Your Opportunity to Respond to Proposed Changes Restricting Asylum in the United States [Podcast]

Listen to the podcast:

This is a podcast interview with Rev. Craig B. Mousin founder and former Executive Director of the Midwest Immigrant Rights Center and an Adjunct Faculty member at DePaul University’s College of Law and The Grace School of Applied Diplomacy. He talks about responding to the federal government’s proposed regulations entitled “Procedures for Asylum and Withholding of Removal; Credible Fear and Reasonable Fear Review.”

We encourage you to file your own comments opposing part or all of the proposed procedures and asking the government to withdraw the entire proposed rule.  To assist you in obtaining a link to the proposed procedures or in filing your comment, you may incorporate your remarks into one of the templates provided by the following:

The National Immigrant Justice Center offers this template for any community member concerned about access to asylum:

If you are concerned about unaccompanied minors or children refugee issues, you might find the template of the Young Center helpful:

Both websites provide additional information on how the proposed regulations restrict access to the courts and prevent bona fide applicants from presenting their cases for asylum.  Please make sure your comments are filed on or before 11:59 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

Please share this podcast and links with members of your community or faith organizations, family members and friends.  Encourage them to file comments to help ensure that our nation continues to offer shelter for refugees in need.  Thank you for your consideration of this request.

If you would like more information about the documentary, “Brightness of Noon, the Intersect of Faith, Refugees and Immigrants, Part II,”

The Vincentian Studies Institute in the Division of Mission & Ministry Vincentian Heritage Journal: A Call for Proposals Proposal Submission Deadline: July 31, 2020

2020: DePaul University’s Community Responds to Crises

The DePaul University Vincentian Studies Institute would like to invite everyone from our community—faculty, staff, students, and alumni—to participate in a special call to submit publishable materials dedicated to the unprecedented crises we have been challenged to confront in 2020. Covid-19 has disrupted daily life and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. At DePaul it has forced us to change how we work, how we teach, and how we learn. How has it changed you? Our nation has also erupted in protests over the brutal killing of George Floyd. His senseless death has reignited the Black Lives Matter movement and challenges us as a people to dismantle inequality, oppression, and systemic racism in the pursuit of justice. How has this affected you, your colleagues, or your family? How has your perception of DePaul, of Chicago, of our country, been changed? Considering both crises and their effect on marginalized peoples how do we see that they interplay? How can we move forward? How can our Vincentian values help guide us through this time of great pain and suffering? Ultimately, we would like to know, how have we responded as a Vincentian higher learning community?

What We Are Asking of You

We are asking for your contributions in the hope that they help us to reflect on what has happened and is still happening. Every type of production is welcomed: academic papers, short essays, poems, fiction, paintings, photographs, videos, etc. Individual or collective proposals are welcomed. Shorter works will be featured online, promoted by the Division of Mission & Ministry, and shared with the university community. Longer written works may be featured in a special collection published in the VSI’s scholarly journal Vincentian Heritage.

Process to Contribute

  • We ask that you submit your Proposal or short summary of your intended contribution, to: nmichaud@depaul.edu Please do so before July 31, 2020.
  • Proposals will be reviewed by the VSI board and you will be notified of their decision by August 21, 2020.
  • Once accepted, final drafts of your contributed work must be received by January 15, 2021.

Recognizing Seeds of the Mission

As the DePaul community actively considers what is fundamental to how we understand and live our shared Vincentian mission, what initiatives, stories, and people serve as authentic and striking examples of our mission to you?

The examples that come to mind as you reflect on this question might be understood as Seeds of the Mission, the title of the current Division of Mission and Ministry campaign. This campaign is an important first step in the process that will be taking place in the coming months as part of the review and potential revision of the DePaul University mission statement.

The concept of a seed suggests something that is small now, but that also has great potential for growth if tended and cared for. Seeds are a hopeful sign. Therefore, this image speaks to the importance of what we are doing now to sustain the future of our shared Vincentian mission for the generations who follow. The future vitality of our Vincentian mission will depend on our ability to identify and cultivate what is essential to our mission today, especially within the context of DePaul’s vocation as a university.

The foundational concept behind the Seeds of the Mission campaign borrows and adapts the idea of “seeds of the Word.” This phrase appears most notably in Vatican II documents and describes the relationship between the mission of the Catholic Church and peoples of various cultures and religions around the world. The concept is traced back to a famous second-century Christian philosopher and martyr named Justin, who introduced the idea of “seeds of the Word of God.”1 The Vatican II documents use this concept to encourage people of faith to “…gladly and reverently lay bare the seeds of the Word which lie hidden among their fellows.”2 According to this understanding, the seeds of the Word are present in the heart of every person, and in any human initiative, that strives toward the justice, mercy, and compassion as modeled by the life of Jesus. The underlying theology inherent in this concept promotes an approach to diverse peoples founded on human dignity, engagement, and dialogue. It emphasizes an understanding of the Church’s activity in the world that corresponds closely to the vision and praxis of the current Pope Francis, as well as to our own Vincentian charism.

At DePaul, we often speak of bringing together “a community gathered together for the sake of a common mission.” We believe this communal approach enables our students to gain personal wisdom while we work together to build a more just society that honors and affirms the dignity of all.

Considering this background rooted in the Vincentian practice of valuing and learning from experience, the Seeds of the Mission campaign invites you, the DePaul community, to share what you have seen. What you have experienced that resonates with or reflects the heart of DePaul’s mission?

Please let us know: What initiatives, stories, and people serve as authentic and striking examples of DePaul’s Vincentian mission for you?


1) First Apology of Justin Martyr, Apol. I. 44.

2) 11, Ad Gentes, Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church, Second Vatican Council, 7 December 1965.

Seeds of the Mission Campaign

Reflections on Mission in our Current Times  

“Every good work…we do is a grain of seed for eternal life.” – St. Elizabeth Seton ¹

“The review and possible revision of DePaul University’s Mission Statement is happening at an unprecedented time that combines many different aspects related to the Vincentian mission.

The Covid-19 pandemic has unveiled that our social fabric is broken, as illustrated by a healthcare system that excludes most people in the world. The labor system has been exposed by the scale of unemployment and the sheer number of workers lacking rights, protection, or insurance. Our political system has also been exposed. Individual good and personal gain dominate political agendas, and political will has been compromised by business interests and corruption. What has been lost is the common good, which is needed now more than ever.

The recent killing of George Floyd and the national and global unrest that followed is alerting us that large portions of society are long tired of racism, exclusion, and discrimination. In the wake of these crises comes an outcry for systemic change and transformation.

From the perspective of our Vincentian mission we want to be a part of this call to action, this movement. DePaul’s mission must never be separated from the needs of the world. The Seeds of the Mission Campaign seeks to embrace this movement for justice that current events are inspiring. We expect the Seeds of the Mission campaign to lift up stories of mission-in-action and demonstrate how people make an impact at DePaul, in our city, across our nation, and throughout our world.” – Fr. Memo Campuzano, C.M.

What is the Seeds of the Mission Campaign?  

“Nature makes trees put down deep roots before having them bear fruit, and even this is done gradually.” -Vincent de Paul ²

The Seeds of the Mission Campaign invites our DePaul community to witness, uphold, and celebrate DePaul’s mission-in-action as a tool for revising the university mission statement. A seed is a symbol of hope, something we need now more than ever. Rooted in the Vincentian practice of valuing experience, the Seeds of the Mission Campaign will gather stories of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners living the DePaul mission.

We recognize and celebrate the many diverse, creative, and deeply rooted seeds already answering the Vincentian question, “What Must Be Done?” Listening to and amplifying Seeds of the Mission stories helps us to understand who we have been, and who we are now, so that we may transform into who we are called to be in the twenty-first century.

Gathering Seeds of the Mission Stories 

Over the course of the summer, the Division of Mission and Ministry will gather Seeds of the Mission stories. The process of revising a mission statement is about more than changing words on paper. It is about fostering ownership of the mission and taking action to live it out. To better do so, we need to hear your stories!

As we come to the end of an historic and unprecedented quarter, take some time to reflect on the Seeds of the Mission within your DePaul communities, both now and in the past. What stories do we need to tell to honor and celebrate all we have lived through together? We encourage DePaul students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners to participate. The following questions are meant to be guides, but if you find yourself reflecting on the Seeds of the Mission in a different way, please share that as well:

  • Who do you see living the DePaul mission?
  • During your time at DePaul, what creative ways have you answered the Vincentian question, “What must be done?”
  • Where have you witnessed creative, transformative, or inventive love, solidarity, and education?
  • Whose actions planted seeds of hope in the difficult soil of confusion, pain, and transition?

Submit your Seeds of the Mission Story Ideas HERE

Over the next couple of months the Division of Mission and Ministry hopes to find ways to  share these stories.  

 


  1. – 10.2, Maxims, Collected Writings, Elizabeth Bayley Seton, 3a:488.
  2. – 1796, To Charles Ozenne, Superior, In Warsaw, 13 November 1654, CCD, 5:219.

What Are WE Doing for Justice?

“There is no act of charity that is not accompanied by justice…”1

A commitment to making every effort for justice must be a pillar upon which DePaul University’s mission rests. To remind us of this, visitors to the Lincoln Park student center are welcomed by a statue of Msgr. Jack Egan, a twentieth-century priest, with the question engraved below, “What are you doing for justice?” This is not a new thread woven into an ancient tapestry. It has been an essential part of our Vincentian story since the beginning. Yes, our context today differs from that of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. However, the same basic obligation remains that binds us to uphold justice, human dignity, peace, and the common good, even in the face of great challenge.

The horrific killing of George Floyd and the protests and unrest that have followed reflect the deep pain caused by a history of racism and systemic injustice in our country. We may be searching our hearts and minds to know how best to respond. Several days ago, Fr. Memo Campuzano advised Mission & Ministry staff: “It is good to stop, identify, and name the pain, anxiety, and fear. Then find the purpose in our pain and fear…then embrace that purpose and ACT.”2

Our various actions may be different. They could include protesting in the streets or simply posting on social media. Some may donate money; some may try to educate themselves and others. We may find ourselves having difficult conversations. Hopefully, we will engage in political processes. All are called to rethink what we have been doing individually and collectively, as well as what the future can and should look like.

Doubtless there are many ways to work for justice and to try to make better a broken world. Yet, whatever these ways are they must be both personal and systemic. They must, as difficult as it may seem for some, come from a place of love. And, justice must be the pursuit. To do less would be to fail our Vincentian mission.

The brutal treatment of George Floyd by a police officer, and the protests that have followed throughout the United States, are tragic and wrenching events in and of themselves. But they are also part of a long and painful history of racial injustice in our nation. What thoughts and feelings emerge within you as you pause to reflect on these events in our history? As you identify and name them, are you able to discern a deeper purpose and are you compelled to take steps toward concrete action? How can you take these steps together with others?


1) 452, To Francois du Coudray, In Toul, 17 June 1640, CCD, 2:68.

2) Internal Mission & Ministry email, 2 June 2020.

 

Reflection by:

Tom Judge, Chaplain, Division of Mission and Ministry

Division of Mission and Ministry Statement on the Dignity of Black Lives

Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder, unsplash.com

Throughout history, prophets across many faith traditions shook their fists at God and people in positions of power, angry at injustice in the world. It is with devastation, heartache, and outrage, that we in the Division of Mission and Ministry share their lament.

It is an indisputable truth that Black lives matter. The generations-long oppression of the Black community in the United States is an affront to the human dignity our Vincentian mission demands that we uphold. As a Division, we stand firm in opposition to white supremacy, anti-blackness, and the inequitable status quo.

To our Black students and colleagues, we mourn with you. The brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery,Tony McDade, and far too many others tear open deep wounds inflicted by police brutality and systemic racism; wounds that have been opened too many times before. We hear the dirges and see your stress, fear, and anxiety as COVID-19 continues to unveil the systemic racial violence in our healthcare and economic systems, disproportionately marginalizing communities of color. We see you torn between the urgency to join protests and the fear of leaving your homes. We hear you when you say that you are tired, you are aching, you are empty in the midst of a world on fire.

We also see your strength. Your power.

In times such as these, our instinct is to be out in the world, responding to the needs of our communities. We welcome our students, faculty, and staff to pray with us, to grieve together, to be together, to use our shared pain as a catalyst for change. Although we cannot be together in physical space, we stand in solidarity with you in prayer and in action. We understand with clarity and conviction that the struggle for racial justice is lifelong, and we are committed to standing with you.

The Division of Mission and Ministry deepens our commitment to:

  1. Root ourselves in faith and prayer that drive us to action
  2. Defend the inherent dignity of every human person
  3. Educate ourselves and each other regularly in theories that shed light on systemic racism and the forces of power, privilege, and oppression
  4. Prioritize this same education in our work with students
  5. Facilitate restorative justice training with our staff and student leaders
  6. Foster mutual, long-standing relationships with community partners whose work promotes the wellness of Black lives and dismantles systems of oppression
  7. Create direct service opportunities that allow students, faculty, and staff to build community, grow in awareness, engage in meaningful dialogue, and strive toward systemic change and solidarity

The Division of Mission and Ministry is here with you. We are here to mourn, to listen, to pray, and to act.

The way of solidarity is vast. It ranges from education to dialogue that centers Black voices to direct action that brings about structural change. We call the DePaul community to action. If you are unsure where to begin, we have included with this statement a non-exhaustive list of resources, community partner organizations, and avenues for systemic change.

Action Resources

As an educational institution, a Vincentian institution, dialogue during a time of crisis is essential. There is an incredible wealth of resources and expertise within our institution. Now is the time to be sharing those resources and engaging in dialogue about the underlying causes of what we are witnessing right now. This is a non-exhaustive list compiled from suggestions by DMM staff and student leaders.

Education

Suggested Media

Website

Black Lives Matter: Herstory

Films

Documentary: 13th
Documentary: Agents of Change
Historical Drama: Just Mercy
Historical Drama: The Hate U Give
Historical Drama: Fruitvale Station
Historical Drama: I Am Not Your Negro
Historical Drama Mini Series: When They See Us
Digital Mini-film Series: 26 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias, and Identity with Students, The New York Times

Podcasts

The 1619 Project: New York Times 6 part podcast
RadioCode Switch: NPR news viewed through the lens of race and identity

Suggested Reading

Non-Fiction: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Non-Fiction: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Non-Fiction: How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Non-Fiction: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Non-Fiction: Racial Justice and the Catholic Church by Fr. Bryan N. Massingale
Non-Fiction: Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
Letter/Essay: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Fiction: Kindred by Octavia Butler
Poetry: Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith
Essay: “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Recent Articles

George Floyd & Patels: A Story in Generations by Eboo Patel, Founder & President Interfaith Youth Corps
The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it by Bryan Massingale

Theological Resources

Cone, James H. The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2013.
Douglas, Kelly Brown. Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2015.
Massingale, Bryan N. Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 2010.

Action

The following organizations and nonprofits are long-standing community partners of the Division of Mission and Ministry who dedicate their work to service, racial justice, and equality. Visit their websites to learn more about their work and how you can get involved. If you are able, consider making a donation.

Mission and Ministry Community Partners

Marillac St. Vincent Family Services, Chicago: https://marillacstvincent.org
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Chicago: https://www.pbmr.org
Refugee One, Chicago: www.refugeeone.org
Kelly Hall YMCA, Chicago: https://www.ymcachicago.org/pages/kelly-hall-ymca
Resurrection Catholic Missions, Montgomery: www.rcmsouth.org
Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Cincinnati: https://www.svdpcincinnati.org/
Interfaith Youth Core: https://www.ifyc.org
St. Sabina Faith Community: https://saintsabina.org

Systemic Change

Make your voice heard in these times by writing to your political representatives. We have included the Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice step-by-step email advocacy guide at this link.

Write, sign and share petitions that resonate with your values and beliefs. You can start by visiting https://www.change.org/.

Register to vote at https://vote.gov/, and cast your ballot in local and federal elections. Get involved with your local city counsel office. If you are dissatisfied with their leadership, run for office and make the change you want to see.

Plan to Review the University Mission Statement

The Division of Mission and Ministry is pleased to announce that the Mission Committee of the Board of Trustees has approved a plan to review and possibly revise DePaul’s mission statement.  The 2020-21 Mission Statement Review is beginning now, and you are invited to participate in the process.

Building on the Vincentian practice of valuing experience and creating guidelines or statements that generally affirm what is already taking place as well as communicating aspirational goals, the review of the DePaul mission statement will take place through a 4-part process:

  1. Rolling out a “Seeds of the Mission” campaign to share stories and gain insights about where the mission is already operative at DePaul through highlighting mission in action. This campaign will start this month and its details will soon be shared.
  2. Creating a document over the summer and fall based on academic research about the history of DePaul’s purpose/mission statements that also brings in external perspectives through accreditation documents to outline how DePaul’s mission statements and understanding of mission have evolved to meet DePaul’s changing reality over time.
  3. Conducting a Mission Survey with the members of the Board of Trustees in the fall.
  4. Holding institutional mission dialogues in the fall to foster an understanding of DePaul’s mission with diverse community stakeholders as we seek to ensure DePaul’s mission statement reflects mission in a 21st century context.

In the winter, the information gained through executing the phased plan above will quite likely feed into a revised university mission statement, which we imagine will be concise, memorable, and actionable, and which would be accompanied by a lengthier supporting academic document.  A revised mission statement, if warranted, would be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in May 2021.

Division of Mission and Ministry staff expect that the Seeds of the Mission campaign and mission dialogues will involve people at all levels of the university in the mission statement review process and expect it to generate new ideas for DePaul moving into the future, provide an opportunity to educate people on the mission, and increase DePaul community members’ knowledge about and ownership of our shared mission statement and mission.

 

We look forward to involving you in this process!

Guillermo Campuzano, C.M., Vice President for the Division of Mission and Ministry

The Beauty of a Higher Purpose

Virtue is so beautiful and amiable that they will be compelled to love it in you, if you practice it well.1

In the remarkable short letter from which this quote was taken, Vincent responds to news that several of the missionaries would be travelling on a ship with “some heretics.” After briefly expressing his distress at what they may have to “endure from them,” Vincent spends the rest of the letter reminding them that this is God’s plan. He encourages them to use their best manners and “be careful to avoid every sort of dispute and contention.”2 Vincent expresses hope that an example of beautiful character will be “helpful” to all.

Muslims are now entering into the final week of the observance of Ramadan. Ramadan is normally a month filled with fasting, prayer, and charity; it has been this year as well, although in all other ways it has been different with mosques closed and social activity curtailed by the pandemic. In a traditional saying of the Prophet Muhammad (which he sources to John the Baptist) it is said, “the similitude of the fasting person is that of someone who is carrying a sack-full of musk in a crowd of people—all of them marveling at its fragrance (although they can’t see what has created it).”3

The experience of long days of fasting and nights of sporadic sleep risks making one impatient or hard to be around. However, we find that when undertaken with intention and perseverance, a connection to a higher purpose along with increased gratitude and vulnerability reveals a beauty in the fasting person that is attractive to those around them even if they don’t know the source of it. Such a state also increases generosity that rains upon us all, even upon those who may be seen as heretics in a particular time or place.

During times of difficulty and anxiety like those we are living now, it is tempting to be less patient, less compassionate, more selfish, or even divisive with each other, particularly with those who hold differing worldviews.

What are some practices or exercises you can engage in to remain grounded in a sense of higher purpose? Is there a foundational belief or perspective which enables virtue to emanate from you, such that its beauty and fragrance is enjoyed by and helpful to all whom you encounter?

 


1) 3032, To Philippe Patte, In Nantes, [November or December 1659], CCD, 8:209.

2) Ibid.

3) Jami at-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Amthal (Chapter of Parables), Book 44, Hadith 3102. See: http://sunnah.com/urn/630960

 

Reflection by:

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

Reflection, Day Five: Sustained by a Solid Foundation

By
Minister Jené Colvin
Religious Diversity & Pastoral Care Team
Division of Mission & Ministry

You ever say a word enough times or write it enough times that it doesn’t seem like a word anymore? (It’s called semantic satiation by the way. My spouse told me. It helps to be married to someone as nerdy as you are.) Then there are the times we use a term or concept so broadly and so sweepingly that it loses its weight and true meaning. “Community” can sometimes be one of those words. “Systems” sometimes loses its impact because we treat it like salt, instead of the right herb or spice for the conversation. This is all just leading up to one big disclaimer: I’m going to use these terms, but I actually mean them.

Today, we are reflecting on Saint Louise’s lifetime of work to create and change systems for the improvement of people’s lives. Today’s theme is “sustained” because we wanted to talk about how Louise was able to remain dedicated to transforming the world. I had a whole reflection written out about how social justice and self-care are not a dichotomy (don’t worry, I’ll still get into that a little bit). And then I re-read today’s quote from Louise: “The greater the work, the more important it is to establish it on a solid foundation. Thus, it will not only be more perfect, it will also be more lasting.”

I am convinced that the foundation is people.

Even when we acknowledge that taking care of ourselves can often be a matter of access and social-systemic bias rather than individual discipline, we are still left with the question of “how?” How in the world do I keep trying to change the world and not burn out before I am halfway through my life? In everything good we try to do, people are our greatest asset.

Two weeks ago, I attended a virtual birthday party for one of my best friends. Her partner wanted to make sure she was celebrated in a way she truly deserved, despite the fact that we couldn’t gather in person. But, right on brand for her, she spent time during her own birthday party elevating the work her friends were doing. She said, “Everything you need is in this [room]!” Finally, she made sure we had everyone’s receipts and contact information before we all left that virtual space. Jade T. Perry is one of my people. And I am sustained by her.

Even though we’re not in the office, I’ve knocked on my co-workers’ virtual doors for ideas, advice, and help in processing things more times than I can count. There are more than twenty-five faithful, praying, laughter-filled, loving, snack-, resource-, and time-sharing people in Mission and Ministry. They are my people. I am sustained by them.

When I was in high school, my sisters and I started throwing gumbo parties. Everyone would bring one or two ingredients. We all ate, and no one had to break the bank. It’s a practice I’ve repeated over the years. No one judges what someone else chooses to purchase from the list, and everyone eats until they are full. Our friends are always our family, our people. And we have been sustained by them over and over again.

Min. Candace Simpson has a vision she calls “Fish Sandwich Heaven.” It’s a play on the miracle where Jesus feeds the multitude with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish from a little boy in that multitude. In her sermon, A Packed Lunch, she helps us imagine how much can be done when people are generous with their “extra bread.” She is one of my people. And I am sustained by her.

When I thought my life was unraveling beyond repair, that I couldn’t come close to doing what I felt like I was supposed to in life—basically when I was Louise right before the lumière kicked in—people were present with me through it, and people helped me to the next stage. Community has sustained me.

The best work we do is not when we pour out of ourselves until we are empty or until we are dead. Our best work happens in community, where there is reciprocity and a consensual exchange of resources, ideas, and love. Our best work happens when we believe there is actually enough. There is enough time. There is enough for everyone to have what they need. There is enough sun to shine on all of us. There is enough trust and enough stage and enough accolade. There is enough to barter. There is enough to give some away. There is enough help. There is enough opportunity. That is, if we trust that people are our greatest asset: people who share and are shared with.

Every creative way around oppressive systems is found in the connections formed and strengthened between people. It’s the very reason so many systems that we have to fight in the first place stratify or separate us from each other or force us back together without realizing that unity is not sameness.

Saint Louise is heralded as the patron saint of social workers. Social work is a wide-ranging field that addresses everything from the most basic of human needs to advocacy for policy that supports the improvement of our living conditions. More often than not, it’s done by sustaining and improving our connections to each other and the resources we share with each other.

Some of the best wisdom from Saint Louise comes from the letters she wrote to people she was connected to and cared about or who cared about her: her community. Communities are systems. They are not inherently good or bad. Good ones, though, are absolutely necessary and foundational to our work to both impact the world and survive it. Communities can be spaces for creativity and for minding the gaps harmful systems create. Communities can be where people find sustainable care when individual actions and consumption are not enough. See, I told you I’d get around to self-care and social justice.

Conversations about sustaining our ability to engage with and change society very often (and rightly) include conversations about our wellness. This always reminds me of three things: 1) The Audre Lorde quote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”; 2) The Nap Ministry’s quote “Justice looks like a place to rest”; and 3) Deanna Zandt’s comic about self-soothing, self-care, community care, and structural care.

May you, as I believe Louise did, find good people for a just, solid, and long-lasting foundation for transforming our world.

Reflection, Day Four: Woman Empowering Women

By
Joyana Jacoby Dvorak
Associate Director Vincentian Service & Formation Team
Division of Mission & Ministry

 

All I really wanted to do was go dig for worms with my kids. I couldn’t tolerate having another Zoom meeting, creating another VoiceThread presentation, or developing a new virtual event. During a Zoom session with my class, my two-year-old spilled smoothie all over both of us. Yup. This is life right now—real messy! I’d hit my coronavirus wall. I had fallen into a pattern of pretending that I could still carry on with life and work as usual, even though I am now a kindergarten teacher, daycare provider, remote staff and faculty member experiencing my first-ever pandemic.

I found myself especially uninspired to envision an important project—you guessed it—Louise Week 2020! A few weeks ago, I was excited to elevate Louise’s celebration, something that is long overdue. In the midst of being overwhelmed by all things coronavirus, I found myself suddenly paralyzed by old scripts that “it wouldn’t be good enough” to honor the legacy of a woman who has shaped my Vincentian heart so profoundly.

So, I went and dug for worms and then I did something that is really hard for me to do. I put out a plea for help. I got Louise de Marillac’s biggest fans together on Microsoft Teams! Over the course of an hour we laughed, cried, clapped, cheered, and we all pulled out our personal copies of the Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac. (Yes, we literally grabbed that book from our shelves before leaving DePaul for quarantine!)

We told 400-year-old stories of Louise that resonated deeply with our current struggle. Louise knew what it was like to live through plagues. Her charisma was born from overcoming her struggles. I forgot that we were connecting over Microsoft Teams and felt real connection. We began to remember the best of who we are, and in so doing, we began to honor our dear Louise. I remembered the power of a small group of women. I began to feel I could carry on.

Louise de Marillac was a woman who empowered other women. She formed a community out of the poorest of the poor, creating home for them. She invited young peasant women from rural France into her personal space. She saw their potential, taught them to read and write, and equipped them to make change in their communities. This kind of hospitality was unprecedented during her time, and because of the community she formed, she created whole new opportunities that had never existed for women in society at the time.

Louise knew community was the only way forward. Her final spiritual testament reminds the Daughters of Charity to “live together in great union and cordiality.” She tells her sisters often to “encourage one another.” The word encourage comes from the Old French encoragier—“make strong, hearten.” It means “to inspire with courage, spirit, hope.” Louise knew what she was asking her community to do was not easy and that they would need each other and courage in their hearts.

Now more than ever, I count on my sacred circles of women, my mama tribes, my colleagues, and my students to encourage me. I need them to remind me that it’s ok to not be ok, that my best is going to look different now, that I am enough, that I am loved even when I’m a mess. Sometimes these messages even come in virtual post-it notes from authors like Brené Brown, who reminds us: “Hitting the wall is real. Hard days suck. There is nothing wrong with us. We’re going to be ok.”  Today, the best way to honor Louise is to do what she did 400 years ago—put courage into one another’s hearts and remember we have each other!