Struck by Beauty

 

What can compare to the beauty of God, who is the source of all the beauty and perfection of creatures? Is it not from God that the flowers, birds, the stars, the moon, and the sun derive their luster and beauty?[1]     —Vincent de Paul

 

On a recent November weekday morning, I was going through my usual routine, frantically hustling around my apartment, trying to get myself together and then out the door and into work. Back and forth from bathroom to bedroom to kitchen, collecting what I needed for my day—notebook, lunch bag, workout clothes, keys, phone, wallet. As I was just about ready to depart, I glanced at the clock and thought, If I run down the stairs and speed walk to the train, I just might have a chance to make it to the office reasonably on time.

All of a sudden, while I was shoving my laptop into my backpack, something made me pause and look up and out my third-floor bedroom window. As I think back to that moment now, it is surprising to me how much a mind is able to take in in just a split second. Outside of my apartment, the sun was bright and the air was clear. The leaves on the trees were translucent shades of orange and gold and were so close to the windowpane that I could almost make out the veins on each leaf. Through the branches and around the trees, below and across the street, the familiar trio of well-maintained Victorian homes were so vivid to me that I could see clearly the autumn wreaths that hung on their front doors and the mum plants that sat on their broad porch stairs. At that moment, standing in my bedroom and taking in the scene on the other side of my window, I was conscious that the world outside—the world that I was about to enter—was beautiful and inviting.

No sooner had that realization made itself known to me than a very slight breeze passed through the trees outside. In response, multitudes of leaves detached from their branches and began falling gracefully to the ground below. Then, as spontaneously as it began, the gentle rustling of the leaves ended.

The breeze had been natural, even predictable, and the falling leaves had had a beauty uniquely their own. Yet, in that moment, the feelings of joy and awe that had just welled up inside of me were pushed aside by something else. A different, surprising feeling rose up. I felt a sense of loss.

When I finally left my apartment a few minutes later, I continued mulling over the experience I had just had. Its sensations had seemed so much bigger and more profound than the simple moment called for.

Most of us learn, from witness or experience, that our lives, blessed and privileged as they may be, will contain some portion of sadness and pain. Sorrow tempers joy. Abundance and scarcity coexist. Light gives way to darkness. The truth is that these can be cold and bitter realities. The simple shedding of a leaf from a tree is nothing compared to the real suffering and loss taking place in the world.

But, as challenging and fearsome as these experiences are, they do hold potential for something good, for the growth of compassion and empathy and the strengthening of faith and resilience. The writer Kahlil Gibran put it this way: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”[2]

Vincent and Louise knew something of both the joys and sorrows in our world.  DePaul’s Vincentian mission reflects this in our commitment to peace, justice, and equity and to upholding the dignity of all especially the underserved and underrepresented. We, the Vincentians of today, need to be reminded of these commitments and values, whether those reminders come from the words in our mission statement or from a chance encounter with the world’s beauty and brokenness through our window.

INVITATION FOR REFLECTION:

  • Can you recall a time when you were struck by beauty or joy around you? What was this like for you?
  • Has there been an experience in your life at DePaul, or elsewhere, that has been challenging for you but that has also provided you with a gift or has helped you become a more compassionate person?

Take a moment to honor the gifts that you took from your experiences.


REFLECTION BY:  Tom Judge, Chaplain, Mission and Ministry

[1] Document 43, “Reflections on the Beauty of God,” n.d., CCD, 13a:160.

[2] Kahlil Gibran, On Joy and Sorrow, from The Prophet, p 28(New York: Knopf, 1923).

Our Mission Needs a Community

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

I have been thinking a lot lately about communitywhat it means, what it looks like, and why it is so essential to us as human beings and as a university, especially in our current context. Looking back on past Mission Monday reflections, it is clearly not the first time I have felt this to be important to identify as an essential focus for an organization like ours that seeks to embody the Vincentian name.

Yet, there are many reasons for the need to re-emphasize the importance of community at this time:

  • the ongoing changes we are moving through as a university community, including the loss of many longtime friends and colleagues;
  • the marked increase in colleagues working from home since the pandemic;
  • the concurrent loss of regular face-to-face interactions in common spaces;
  • the larger cultural divisions and inequities in our society that only linger if not addressed directly;
  • the growing tendency among many to connect with each other and to learn only or primarily via computer or smartphone; and
  • recent public reporting on the rise and deleterious impact of loneliness in U.S. society.

Each of these changes—and there are clearly others—has recently had drastic effects on workplace norms and workplace culture within the patterns of our lives and relationships at DePaul.

Perhaps this draw to focus again on the importance of community also simply reflects my own experience and ongoing hunger for human connection, to feel a sense of belonging, and to participate in something more beyond the daily tasks of my individual work.

Regardless of the source of my musings, I am certain I am not alone. The experience of being part of a community is important for the well-being of humanity and for the flourishing of our workplaces, including and especially our university. Furthermore, here at DePaul, many rightly appreciate the experience of community as being “very Vincentian.”

In fact, how we sustain and continue to build a vibrant communal life is one of the vital, open questions facing us today. Over my eighteen years at DePaul, I believe the intentional work and effort of building community, and the need for it, has never been more important and more at risk. As we look ahead to the summer and the coming academic year, it is essential that we continue to weave and re-weave with great intention and care the fabric of our communal life if our Vincentian mission is to be effective and sustained over time.

I am fond of imagining Vincent de Paul in Folleville, France, in 1617 and what must have been going through his mind at that time. Based on his own retrospective reflections, that particular year and place seemed to represent an important moment in his life, a moment when, with the help of Madame de Gondi, Vincent arrived at a clearer vision of his own calling and the mission that God had entrusted to him.

The year 1617 was the final feather falling on the scales that tipped the orientation of Vincent’s life in a markedly different way. The upwardly mobile and aspirational priest, often rubbing elbows with the rich and powerful, began to focus his energies more and more toward a mission of service to and with society’s poor and marginalized for the remainder of his life. What he realized at that same time is that the mission God had entrusted to him was much bigger than he alone could fulfill. He needed others. In fact, Vincent’s effectiveness grew largely through the work of inspiring and organizing others to work in common to fulfill a shared mission. From the beginning, the Vincentian mission has been a collaborative and communal enterprise.

Simple in its genius, Vincent’s efforts anticipated current day organizational management insights by 400 years. The contemporary organizational and business writer and consultant Christine Porath, for example, has written extensively on how community is the key to companies moving from merely surviving to thriving together.[2] Simply put, her research suggests that when people experience a strong sense of community and belonging at work, they are more engaged, effective, healthy, and creative. This, in turn, leads to positive business outcomes. Many other organizational and business leaders have come to similar conclusions. It turns out that how we relate to each other as a community in the workplace, in fact, matters a great deal.

At DePaul, we speak often of being “a community gathered together for the sake of the mission.” We recognize and must remember that we need each other to thrive. Faculty, staff, administration, students, board members, alumni and donors work together effectively for a shared mission. Furthermore, as Vincent de Paul suggests, we each benefit from the good done by all. At our best, when we are flourishing as a community, we help, encourage, care for, collaborate with, and inspire one another. There is an energizing and vibrant unity that comes in our diversity—the unity of a shared mission to which each person contributes a part. This occurs only through ongoing intentionality and thoughtful daily interactions and efforts to build and sustain healthy and vibrant relationships with one another.

As we move into the summer months, through the many changes we are facing together, and into the new academic year this fall—this is your charge: How will you contribute to sustaining and building a vibrant and healthy sense of community together with your DePaul colleagues?

Submit your own recommendations as a response to this blog post or follow our Mission and Ministry LinkedIn group, which we will begin to use more often in the future as a place to share reflections on the workplace in light of anticipated changes with DePaul Newsline in the summer and the coming year. Perhaps by the time a new academic year begins, we can initiate some new efforts to weave or re-weave the fabric of our communal life and work intentionally toward thriving as “a community gathered together for the sake of the mission,” just as Vincent de Paul first envisioned.


Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate VP, 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/.

[2] See: Christine Porath, Mastering Community: The Surprising Ways Coming Together Moves us from Surviving to Thriving (New York: Balance Books, 2022); and C.M. Pearson and C.L. Porath, The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It (New York: Portfolio, 2009).

Designing a DePaul with Heart

In the coming weeks, our DePaul community will continue to engage in the current strategic design process and consider the short and long-term future of our beloved institution. This is likely to include seeing, hearing about, and sharing together in many challenging conversations as we manage the implications of the recent announcement about the budget challenges and the headwinds the university is facing.

At this time in our history, it is as important as ever to center our thinking and collective conversations about budgets, departments, programs, and services around our DePaul University mission. In the light of this mission and amid our current budgetary tensions and constraints, as well as our aspirational hopes and dreams, we are challenged to thoughtfully discern and intentionally decide what is and will remain fundamental to who we are and who we believe we are called to become as a Catholic, Vincentian institution of higher education. This call is perhaps never more important than in times of political and economic adversity. What must be done? We must integrate conscious attention to equity, sustainability and community into our design and decision-making processes.

We share these thoughts as an interdisciplinary group of faculty members across all ten colleges who have spent the last year as part of the pilot Vincentian Pedagogy Project. Together, we have collectively learned, reflected upon, and discussed the ways in which our Vincentian mission might inform and inspire our practice of teaching.

We have concluded that how we enact mission in our classrooms needs to remain central to our collective conversations. While there are some things that we cannot control at the university, the work of teaching and learning is uniquely ours. What we do in the classroom, how we think about educational outcomes, and how we shape educational processes with our students lie at the heart of who we are and what we do as an institution of higher learning. Our pedagogical commitments are a concrete reflection of how we understand and practice our Vincentian mission.

In the pedagogy group’s shared reflections over the past year, we have become more conscious of how our teaching most commonly reflects what we value and how systems produce the outcomes that they have been designed to produce. Therefore, we believe it is particularly important for us to ask: what is the institutional and educational vision toward which we are working? Who do we, as educators, need to become if we are to achieve this vision? What must we do in the classroom and in our work with students to achieve this vision?

How we think about the education we deliver matters. Becoming more conscious and intentional about the way our systems and educational processes are structured—both visibly and invisibly, whether consciously or unconsciously—is an essential part of the process of effective design and shapes how decisions are made. If our mission is to have integrity, the means must reflect the end that we seek. In other words, our pedagogy must reflect the educational outcomes to which we aspire.

After four lengthy and in-depth conversations together this academic year, our shared wisdom about what a Vincentian pedagogy entails has moved us to the common recognition that most fundamentally our teaching is and must remain motivated by a mission far bigger than our own individual disciplines. As people inspired by the intuition and spirit of Vincent de Paul, we advocate for delivering an education not only focused on developing professional competence, but also the formation of people with hearts for those in need. We must develop their skill and capacity to work collaboratively with a wide diversity of others toward a more just, equitable and sustainable society and planet. In short, we teach with and for social and environmental thriving.

Significantly, recent major international conversations about education, such as those led by the Catholic Church and the United Nations, have moved more and more toward a focus on equity and sustainability as central to the work of education. They suggest that through education we build together the future of our humanity. This means cultivating a spirit of community, solidarity, compassion, and care for one another and a deep appreciation for the dignity of all people, particularly those who are marginalized and abandoned.

An important part of what is needed to achieve such a vision of education both globally and locally is nurturing the habit of living and learning in a communal context. In the current age, therefore, our pedagogy must involve inviting the wisdom, perspective, and participation of those we seek to teach, as well as fostering critical self-reflection and self-examination in our students. Doing so involves a certain degree of vulnerability, including the willingness and ability of teachers to model what they teach. This involves being self-aware and reflecting on the ways in which our beliefs and practices, our use of power, and the responsibilities entrusted to us either help or hurt movement toward our stated educational vision and goals.

What does all of this have to do with the current institutional context?

First, we hope that the decisions of members across the university community, including those of our institutional leaders, will be guided by clearly stated mission-related values. Transparent communication about the vision and direction in which we are seeking to move benefits all. A high level of self-awareness and self-scrutiny is needed if we are to hold true to our values and not replicate the harms so prevalent in the patterns present in our broader society. Again, the means must reflect the ends to which we aspire.

Second, sound decisions most often involve the collective wisdom of the broader community. When we move and decide independently of consideration for the larger whole, the community to which we belong and seek to serve, we are more likely to forget who we are. The community holds us accountable to what we most value. We hope to see this appreciation of communal wisdom evident through the participation of a diverse community of DePaul faculty, staff, and students in the Designing DePaul process.

Third, we must continue to work intentionally to develop the systems and to cultivate with care the kind of community-of-persons that will most help us achieve the mission to which we aspire. Communities are not built by happenstance, but through careful attention and care for each other.

DePaul University, with our distinctive Catholic and Vincentian mission, is well positioned to contribute meaningfully to a new humanity through our approaches to pedagogy and leadership. Our mission calls us to model and support the development of competent and skilled teachers and leaders with a heart. By intention, the education we provide and the leadership we exhibit should clearly reveal our commitment and desire to work together with others in our rapidly changing, complex, and diverse world and toward the goal of a more just, equitable, and sustainable human community and planet. In these times, and especially in the midst of our current challenges, let us move with intention toward this hope in the service of our mission.


Reflection by:    The Vincentian Pedagogy Project Pilot Group

Christopher Tirres, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, co-lead faculty facilitator
Jacki Kelly-McHale, School of Music, co-lead faculty facilitator
Sarah Brown, Center for Teaching and Learning
Doug Bruce, College of Science and Health
Susanne Dumbleton, School of Continuing and Professional Studies
Elissa Foster, College of Communication
Sharon Guan, Center for Teaching and Learning
Horace Hall, College of Education
Jaclyn Jensen, College of Business
Mark Laboe, Associate VP, Mission and Ministry
Sheryl Overmyer, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Coya Paz Brownrigg, Theatre School
Mark Potosnak, College of Science and Health
Howard Rosing, Steans Center
Ann Russo, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Allison Tirres, College of Law
Allen Turner, College of Computing and Digital Media
Chris Worthman, College of Education

 

Quality is (also) our Mission

Near the top of the list for the most frequently referenced quotes from Vincent de Paul is: “It is not enough to do good, it must be done well ….”[1] Today, we take this quote at face value to mean that merely seeking to “do good” is not enough; rather, we must also make sure that we are doing it at the highest level of quality and in a way that is effective and sustainable. Often, we tie this particular quote to the notion of Vincentian professionalism, and the need to work toward continuous improvement in the services we deliver and the way we function together as a community.

The quote itself comes from a conference that Vincent gave to the Congregation of the Mission in 1657. Besides referring to the example and spirit of Jesus, as Vincent often does, he speaks of attending to the quality of who we are and what we do. He points out the ripple effect of our actions, both in the present and for the future, recognizing that what we do in the present impacts life for many who follow us far into the future. In this case, then, Vincent’s focus on the quality of what we do encourages us to build the future on a solid foundation so that those who follow will benefit from the good work we do today. As Vincent says, “The good they’ll do depends in a certain sense on the good we practice!”[2]

The COVID pandemic certainly accelerated changes in the delivery of higher education and in the workplace here at DePaul and globally. While DePaul’s mission has not changed, our current context challenges us to be more intentional about the way we work and teach to provide the highest quality education and service to students, as well as to remain a vibrant workplace and a flourishing community. How can our mission continue to serve to guide these changes in the face of this changing reality to maintain the highest quality in all we do?

When we speak of our Vincentian mission, we are occasionally speaking simultaneously at several different levels. At any given point, our focus may be the why, the what, the how, or the who of our mission. Sometimes, the subtle difference between these dimensions can cause confusion or make it challenging to reach decisions or take actions that all understand to be “grounded in mission,” regardless of their place in the university community.

A robust understanding of our mission involves attention to all four dimensions. Each plays an important role in solidifying a foundation for both present and future success. We stay connected to the deeper purpose behind what we do (the why). We clarify through a mission lens what we are called to do (or not do). We perform our duties and actions with the spirit of personalism, generosity, and service that we understand as central to the how of our mission. We do so in the context of an actively and intentionally inclusive and welcoming community (the who), one that invites ongoing mindfulness, learning, and growth and that always asks, “Who is being left out?”; “Whose voice is not being heard?”; or “Who does not have access?”

Through all the changes we have faced and will continue to face in the days ahead, the quality of what we do remains fundamental to the success of our Vincentian mission. As mission guides our decisions and actions, we seek at the same time for our shared work to be effective and sustainable. At DePaul, our mission and quality are not at odds with one another; instead, they are intricately connected and necessarily rise and fall together.

Reflection Questions:

How might our desire to do what we do well while staying connected to our mission continue to shape the decisions we make about the education we deliver; our daily work life; and our communal practices, norms, and policies?

How do each of the different dimensions of our mission (why, what, how, and who) offer different insights into what “doing all we do with the highest quality” requires?


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

[1] Conference 177, Repetition of Prayer, 25 November 1657, CCD, 11:389. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌‌depaul.edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/37/.

[2] Ibid., 11:390.

What is Vincentian Hospitality?

Last week, DePaul University’s new president, Rob Manuel, shared a message in honor of the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul. He detailed the concepts of radical hospitality and service as deeply connected to the spirit and life example of Vincent de Paul, an ongoing inspiration for us today. While the connection between mission and service is familiar to most at DePaul, in subsequent conversations I observed that the idea of radical hospitality was new to many. This was especially true in articulating the present day meaning of DePaul’s Vincentian mission. The concept of such hospitality, however, has deep roots in our Vincentian heritage and is rooted in the life example and testimony of Vincent de Paul. There is great spiritual depth to the practice and experience of radical hospitality, particularly when considering our mission.

A common Vincentian story told at DePaul is often referred to as the story of the white tablecloth. In the foundational documents and rules established for the Confraternity in Châtillon-les-Dombes in 1617, Vincent de Paul explained the careful attention necessary when seeking to serve those in need. He recommended that missioners lay out a white cloth before serving food to a person in need, and that they engage in kind and cheerful conversation to better understand the context of that person’s story.(1) The attentive care communicated through gestures such as these reflect a recognition of the sacred dignity of those being served, as well as the essential relational dimension of human interaction, breaking down the distinction between “us” and “them.”

When Vincent established the Congregation of the Mission, he recognized the importance of establishing “a community gathered for the sake of the mission.” This community would not be based upon individual action, it would be built on the collective interdependence of those sharing a common purpose. Vincent took this further in establishing the Daughters of Charity alongside Louise de Marillac. Louise invited young peasant women into her personal space and formed a community. She recognized their potential and taught them to read and write, equipping them to be catalysts of change in their communities. Such hospitality was unprecedented at the time. Louise created entirely new opportunities that did not exist previously for women in society. With Vincent she shaped an intergenerational community, gathering women across all boundaries of social class. The Daughters believed that the “streets are our chapel,” and they continue to carry a spirit of personalism, openness, and hospitality outward, wherever they go.

In 2016, a special edition of the journal Vincentian Heritage was devoted to the theme of hospitality. It was inspired by our Vincentian spirit, so urgently needed in today’s world. The articles in this virtual compendium of Vincentian hospitality contain many insights on the transformative power of the practice of possibility.

The preface describes Vincent de Paul as a “hospitality practitioner” due to his desire to serve and care for others in the way that is best for them.(2) Subsequent articles further develop the theme through the lens of Vincentian tradition, emphasizing hospitality as a “sacred” experience that reflects the very nature of God. Vincent and Louise’s attention to the quality of the services they provided is singled out as a reflection of their deep, faith-based commitment to offering the best care possible to others, particularly those that society forgot or diminished.(3) An encounter of hospitality as a transformational event is highlighted “because we are engaging in new relations and opening ourselves to deep change.” In the process of encountering others, we must simultaneously address the harmful or unjust structures that get in the way of the effective care that hospitality demands.(4) Cultivating friendships and learning to listen deeply to oneself and the needs of others in the manner of Vincent de Paul is emphasized, as is the practice of hospitality to students of all faith traditions. We must recognize the importance of our words and actions in welcoming and caring for students, and in helping them to feel at home.(5) The intentional practice of hospitality, and how it effectively passes on the Vincentian mission and charism in the relational encounter between students and community partners, is also detailed.(6) Vincentian hospitality has been successfully used to address some of today’s most pressing societal issues.(7) Other articles discuss Vincent’s attentive care and concern for the sick and indigent, prisoners, and foreign migrants, and all those whom society tends to marginalize.(8) This edition truly illustrates how the practice of hospitality can serve as a catalyst for both inner and outer transformation.

Interestingly, an earlier Vincentian Heritage article by Sioban Albiol in DePaul’s College of Law points out that Vincent was himself a migrant and therefore he maintained a special concern for foreigners. This was reflected in the hospitality he provided to others.(9) The article states:

Saint Vincent de Paul must have felt the blessing and the pain of migration in his own life. Like so many economic refugees, at some personal cost to himself and his family. His father’s selling of two oxen to finance Saint Vincent’s studies is recounted by several authors. He left his home in order to pursue educational opportunity and economic security that could not be found in his place of birth. The land where he was born would have provided a bare existence.(10)

Vincent’s frequent reflection upon and practice of charity connects closely to the concept of hospitality. While today charity may sound soft and ineffective in the face of large, structured inequities, it also might be understood as the critical affective and relational dimension to justice. In fact, Vincent’s emphasis on charity was about action and generativity beyond the surface level.(11) Vincent advised his followers that charity involved the willingness to endure risks for the sake of offering hospitality to those in need: “If you grant asylum to so many refugees, your house may be sacked sooner by soldiers; I see that clearly. The question is, however, whether, because of this danger, you should refuse to practice such a beautiful virtue as charity.”(12) Enduring risks and vulnerability means extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone for the sake of others. Vincent’s charity, and his personal transformation over time, began by responding to the needs of those in front of him. He saw it as a virtue and an imperative of his Christian faith to be approachable.(13)

The resources above may help to shape a distinctive Vincentian hospitality vitally integral to sustaining and energizing the daily practice of our mission as we engage students, colleagues, community partners, and guests and visitors within our DePaul campus and community. However, in the spirit of Vincent de Paul, we will only learn radical hospitality and understand its profound meaning through concrete actions and experiences.

How might a radical Vincentian hospitality become concrete and real in our day-to-day interactions and encounters?

How might the practice of hospitality lead to both inner and outer transformation—within us and within the communities of which we are a part?


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

1) See Document 126, Charity of Women, (Châtillon-Les-Dombes), 1617, CCD, 13b:13; and Document 130, Charity of Women, (Montmirail – II), CCD, 13b:40. At: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian‌_ebooks/‌38/.

2) Thomas A. Maier, Ph.D. “Preface: The Nature and Necessity of Hospitality,” Vincentian Heritage 33:1 (2016), available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/1.

3) Thomas A. Maier, Ph.D., and Marco Tavanti, Ph.D., “Introduction: Sacred Hospitality Leadership: Values Centered Perspectives and Practices,” Ibid., at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/2.

4) Ibid, p. 5.

5) Annelle Fitzpatrick, C.S.J., Ph.D., “Hospitality on a Vincentian Campus: Welcoming the Stranger Outside our Tent,” Ibid., at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/9.

6) Joyana Dvorak, “Cultivating Interior Hospitality: Passing the Vincentian Legacy through Immersion,” Ibid., at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/16.

7) J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., Ph.D., “Hospitality in the Manner of St. Vincent de Paul,” Ibid., at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/12.

8) See John E. Rybolt, C.M., Ph.D., “Vincent de Paul and Hospitality,” Ibid., at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vhj/‌vol33/iss1/5; John M. Conry, “Reflections from the Road: Vincentian Hospitality Principles in Healthcare Education for the Indigent,” Ibid., at: http://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/14.

9) Siobhan Albiol, J.D., “Meeting Saint Vincent’s Challenge in Providing Assistance to the Foreign-Born Poor: Applying the Lessons to the Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic,” Vincentian Heritage 28:2 (2010), at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol28/iss2/20/.

10) Ibid., p. 282.

11) Conference 207, Charity (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 12), 30 May 1659, CCD, 12:223, at: https://‌via.‌‌library.‌depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/36/.

12) Letter 1678, Vincent de Paul to Louis Champion, Superior, In Montmirail, November 1653, CCD, 5:49, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/30/.

13) See Robert Maloney, C.M., “The Way of Vincent de Paul: Five Characteristic Virtues,” Via Sapientiae, (DePaul University, 1991), at: Five Characteristic Virtues; also Edward R. Udovic, C.M., Ph.D., “‘Our good will and honest efforts.’ Vincentian Perspectives on Poverty Reduction Efforts,” Vincentian Heritage 28:2, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol28/iss2/5.

Committing to a Mission beyond Ourselves

I recently had the good fortune of accompanying leaders from DePaul, St. John’s, and Niagara, the three American Vincentian universities, to France for a Vincentian Heritage tour. The trip was a culmination of their COVID-extended participation in the Vincentian Mission Institute program, and it was the first Heritage tour involving DePaul faculty and staff since 2019.

The trip gave me an opportunity to reflect more intentionally and vividly on Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Frédéric Ozanam, and others in the Vincentian Family over the past 400+ years and their relationship to our current work at DePaul University. There were many striking insights for me during the experience, often connected to a deepened appreciation for the enduring legacy of Vincent de Paul, the “Lazarists” (Vincentians), and the Daughters of Charity throughout much of France. Certainly, the many churches we visited in Paris and beyond display numerous images, statues, paintings, and plaques that commemorate Vincent and his impact. Yet Vincent’s visible and sustained presence clearly goes beyond church walls. His life and work as a priest had a broader effect on French society, and he even gained the respect of the antireligious revolutionaries of the eighteenth century. He was a public religious figure whose service rippled outward to the peripheries of society where the poor and otherwise forgotten dwelled.

The trip to Vincent’s birthplace in Dax and to the site of his university education in Toulouse invited reflection on his young adult development and early priesthood. We saw the important site of Folleville, on the former lands of the de Gondi family, where Vincent had a transformative experience, where we frequently imagine Madame de Gondi posing the memorable “Vincentian question.” We remembered the foundation of the enduring model of the Confraternities of Charity when visiting Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne. And we walked through the streets of Paris to places that touched on the memory of Frédéric Ozanam and the founding of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Moreover, it seemed everywhere we went, we found the continued presence and the historical echoes of the Daughters of Charity, including Louise, Catherine Labouré, and Rosalie Rendu.

So, why does all this history still matter so much to us now? Why would we spend extended time in present-day France walking in the footsteps of the founders of the Vincentian tradition?

What ultimately matters in this exploration of our history is that we become inspired to carry on the Vincentian legacy in concrete ways through our lives and work today because, quite simply, our world still desperately needs it. Our Vincentian mission is as compelling now as it was 400 years ago: to sustain and enliven a community of people dedicated to service, charity, justice, and a purpose beyond themselves.

For generations now, Vincent, Louise, Frédéric, and others in the Vincentian Family have asked what it would mean for us to orient our time, our efforts, our intentions, and our vision more radically around the values reflected in the Jesus of the Gospels. Their enduring legacy reflects their response to this question.

Regardless of our religious convictions or the nature of our work, the legacy of Vincent, Louise, and the Vincentian Family invites each of us to ask:

  • How might we orient our lives so that our life and work manifest the generosity, service, and care for others reflected in the living spirit of our Vincentian predecessors?
  • What can we put in place that will outlast us, that will endure for the betterment of the common good?
  • How can we build and inspire the community of people that is DePaul University to be focused on this mission together, and in so doing, to address the larger societal needs of today?

Like those of our predecessors, may our responses to these questions be proclaimed through our actions.


Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Assoc. VP for 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.

What’s your DePaul origin story?

Tomorrow, January 25, is Foundation Day! So … what is that? It’s a day Vincentians around the world celebrate one of the community’s key origin stories. Everyone has an origin story—not just comic book superheroes, or even saints. They are moments where the line between before and after becomes very clear. Foundational stories help frame and contextualize our lives and give us resources to understand and overcome whatever current challenges we face.

Take our own hero, Saint Vincent de Paul. Several well-known experiences formed who Vincent became—and the legacy that we still live out today. One was in a small village named Folleville in France. At the time, Vincent was a priest accompanying his incredibly wealthy benefactor Madame de Gondi on a tour of her lands (we are talking, “I have a family castle up the road” wealthy). Vincent, though of course concerned with the welfare of the poor, was not yet the driven saint that we know today. He saw joining the priesthood as the surest way of enjoying the finer things in life. His experiences at Folleville were about to change all that.

In January 1617, while staying at said family castle, Vincent received a message that a sick peasant desperately wanted to see him. When Vincent arrived, he discovered that the man was dying, and he proceeded to take his last confession. After a lengthy conversation—that seemed to be grounded in what we might call mutuality today—both men found joy in unburdening themselves to each other. This cathartic experience shook Vincent to his core, so much so that he brought “I have a castle” Madame de Gondi to the peasant’s small hut to talk with him. This transformed her as well, and a mission began that was centered on the question, “what must be done?” In retrospect, Vincent looked back on the sermon he gave about this experience on January 25, 1617, as the formation of the Congregation of the Mission—an institution through which we find our own origin and mission as a university.

Foundation Day is the story of when Saint Vincent really understood what his mission was and what questions he should be asking and answering. His formative experience with the peasant not only inspired internal reflections but drove him to action—and it has inspired the actions of many others over the past four centuries.

What is your DePaul origin story? When was the moment you really understood how you needed to live and what you needed to do … or what DePaul’s mission was all about? Which person or people helped you to really see how your work contributes to DePaul’s (or the Vincentian) mission? What experiences opened your eyes to “what must be done?” Whatever your answers, these are now a part of your foundational story.


Reflection by: Alex Perry, Program Manager for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

 

Foundation Day Celebration

Tuesday, January 25, 11:00 – 1:30pm

LPC Student Center Atrium & Loop DePaul Center, 11th Floor

Join Mission & Ministry to celebrate the 405th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Mission. Stop by for a snack and take a moment to reflect on how you carry out the Vincentian legacy at DePaul.

DePaul SOCK DRIVE

Monday, January 24th – Friday January 28th

Further celebrate Vincentian Foundation Day through action!  Join us as we partner with the Wool Gathering Project to collect socks for those who need them this winter to stay warm.  Just get a brand new pair of socks of any kind and drop them off at the bins at any of the following locations sometime this week:

11th Floor DePaul Center, Loop Campus, Near #11010

1st Floor Student Center, Near the CCM Office on the West End.

The Theatre School, Near 1st floor Elevators

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

 

The Enduring Spirit of DePaul’s Mission

“Let’s take renewed resolutions to acquire this spirit, which is our spirit; for the spirit of the mission is a spirit of simplicity, humility, gentleness, mortification, and zeal. Do we have it or don’t we?”[1]

In 1659, Vincent invited his community to reflect upon the distinguishing characteristics, core values, and commitments of the Vincentian mission and to recommit to the essence of its spirit. Vincent understood the importance of reflecting on our actions to inform our understanding of the present, as well as to better craft the evolving future.

The seeds of DePaul’s mission were planted in seventeenth-century France and our heritage begins there. Yet, to paraphrase Vincent, even in these early days he challenged his community to discern “do we have the Vincentian Spirit or don’t we?”

Today, centuries later, each of us is invited to reflect upon similar questions. In what ways is the Vincentian Spirit manifest in our work and community? Where is it lacking? How are we interpreting the spirit of the mission for the reality of DePaul University’s present and the reality of its tomorrow?

In 2020-2021, for the first time in 35 years, DePaul engaged 600 community members in a ten-month-long participatory process to reflect upon who we are and whom we dream of becoming. Our updated mission statement is the result of this inclusive and communal process. Drawing on the same spirit as Vincent, it expresses the university’s current reality, reflects our shared values, and articulates our evolving hopes and common dreams.

Over the next seven days, we invite you to participate in the annual St. Vincent de Paul Heritage Week. In attending one or more of an array of mission-focused events, you will have the opportunity to celebrate our Vincentian Heritage, reflect upon the mission in today’s context, and examine its dynamic, unfolding meaning at both a personal and professional level.

We look forward to welcoming you and celebrating at one or more of these events. Registration information for the week can be found here.


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

[1] Conference 211, The Five Characteristic Virtues (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 14), 22 August 1659, CCD, 12:251.