Summer is here!

“May you be forever a beautiful tree of life bringing forth fruits of love.”[1]

Summer is here! Officially. Finally. Though technically summer begins and ends at the same time every year as our planet circles the sun, the spirit of summer can sometime come earlier or later. What marks the beginning of summer for you personally? Is it when the chilly, fresh mornings of spring turn to hot, humid afternoons as you look for cool shelter under leafy trees (or in air conditioning)? Or is it when the days stretch longer and longer, and the sun lingers well past the time it would normally set, creating glowing evenings of fireflies and laughter with friends?

What does summer mean to you? Is it a time of rest and recovery, of slowed-down days in the shade, where your mind can wander, imagine, and create? Or is it a time of hustle and bustle? Do you try to fit in everything you wanted to do throughout the year but didn’t have the time for? Do you try to squeeze every last drop of fun and work from the long sunny days? Maybe a little of both?

Here at DePaul, what marks the beginning of summer for you professionally? For faculty, is it when the last final is submitted and graded? For students, is it when you leave campus, either going home, or to summer jobs, or graduating, going off into the world to chart your future? For staff, is it when all the dreaded financial bureaucracy is wrapped up in BlueSky, when annual reports are polished and published, when the programming for the year is concluded? Whatever the case, summer feels both like an ending and a beginning—a chapter (or book!) is concluded, and the next starts fresh with a new page.

As campus becomes quiet again without the constant buzz of students, the vast, open horizon of sun-soaked days stretches ahead. We’ve just finished a marathon of a year, filled with stress, grief, and exhaustion. Many of us have been looking forward to the relief that summer provides. Others seek time to assess and clean up unfinished business while looking ahead. That is the beauty of summer. It provides the space for closure and recovery, and that clearing brings an opportunity to sow seeds for the future. As we draft our ambitious lists of summer projects and begin to envision and implement plans for next fall, let’s lean into that spirit of summer. We can approach our work with hope, knowing that the seeds we plant during this time can grow, in Vincent’s words, into “beautiful tree[s] of life bringing forth fruits of love” to benefit the whole community.


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

[1] Letter 27, “To Saint Louise,” [believed to be July 30, 1628], CCD, 1:46. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/25/.

A Hall of Fame Journey

Recently, while DePaul University celebrated Commencement in style—and in person—for over 4,500 students, some members of our community had their attention focused on a different celebration: the induction of DePaul women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. On June 11 in Knoxville, Tennessee, Coach Bruno received the coveted Eastman Trophy and the Baron Championship Ring, signifying membership in an elite club. Surrounded by family, friends, and Blue Demon fans, he joined the likes of basketball legends Pat Summit, Geno Auriemma, and over 150 other previous inductees in being recognized for his exemplary impact—past, present, and future—on women’s basketball and on the game itself.

This milestone is a reminder that the connection between DePaul’s mission and our Athletics Department is long, deep, and uniquely personified in the journey of Coach Bruno. His relationship with DePaul began as a student athlete under the tutelage of legendary men’s basketball coach Ray Meyer (himself a Hall of Famer). Bruno was first named the head coach of the DePaul women’s basketball program in 1976, and he has led them for the past thirty-four years, twenty-five of which have seen the Blue Demons advancing to the NCAA tournament. Coach Bruno has guided teams to championships and star players to the WNBA. At the same time, he has supported his squads as they have earned the Big East Team Academic Award in nine of the last eleven seasons for having the top team GPA. He has assembled a talented coaching staff who are as dedicated as he is to team success on and off the court. His players are known for their commitment to academics, community service, and hard work. Clearly, Coach Bruno has taken Vincent de Paul’s words to heart: “Doing good isn’t everything; we have to do it well.”[1]

Vincent left us this inspiring quote, and many more, while heeding God’s call to serve the poor and to gather companions to serve with him. Despite the worthiness of this aspiration, Vincent and his followers faced grueling challenges. Toward the end of his life and with wisdom based on experience, Vincent said, “Rarely is any good done without difficulty.”[2] Experience also taught him that with faith, community, and an abundance of perseverance and constancy[3] difficulties would be overcome and his community’s goals would be attained.

Vincent probably wouldn’t have had much of value to share with Coach Bruno about the X’s and O’s of basketball. Yet Vincent’s insight about the need for faith and perseverance when meeting challenges and working toward worthy goals is just as sagacious now as it was almost 400 years ago, especially when viewed through the lens of a Hall of Fame coaching career.

Indeed, Vincent said many things in his era that seem to travel through the ages and resonate with our time. For instance, in bidding farewell to a community member, Vincent assured him that “with God’s help, you will continue to succeed in your leadership and in your duties.”[4] May the same be true for you, Coach Bruno!

Questions for reflection: Who are the “Hall of Famers” that you know at DePaul? Who are the people whose commitment to our community and whose perseverance in the face of challenges have inspired you or changed DePaul for the better? How or what could you learn from them? Is there some way you may let them know the gift they have been for you?


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

[1] Conference 201, “Simplicity and Prudence (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 4 and 5),” March 14, 1659, CCD, 12:148. Available at https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/36/.

[2] Letter 1487, “To Philippe Le Vacher and Jean Barreau,” [1652], CCD, 4:361. Available at https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/29/.

[3] “God allows this to give rise to the practice of two beautiful virtues: perseverance, which leads us to attain the goal, and constancy, which helps us to overcome difficulties.” See Letter 1228, “To Guillaume Cornaire, in Le Mans,” June 15, 1650, CCD, 4:36-37.

[4] Letter 863, “To Jean Martin, in Genoa,” September 27, 1646, CCD, 3:66. Available at https://‌via.‌library.‌‌depaul.edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/28/.

“Learning in War-Time”: The University in Perilous Times

It’s likely that in the midst of some recent clerical task, most of us have wondered: What is the point of all this? How can I be asked to go about the daily mundane responsibilities of my job in the face of all that is going on in the world? In the face of war, of plague, of hunger and violence? When people are killed because of the color of their skin, or when people are killed for no discernible reason at all, including precious and innocent children in school with their teachers?

The particular wars and other great events of our time chronicled in the news or on our social media feeds demand our immediate attention, and many strike home. Massive student debt and a widespread mental health crisis related to inadequate healthcare force us to think deeply about the role of higher education in our time and place. Above all these immediate calamities, the long-term environmental crisis calls to us as well. Serious people ask if having children in the face of these realities is even responsible or ethical.

I was recently introduced to a remarkable sermon that was given by C. S. Lewis in October 1939, less than two months after the invasion of Poland and Britain’s entry into World War II. He called it “Learning in War-Time.”[1] Lewis begins by asking his Oxford audience whether the study of academic subjects, the work of a university, is “an odd thing to do during a great war.” Unsurprisingly to those familiar with his work, Lewis’s own answer to this question is a profoundly eloquent Christian one. The essential point Lewis makes is one that can resonate with any one of us, regardless of the nature of our particular faith or lack thereof: the calamities of our time do not essentially change the nature of our predicament as humans; they only bring it into stark relief. They are disillusioning in the positive sense. They take away illusions that prevent us from seeing clearly. We are all mortal, and our lives are short—our task is to fill our lives with meaning.

Vincent DePaul was also no stranger to such existential questions; his seventeenth-century France was a place of frequent war, plague, and desperate poverty. We often tell the story of how Vincent found his mission, his true calling, at the bedside of a dying peasant who was racked with guilt over unconfessed sins and whose soul was liberated by the pastoral accompaniment of Vincent in that moment.[2]

We each have to discern our own calling, our own mission. Prior to his encounter with the peasant, Vincent’s life was about seeking worldly success and upward mobility from his own Gascon peasant background. There was no shame in this, and no shame if that is the focus of many students we serve here at DePaul. Yet there can be an invitation to something greater, to a calling that truly makes sense to pursue in any situation. Once you connect with that greater vision, you can approach any work that you do, regardless of how mundane it may seem to others, in light of the vital role it plays in a greater task of epic importance. It will make sense to you even in times of war, of plague, and of hunger.

Do you see your daily work as part of a larger calling or mission? A way to support and care for your family? Do you connect with and are you inspired by the shared Vincentian mission of DePaul? What can you do to ensure that whatever you are doing is meaningful?


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

[1] C. S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” at: https://www.christendom.edu/wp-content/‌uploads/‌2021/02/‌Learning-‌In-Wartime-C.S.-Lewis-1939.pdf.

[2] Edward R. Udovic, C.M., Ph.D., “History of the Church at Folleville,” The Way of Wisdom (blog), DePaul University, March 31, 2018, at: https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2018/03/31/history-of-the-church-at-folleville/; Andrew Rea, “The 400th Anniversary of St. Vincent de Paul’s Sermon at Folleville,” The Full Text (blog), DePaul University Library, January 25, 2017, at: https://news.library.depaul.press/full-text/‌2017/‌01/25/4809/.

Authenticity: Invitation for Graduating Seniors

Last week I reviewed a leadership module highlighting an insight first introduced to me when I started working at DePaul: professionalism is Vincentian simplicity.

I learned Vincentian simplicity through my experience first, and only later made connections to its roots in our Vincentian family. The first Daughters of Charity I met showed me that simplicity is authenticity. The authenticity of I mean what I say is woven through work and personal life.

I recall Sister Frances Ryan, who taught in the College of Education (COE), offering me cutting-edge scholarship to address the big questions life was bringing up, accompanied by a phone call or handwritten note keeping my family in her heart and prayers. Sister Katie Norris, who served as director of Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM), brought Vincentian simplicity to our meetings by cutting through tense moments with a courageous, tender question or insight that quickly breathed imaginative, healing oxygen into the room. Sister Judy Warmbold, who shared her leadership and pastoral gifts in the Dax program for housing-insecure students and also with CCM, reminds me of the power of presence when I meet her, so often sitting with students. She centers the personal dignity of those in her midst with her listening heart and her laughter. Sister Betty Ann McNeil, Vincentian Scholar in Residence at DePaul, contributes knowledge and historical context with integrity and rigor in light of the sustained work of our Vincentian mission and legacy.

I feel blessed and grateful to have worked with these Daughters of Charity at DePaul University. Whether I have bumped into them on Halsted Street outside of the COE or at the Marillac Social Center in East Garfield Park, a simplicity of what you see is what you get has consistently been made real through their presence.

I write this reflection with the graduating seniors of 2022 in mind and heart. I join with all faculty, staff, and administrators in the DePaul community to offer this blessing:

As you begin the next chapter of your life, may you allow this Vincentian spirit of simplicity to guide you. May your professional endeavors be filled with an authenticity that breathes healing and friendship into your workplace. May your education be lifelong, ever embracing knowledge and wisdom. And may you continue to center the dignity of all, especially those excluded and marginalized.


Reflection by: Karl Nass, Director of Vincentian Service and Formation, Division of Mission and Ministry

Living into Who We are Called to Be

Sunrise over the Lincoln Park Campus, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

“… a great good is worth being long desired.”[1]—Vincent de Paul

During my twenty-three years of working at DePaul, I have often found myself wondering what Vincent and Louise would think were they to wander on campus or take a stroll down the streets of Chicago today. Would they recognize that the seeds they planted in France more than 400 years ago have been lovingly tended and are currently flourishing in this twenty-first-century city? Would the fruits of their labor be evident in our contemporary context?

While I cannot answer such questions with any degree of certainty, I will hazard a guess. I imagine Vincent might turn to Louise and ask her to describe exactly what she was seeing and hearing as they observed the daily comings and goings on DePaul’s campus. Then, perhaps after a bit of a pause and a deep, prolonged sigh (after all, Vincent was known for his deliberative nature), Vincent might poignantly ask Louise to describe who or what was missing from the present picture and what such an absence might suggest: “What are the gaps that need to be addressed to provide quality education in the twenty-first century, Louise? How does a Vincentian university continue to make education accessible for all, particularly for those communities who are underserved and underrepresented, when the cost of education is already prohibitive for so many? What must be done, Louise, and how might we at DePaul do it?”

For her part, Louise would surely acknowledge the heaviness of her friend’s questions and, with him, refute the notion of any easy answers. However, being the intuitive person that she was, Louise might also inquire about Vincent’s feelings in finding the mission so changed yet so familiar in retaining the rich core wisdom from which it originated. Perhaps, to give context to her questions, Louise might point to the ways in which DePaul continues to support the integral development of the human person through its commitment to excellence in teaching and its preparation of graduates to be agents for positive change in our world.

To make her case, Louise could cite compelling research to support her thesis. For example, she might direct Vincent’s attention to some of the online pedagogical approaches that were developed in a nanosecond when COVID first hit, which continue to advance and inform asynchronous teaching today. Or she might ask students if she and Vincent could engage with them in a community service experience and participate in one of the impassioned reflections afterward, during which time they wrestle to make meaning of societal inequities, strive to identify root causes, and begin to ask how they might work toward systemic change. If she were feeling particularly courageous, Louise might even venture with Vincent into a faculty or staff meeting to discover how Vincentian personalism and professionalism still guide how colleagues care for each other, even when differences of opinion occur, or challenges seemingly provide only roadblocks ahead. No matter where she looked, Louise would surely find plenty of evidence of the university’s commitment to compassionately uphold the dignity of all members of its diverse, multifaith and inclusive community.

And then, of course, there are DePaul’s wonderful students and the rich cast of characters who work there and commit themselves each day to incarnate the best in us. I doubt that Louise would have to search far to find that the seeds of the mission continue to flourish. As she presented these examples to Vincent, I do tend to wonder if she might do so with a knowing look and a spiritual high five.

So, now it’s your turn. What do you think? Were Vincent and Louise to visit DePaul’s campus today, what evidence “of a great good … being long desired” might they find?

If gaps exist between who we, as a university, aspire to be and your own lived experience, what invitation do you personally hear about closing those gaps to enable us to more fully embrace who we are called to be?


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

[1] Letter 1489, “To Claude Dufour, in Sedan,” April 24, 1652, CCD, 4:363. See: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/29/.

 

Job Crafting

Hands holding a hammer and chisel, depicting a sculptor at work

Recently, I rediscovered some previous research I had done about a relatively new concept known as job crafting.[1] This idea is highly relevant for our current realities in the world of work, including the challenge of finding work-life balance and infusing our work with a sense of meaning. Job crafting may be needed more than ever after these pandemic years and the concurrent shifting nature of the workplace.

In brief, the idea is that we can almost always find certain concrete ways to redesign and/or reimagine our work to make it more personally meaningful. Such redesigning or reimagining might be related to changing what you do or to reprioritizing how you spend your time, to the extent you have the power to do so. However, job crafting focuses more heavily on other aspects of work that are more likely to be in our control and that can make a significant difference in our ability to find meaning in our jobs. This might include how we go about our work, our workplace relationships, and how we think about our work. Making small changes to the tasks we perform and the way we go about them, as well as to our workplace relationships and to the way in which we cognitively frame or imagine our work can improve job satisfaction, motivation, performance, and well-being in the workplace.

Revisiting this idea of job crafting also drew me to some advice from our beloved Vincent de Paul. He told those in the Congregation of the Mission to reframe their busy lives in a way that gives their activities a deeper sense of purpose:

“But, Monsieur, there are so many things to do, so many house duties, so many ministries in town and country; there’s work everywhere; must we, then, leave all that to think only of God?” No, but we have to sanctify those activities by seeking God in them, and do them in order to find [God] in them rather than to see that they get done [Emphasis added].[2]

Vincent’s advice invites a certain intentionality, depth, and meaning to simple everyday duties by framing them as opportunities to find God, rather than just as tasks to get done. His words help to sanctify the ordinary, as he invites his followers to enter into a way of thinking about their work that can change it from burdensome drudgery to purposeful opportunity.

The idea of job crafting as well as Vincent’s words invite us to renew our understanding of our work in order to move beyond a focus only on the completion of tasks and responsibilities. Instead, we should consider the way in which we go about our work, the quality and depth of our presence and relationships with others in the workplace, and the vision that guides us in doing all we do.

An often-shared piece of folk wisdom tells the story of three bricklayers engaged in the same work. When asked what they were doing, the first person said they were laying bricks. The second said they were putting up a wall. But the third said they were building a cathedral. I believe this third bricklayer’s sense of perspective beyond the task at hand almost certainly resonates with finding satisfaction by understanding the bigger picture.

How are you going about—and thinking about—your work these days? How might it connect to your deeper sense of purpose or vocation, whether through (a) the way in which you do your work; (b) the way you relate with people in the workplace; or (c) the way in which you envision your work?

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

[1] For more on the idea of job crafting, see: J. M. Berg, J. E. Dutton, and A. Wrzesniewski, “Job Crafting and Meaningful Work” in B. J. Dik, Z. S. Byrne, and M. F. Steger, eds., Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2013), 81–104; and a YouTube Video about Job Crafting by Amy Wrzesniewski, Yale University: https://‌www.‌youtube.‌com/‌watch?‌v=_‌WEArwy316c.

[2] Conference 198, “Seeking the Kingdom of God (Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, Chap. II, Art. 2),” February 21, 1659, CCD, 12:111–12. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_‌‌ebooks/36/.

 

Finding Hope and Healing by Providing It

Do not be upset if things are not as you would want them to be for a long time to come. Do the little you can very peacefully and calmly so as to allow room for the guidance of God in your lives. Do not worry about the rest. — Louise de Marillac[1]

Sometimes—oftentimes, lately—the world can feel overwhelming, and to be honest, a little bleak. Even as there is a collective momentum to try to shift toward a sense of recovery and healing, it can feel a bit like catching your breath before the next wave hits. It also matters where you are standing … and if you have the privilege of a space for healing.

There are the wars and their spiraling horrors in Ukraine and Yemen; a pandemic that marches on, sometimes slowing, sometimes quickening, with death and long-term illness in its wake; a political and civil maelstrom that churns and darkens, sure to break during the summer and fall; growing economic and racial inequalities that continue to metastasize unabetted; and looming ahead and upon us, a climate crisis, the effects of which we are already experiencing.

Where is justice? Where is hope? Where is healing?

These are some of the same realities—and questions!—that Vincent de Paul’s longtime partner in helping the poor, Louise de Marillac, faced. Saint Louise—whose Feast Day we celebrate this week—lived in a time of plague (check), war (check), violent political upheaval, and gross inequality (check, and check). I’ll be the first to admit that my image of saints (even though I’m not Catholic myself) tends to be through the distorted rosy lens of beatification. That is, these saintly figures surely floated above and beyond their historical context, transcendent in their ethereal embodiments of our greatest ideals. The truth is, they were just like us, living (sometimes intentionally) in the mud, dirt, and trauma of their days.

Where is justice? Where is hope? Where is healing? For Saint Louise—whose direct actions, ideas, and collaboration with Vincent formed what we now think of as Vincentianism—it was not enough to just bear witness to the trauma of the day. These questions were at the forefront of Saint Louise’s mind, keeping her awake. But these were not idle thoughts or mere academic questions. They were quite literal. She sought justice; she sought hope. She sought healing. And when she could not find them, she provided them. For others, for herself.

Her personal life was not without sorrow and hardship. Born of out of wedlock, a child of a single-parent home, she experienced her father’s death at age twelve and was rejected from the cloistered life she deeply desired at age fifteen. She was no stranger to childhood trauma. After marrying, she raised a special-needs son, but soon her husband died. Depression followed her, as did guilt. Widowed, and recognizing that she had a calling deep in her core, she met an irascible priest named Vincent. She initially found him repugnant. However, though they did not get along at first, their mission and purpose in life sang in harmony. Their commitment to the poor and vulnerable, to those who bore individual and systemic trauma, drove them both onward. Though her depression and sadness were never gone, they actively worked together to alleviate the suffering of others, and in so doing found hope, justice, and healing. They created a tradition that has spread from Paris to the world.

We’re now part of their story, her story, the next chapter in a four-century long tale. As we celebrate Louise de Marillac this week, celebrate your own part of her legacy. We can make things better, if we act out of that same engaged compassion that Saint Louise modeled so beautifully.

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

About Louise Week:

In honor of Saint Louise de Marillac’s Feast Day on May 9th, the Division of Mission and Ministry invites DePaul students, faculty, and staff to celebrate Louise Week 2022.

Louise de Marillac lived in a time of great upheaval and crisis. She, along with a growing number of female collaborators, provided shoulders that helped bear the weight of a country racked by war, entrenched in political upheaval, overwhelmed by the plague, and struck by hunger. The shadows of her own life’s story were filled with grief and loss and provided a vehicle for transformation that led to creating new pathways for women. Her story reminds us of the possibility of light transcending darkness.

Connecting to Louise’s story and tying it to the present can encourage us in times of suffering and uncertainty. As we seek healing from the impacts of living through a pandemic for the last two years, Louise’s example calls us to community, healing, and rekindling joy.

Join us May 9–13 to pause, connect, and celebrate St. Louise’s legacy alive today at DePaul. Just as she was sustained by the generosity and goodness of those around her, may we too take the time to pause, uplift, and celebrate with gratitude those who sustain our journey.

Curious to learn more about Louise’s personal journey? Check out this virtual six-day pilgrimage created last year that follows her footsteps across Paris.


[1] Letter 519, “To Sister Anne Hardemont (at Ussel),” (1658), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 614–15. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/.

Healing is a Journey


“Healing is a journey.” This is one of the many nuggets of wisdom shared during a recent Mission and Ministry Women’s Power program that featured Sr. Helen Prejean[1] in conversation with students, faculty, and staff. The event was titled Trauma, Hope, and Healing, and prompted participants to acknowledge that we are in the midst of trauma and grief, struggling through a pandemic and living in a warring world. Equally important, the conversation made space to learn from each other as we seek paths toward healing and hope for all of humanity and for us as individuals.

“Healing is a journey.” These words also reflect the work of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise. As these two courageous leaders ministered to the marginalized, they provided ongoing accompaniment to those they encountered. They acknowledged the need for healing, and they brought hope through their words and deeds, returning time and again to homes and prisons, to streets and churches, offering ongoing support and caring.

Each of us has been affected to varying degrees by the realities of our world and each of us need support and caring. As we continue to muddle through the pandemic and strive to return to “normalcy,” we should remember that our own personal healing from the trauma of these past years (and even beyond) is an ongoing process. We would serve one another well by recognizing that each of us is healing in our own way and at our own pace. As pointed out in the Women’s Power conversation, expectations that we simply slip back into pre-pandemic life and work are impossible for some and unrealistic for all. We have all been affected by the waves of trauma of the past few years, and we are all on a journey—each of us in our own way—of healing and hope.

As we continue to walk through these difficult and tumultuous times, may we be filled with hope and embrace a path toward healing. May we give ourselves room and grace for these personal journeys. And may we offer grace and understanding to others in their journeys.

View the video of Sr. Helen Prejean’s conversation on Trauma, Hope, and Healing.


Reflection by: Diane Dardón, ELCA, D. Min., Director, Pastoral Care and Religious Diversity, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] Sr. Prejean is the author of Dead Man Walking (1994) and is an anti-death penalty advocate and activist. For more on her life and work see: https://www.sisterhelen.org/.

The Constancy of Community

Springtime in Chicago is a tricky season. One day the weather is warm, the sun comes out, and everyone goes outside; there is a sense that we are coming out of hibernation. Then there are the days when winter seems to be keeping Chicago firmly in its grasp, warmer weather feels a long way off, and it seems like maybe we should hibernate just a little bit longer. This springtime dance happens every year, but I feel more ready than ever for sunshine and flowers in bloom and going outside without multiple layers to keep me warm.

I think I am also feeling the need for sunshine and warmth because at the beginning of this month, I had to say goodbye to one of my dogs, Finley. She had been diagnosed with a tumor at the end of March 2021 and the prognosis was dire. The vet thought she probably only had days, maybe weeks, to live. Yet she defied the odds, shocking the vet, and me, by living one year and two days past her diagnosis.

In reflecting on the last year with Finny, as I usually called her, what is most clear to me is the constancy of support I had from my family, my friends, my DePaul University colleagues, and even the staff at our vet’s office. Sharing how she was doing became an almost daily part of some conversations, and I am so grateful for the ways in which people cared enough to check in, especially as our world continues to grapple with the massive grief caused by the pandemic. The constancy of community helped me get through Finny’s time in doggie hospice, which is how I often described the last year. Without community, I know that it would have been a much more difficult journey.

As my other dog and I adjust to Finny’s absence, I am acutely aware that there is no way around grief. Grief impacts all of us. I also know from past losses that finding ways to connect with others is one of the things that helps me navigate the grieving process. At this moment in my work at DePaul, I am planning for Vincentian Service Day 2022, which is set for Saturday, May 7, and will have in-person service opportunities for the first time since 2019. Preparing for this DePaul tradition is not without its difficulties, but the planning process helps me right now because it involves connecting with community partners, mentoring students on the Service Day Team, and inviting the DePaul community to a space where we can live our Vincentian mission. It is my hope that through the relationships that we are able to build and sustain together, our DePaul community may be a constant for our community partners and their needs.

Registration for Vincentian Service Day 2022 closes on Tuesday, May 3, at 11:59 PM. For more information about participating in VSD, visit: http://serviceday.depaul.edu; or email: serviceday@depaul.edu.

Reflection by: Katie Sullivan, Program Manager, Vincentian Service and Formation, Division of Mission and Ministry

The Sacred Dignity of all Persons

More than four hundred years ago in the small French town of Folleville, France, Saint Vincent de Paul had a transformative experience that he would later describe as the start of the Vincentian mission, which we continue to this day.[1] While serving as a tutor and spiritual director for the wealthy de Gondi family Vincent was called to the bedside of a dying peasant. The opportunity to facilitate the sacrament of confession and the profound positive effect it had on the man revealed much to Vincent about the conditions and human needs that were widespread in his time. When Madame de Gondi famously asked, “What must be done?” the mission had begun.

The Vincentian mission to honor the sacred dignity of every human being has taken many different shapes in many different environments over the last four hundred years. It is a living legacy that seeks to serve the same goals and purposes in ever-changing circumstances. DePaul University seeks primarily to advance the dignity of every person through higher education, but in doing so, we serve the whole person and the larger community. We find and serve not only the material needs of people but their spiritual needs as well. It is because of, not despite, our commitment to our Vincentian Catholic mission that we honor the spiritual needs of all in our community, inclusive of people of all faiths and none.

Much of our Christian community has just come to the end of the Lenten period with the celebration of Easter.[2] Our Jewish community has begun the observance of Passover. Our Muslim community is in the middle of the fasting month of Ramadan. Others observing sacred holidays during this season this year include the Sikh, Jain, and Baha’i communities. We remind ourselves of Dr. Esteban’s call in the fall tocreate an accepting and nurturing environment in which people of every faith are supported and nurtured.”[3] Just as our university closes for Good Friday to facilitate Christians’ observance, we encourage all members of the community to be flexible and accommodating so that people can engage in religious observances and spiritual growth. Doing so enriches and inspires the entire community, as our own Father Memo Campuzano beautifully shared last week.[4] The spirit of accommodation and the honoring of human dignity invites conversation among people about their needs, recognizing that not everyone is the same and all are equally precious. The staff of the Office of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care is here to serve as a resource whenever we can be helpful in such dialogue.[5]

We invite all of our community to find, as Vincent did, life and beauty in honoring and facilitating the sacred traditions and spiritual needs of each other. Many of us are weighed down by the hardships or just the daily grind of life. We seek these special observances to provide joy and meaning to our lives, as individuals and as communities. Being able to facilitate these moments for others provides a special blessing of its own. The Prophet Muhammad[6] offered this beautiful prayer for those who would provide food for him when it came time to break the fast, “May those who are fasting break their fast with you, may the righteous eat your food, and may the angels pray for you!”[7]


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

[1] Andrew Rea, “The 400th Anniversary of St. Vincent de Paul’s Sermon at Folleville,” DePaul University, January 25, 2017, https://news.library.depaul.press/full-text/2017/01/25/4809/.

[2] Orthodox Christians will observe Easter on April 24.

[3] A. Gabriel Esteban, “Religious Observances: Facilitating a Culture of Respect, Understanding and Civility,” DePaul University Newsline, August 31, 2021, https://resources.depaul.edu/newsline/sections/campus-and-community/‌Pages/‌Religious-observances-2021.aspx.

[4] Memo Campuzano, C.M., “Spiritual Times: Times When We Hope Together,” The Way of Wisdom (blog), DePaul University, April 8, 2022, https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2022/04/08/spiritual-times-times-when-we-hope-together/.

[5] Contact information and a calendar of holidays and religiously significant events can be found here: https://offices.depaul.edu/mission-ministry/religious-spiritual-life/religious/Documents/2021-2022_‌Religious_‌Holidays_Calendar.pdf.

[6] Peace and blessings be upon him and all of the prophets and sacred teachers and guides.

[7] Hadith reported by Abu Dawud.