remembered, please share them here by the end of today, November 1st: Name Submission Form

[1] A.27, On the Pure Love We Have Vowed to God, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 829. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/.

Effective Charity

hands holding hands

The Catholic tradition names Saint Vincent de Paul the patron saint of charity. While today the term “charity” is sometimes caricatured as a Band-Aid approach to addressing social problems, the effective charity demonstrated by Vincent and Louise in seventeenth-century France, and the effective charity of the Vincentian family today, calls for a radically different understanding.

The word “charity” derives from the Latin term, caritas, which denotes a generous and self-giving love.[1] During their lifetimes, both Vincent and Louise “vigorously called upon charity as an indispensable source of power to confront the poverty and injustice of their day.”[2] Indeed, charity provided a way of resisting the dictates of the state, which, as a result of the “War of Great Confinement,” criminalized those who were poor and forbade begging as well as almsgiving.[3] Yet, through their ministry, Vincent and Louise refused to discount the dignity of those who were poor. Instead, they demonstrated an effective charity that went far beyond mere philanthropic efforts to alleviate need. They focused on developing meaningful relationships with those to whom they ministered, whom much of society had shunned. Such connections allowed them to “build a parallel and contradictory world of charity”[4] that acknowledged right relationship and was shaped by the power of the human encounter.

To this day, this kind of effective charity continues to inspire Vincentian social institutions, which focus not only on addressing the immediate needs of those who are disenfranchised, but root themselves in accompaniment and the construction of meaningful transformative relationships. Such institutions equally commit themselves to calling society to justice and working for systemic change.

Frédéric Ozanam, one of the principal founders of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, described the complementary nature of charity and justice in the following way: “The order of society is based on two virtues: justice and charity. However, justice presupposes a lot of love already, for he needs to love a man a great deal in order to respect his rights, which limit our rights, and his liberty, which hampers our liberty. Justice has its limits whereas charity knows none.”[5]

So from a Vincentian perspective, rather than charity being dismissed as a lesser form of justice, effective charity should be understood as a complement to justice in effectuating social change.[6] From a Vincentian perspective, effective charity must lead to effective justice.

In what ways do you see evidence of the Vincentian traditions of effective charity and justice in your work at DePaul? How does this description of effective charity challenge your own understanding of charity?

Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Ph.D., Faculty and Staff Engagement Director, Mission and Ministry

[1] Mark Laboe, “Connecting Charity with Justice,” The Way of Wisdom (blog), 24 August 2020, https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2020/08/24/connecting-charity-with-justice/.

[2] Craig B. Mousin, “Vincentian Leadership—Advocating for Justice,” Vincentian Heritage 26:1 (2005): 263, https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol26/iss1/14.

[3] Edward R. Udovic, C.M., “Caritas Christi Urget Nos: The Urgent Challenges of Charity in Seventeenth-Century France,” Ibid. 12:2 (1991): 86, https://via.‌library.‌depaul.edu‌/vhj/‌vol12/iss2/1/.

[4] Ibid., 102.

[5] Pierre Pierrand et al., Ozanam, Husband and Father, Champion of Truth and Justice, Lover of the Poor, Founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (Albagraf, Pomeezia Italy: 1997), 35.

[6] Mousin, “Vincentian Leadership—Advocating for Justice,” 263.

 

Ted Lasso, the Mission, and relying on stories to share the load.

In the depths of the pandemic last year, my family, friends, and even work colleagues began sharing recommendations for which show to binge watch next. I’m sure we weren’t alone. This probably started because retelling stories of our daily lives was bleak and became an exercise in recycled trauma, whatever our vocation. We weren’t seeing each other, scattered as we were across the country and world, or even next door, so TV shows became our lingua franca and way of being with one another.

Some of the shows were old standbys that had long since aired, so the spark of rediscovery and most importantly—knowing what came next—helped ease the overwhelming anxiety that permeated every other aspect of our lives. Even if we had seen the episode or heard the jokes before, there was something reassuring about that familiarity. Other shows were new (to us) and exploring their undiscovered countries felt like a joint expedition. Whether the series was just released, like The Flight Attendant or Loki, or was just finishing, like Schitt’s Creek or Killing Eve, we foraged streaming services looking for the next story to share.

With hindsight, a particular kind of humor ran through most of the series we collectively watched—a humor that borrowed a “dash of vinegar” [1] with its gentleness, a comic sense that didn’t flinch from the sadness and tragedy of the world, but that found a way to acknowledge sorrow and still laugh, and in so doing provide relief from its weight. Everything in our lives pushed us towards loneliness and individual sorrow, but through sharing these stories, we found ways to collectively persevere through humor. It made all the difference.

I’ll end with a quote from one of our favorite new shows, Ted Lasso, about an (American) football coach from Kansas who gets hired to lead a premier league (European) football team in England. On the surface, the series seems to be a celebration of joy and positivity (the eponymous Ted is unrelentingly optimistic, after all). Underneath, however, it is a show not about happiness alone, but how to cope with grief, together.

In a memorable scene (no spoilers), from the wonderfully titled episode The Hope That Kills You, Ted professes: “I promise you there is something worse out there than being sad, and that’s being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.” [2]

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

When things seem bleak and most sobering—what are ways that we can authentically find and share joy with one another? How can we find ways to make each other laugh, even while acknowledging the pain all around us? When pursuing our collective Vincentian mission, how do we make sure that we are taking care of each other along the way, so that our “immortified moods” [3] do not overtake both ourselves and our community?


Reflection by:            Alex Perry, Program Manager, Division of Mission and Ministry

  1. [I]f the gentleness of your spirit needs a dash of vinegar, borrow a little from Our Lord’s spirit. O Mademoiselle, how well He knew how to find a bittersweet remark when it is needed!
    Vincent de Paul (Volume: 1 | Page#: 383) To Saint Louise, 1 November, 1637
  2. “I promise you there is something worse out there than being sad, and that’s being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.”
    Ted Lasso, “The Hope that Kills You” Season 1, Episode 10, airdate October 2020
  3. We must hold as an irrefutable maxim that the difficulties we have with our neighbor arise more from our immortified moods than from anything else.”
    Vincent de Paul (Volume: 1 | Page#: 597) To Nicolas Durot, in Toulouse, December 1639

Sharing Our Trials as Well as Our Joys

“I received your letter yesterday; as always, it gave me fresh reasons for praising God. Still, it troubled me a little because, from what you tell me in your last letter, it seems to me you are suffering from something, although you did not state this clearly. Please share with me, Monsieur, your trials as well as your joys.”[1]

Moses (Peace be upon Him) is one of the most important figures in all three Abrahamic traditions,[2] and historically in American culture.[3] The Qur’an devotes more time to the life of Moses[4] than to any other person. In the Qur’anic telling, when Moses flees Egypt and the Pharaoh he arrives in Midian in a desperate situation. He hasn’t had anything to eat other than leaves, is physically drained and exhausted, and he remains deeply fearful that there are powerful forces seeking to capture and punish him. He is separated from all that was once dear and familiar. Moses comes across a large group of men watering their animals at a well, but his attention is drawn to two women who are said to be holding back theirs. Moses approaches them and asks “what is the matter?”[5] After they explain that their father is old and can’t come to the well, and that the men will not let them water their animals, Moses assists them and waters their animals himself. Moses then leaves to rest and pray to God, but this is the beginning of an unexpected blessing that will radically shift the course of his future.

Many of us have experienced, especially in times of loss, anxiety, or other suffering, the blessing of having someone listen to our story or to our feelings. In some cases they may be able to assist us in material ways. At other times, perhaps they can only accompany us in our grief or hardship. Either way, it often feels that sharing our burdens lessens them. This is what profoundly struck me in the excerpt above: “Please share with me Monsieur, your trials as well as your joys.” As Marilynne Robinson says in Gilead, “There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that.”[6] When we are able through words or actions, let those close to us know that they can share with us what is normally kept under the surface, their trials as well as their joys. This can be a powerful step towards creating real community. We strive to make DePaul more than just a workplace. We strive to create a community joined together for the sake of mission. Let us ask ourselves how we can be open to those around us, whether it be students we serve, those we supervise, or the fellow employees we encounter and work alongside.

There are many ways people respond to the brokenness of our world. One of the most memorable characters in literature is found in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. Mrs. Jellyby fills her every moment with “work” towards an idealistic project in Africa, which she thinks will do enormous social good. Yet this project never comes to fruition. All the while she is ignoring the sufferings of those close to her, including her husband and her own children. In truly listening to the trials and joys of others, that which is under the surface, we begin to discern how we can best respond to those challenges that are within our sphere of influence. We see changes that can be made and realities that can be faced together.

For Reflection: Is there someone in your life with whom you can truly share your trials as well as your joys? Are there people for whom you provide that deep listening? What are some of the reasons we may be reluctant to share with others, or open ourselves to others sharing with us? How can we overcome these barriers to deeper community?

Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Muslim Chaplain and Assistant Director of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, Division of Mission and Ministry

See also our past Mission Monday reflection “Being Fully Present” by Emily Lahood-Olsen, based on a quotation from Saint Louise de Marillac: https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2019/10/21/being-fully-present/

We remind all of you that one of the ways you are invited to share with the DePaul community, whether sharing news of weddings, births, adoptions, or bereavements in your immediate family, is through the Newsline Family Events column: https://resources.depaul.edu/newsline/contact/Pages/life-events.aspx

You are also invited to share any requests for prayer with the Division of Mission and Ministry at: https://offices.depaul.edu/mission-ministry/religious-spiritual-life/Pages/Prayer-Requests.aspx


[1] Letter 1823, To Charles Ozenne, Superior, In Warsaw, 1 January 1655, CCD, 5:255.

[2] Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As I remarked in a recent interfaith dialogue event about Moses, perhaps they could just as accurately (if not more so) be referred to as the three Mosaic faiths or traditions.

[3] Moses serves as one of the most popular superhero archetypes in popular culture and historically has been a touchstone for all Americans regardless of their political beliefs.

[4] In Arabic, Musa.

[5] Qur’an 28:22-24.

[6] Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), p. 6.