At the Heart of Our Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Invitation With Your Name On It

DePaul staff at Nuevos Vecinos

It has long been a tradition at DePaul to hold service days during which students, faculty, and staff participate in community-based projects all over Chicago. Service is in the DNA of any Vincentian institution, and service days are just one small way in which we live out this commitment.

Every year the Division of Mission and Ministry dedicates a day for faculty and staff to engage in service projects identified by our community partners as a need or priority. On an unseasonably warm Friday afternoon in early February, approximately twenty-five faculty and staff visited four sites in the city to participate in projects as diverse as sorting clothes for newly arrived migrants, organizing emergency supplies in a food pantry, and accompanying those with special needs with their daily chores.

Having spent a few hours at the sites, the group then returned to campus to enjoy a nourishing Chartwells lunch followed by a meaningful conversation with peers, wherein we reflected on the activities of the day, the people we met, and the stories in which we had played a small part. In addition to some deeply poignant moments when we wrestled with existential questions regarding equity and the injustice in our city and our world, participants deepened old friendships and established new ones. Everyone seemed to revel in a moment of joyful appreciation to be part of an institution that prioritizes such engagement. As I scanned the reflection circle at the end of the day, I found myself thinking that Vincent would be very proud.

Afterwards, I thought the day was over as I made my way to the Fullerton El. But it wasn’t.

Upon arriving at the train platform, I was pleasantly surprised to run into a DePaul colleague who had participated in the service day. It was great to see her, and we used our ride together to talk about the activities of the day and to get to know one another on a deeper level. We found that we lived in the same neighborhood, and we had some friends in common. We were also getting off the train at the same stop.

Our journey north had already proved to be a lively one after a couple of surprising events that would not have been out of place in a dynamic novel. But then our train shunted to a slow halt at Wilson, and we stopped moving. After what seemed to be a short eternity, a message started scrolling in neon print on the digital announcement board. It stated that, due to a medical emergency, the train would remain at Wilson until EMTs could arrive. In that same instant, I noticed three CTA staff members huddling together around a passenger, who was sprawled out along the row of seats at the front of the car, seemingly unresponsive.

I found myself unsure of what to do next. However, without missing a beat, my DePaul colleague jumped to her feet and hurriedly approached the CTA staff. She said, “I’d like to help. I’m medically trained. I’d like to see him. I can help.” She crouched down so she could be on the same level as the man. Resolutely, she asked him, “Sir, are you ok? Can you hear me? Can you open your eyes? Don’t worry, we are going to take care of you. The ambulance is coming. You will be okay. I will stay with you.” After checking to see if he was still conscious, she gently touched his hand and stayed close to him the entire time while the emergency services were on their way. She was determined to let him know he wasn’t alone. When the ambulance whisked him away, he was still unresponsive.

Where this passenger went, we do not know. Who he was, we will never know either, but in that moment, the meaning of Vincentian personalism could not have been clearer. This man, who had been on the train for at least forty-five minutes and was seemingly unresponsive for most of that time, had been ignored by his co-passengers. When the ambulance arrived, his condition did not bode well. If someone had intervened earlier, his situation may not have been so dire. Yet my colleague had jumped into action. She had felt called to see how she might help him. It wasn’t the technicalities of her medical training that seemed to be the most important in that moment though. Rather, it was how she accompanied him with care and compassion in his hour of need. Getting down to his level, gently ministering to him with attention and love, and even holding his hand at one point, reminded me of the best of our Vincentian mission.

I had thought that our service ended when we left the service sites earlier that day. Yet watching my colleague respond to a stranger, perhaps in his moment of greatest need, with a kind word and small gestures that demonstrated that he wasn’t alone was perhaps the most profound demonstration of Vincentian personalism that I had witnessed the entire day. I was in awe, and I was reminded of the words of Saint Vincent that we had reflected on at the closing of our service day: “Let’s keep this lamp always lit in our hearts.”[1]

Every day, there are invitations in our life that ask us to focus on what really matters. Sometimes, this may involve reaching out to another in need and taking the risk to step outside our comfort zone and respond with an act of compassion. While we may never know how such an act may be received, if we listen deeply, we may find the courage to trust the truth of our actions and respond.

That day, I had the good fortune of being with someone who didn’t hesitate when she heard that call. I witnessed a small act of great love in that moment, demonstrated by a DePaul colleague whom I had just met.

I am thinking about that formative moment still, and today, I feel moved to share it with you and ask how you are being invited to demonstrate Vincentian personalism.

Reflection Questions

  1. Can you think of a moment when you felt called to respond to a stranger by an act of compassion? How and why did it stay with you?
  2. What act of compassion might you be invited to share at DePaul today that could lighten the load of a colleague? How will you respond?

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

[1] Conference 198, “Seeking the Kingdom of God (Common Rules, Chap. 2, Art. 2),” February 21, 1659, CCD, 12:116. Available online at

Putting People First

Have you ever had this question floating around in your mind during an encounter with another person:

How can I possibly prioritize the person in front of me, when … (you fill in the blank)

… I have so much to do and am already overwhelmed with many other things?

… I’m already late for my next appointment?

… I have a task to complete in meeting an imminent deadline?

… this encounter doesn’t feel as important to me as other things I feel I have to do?

Perhaps such a situation has occurred with a student, with a colleague, or with a person passing on the street. Maybe it’s during the workday on the way to or from a meeting, before or after a class … or maybe a similar situation will occur during an upcoming family holiday event!? I know that many times I have struggled with these types of situations. (And, as a theologian, I might add so were the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan!)

Over and over in my life and work, I continue to re-learn that putting people first may require letting go of my compulsive drive to achieve more, to fast-forward past the present to some ideal future, or to follow some other metric of “success.”

There are many reasons why being present to the person before us can seem difficult or less important than some other tasks we feel must be completed urgently. This hypothetical example may seem quite trivial in relation to the many larger challenges we face. Yet, being present to the other, for the other, and with the other may be the most foundational building block of creating a workplace and a student experience where people feel recognized, valued, and joyful. This is Vincentian personalism in practice, and sometimes it can mess with our plans and timetables.

The way in which we are present to one another has a significant impact on the kind of community we are and thus to our institutional ethos. It impacts the felt experience people have within the DePaul community, whether they feel seen and cared for, and perhaps whether or not they thrive.

Vincent de Paul’s spirituality was what Catholic Christians speak of as “incarnational.” That is, he believed that faith is ultimately made evident in concrete action. Vincent spoke often of virtues, which are essentially the consistent embodiment of our aspirational values. He was skeptical of abstract ideals that did not find their way into lived practice. In fact, what he most revered in the person and life example of Jesus was that Jesus incarnated the presence and love of God. Vincent believed we are called to do the same. Furthermore, he suggested, Providence accompanies us in the process, helping us toward the realization of the mission entrusted to us.

As an institution bearing Vincent de Paul’s name, we are challenged to prioritize people. In our mission statement and in how we go about our life together, we strive to value and affirm the sacred dignity of all in concrete ways. Therefore, the encounters, actions, and decisions that unfold in our life, work, and study are inherently meaningful. Each is an opportunity to put what we most value into practice. Each is an opportunity put people at the center, especially those who may be impacted by our way of being together, our decisions, and our actions. Each can help us to remember that ultimately our work is contributing to a community and society that helps all people thrive.

We are not perfect. Sometimes we fall short. We’re not always ready for the situation. Sometimes our personal habits, practices, or leadership styles must be adapted to better make care for one another possible. Sometimes we lose sight of what’s most important. Or, it may be that some institutional policies, procedures, job descriptions, or goals need to be critically examined and adapted to better enable such care.

Whatever it may be, our Vincentian mission calls us to make the accompaniment and support of people the heart of what we do and how we do it.

Clearly, we will continue to earnestly strive for larger and very important goals, such as greater justice and equity in our society and world, the sustainability of our planet, an end to violence, and the alleviation of poverty. These remain our end goals and larger vision. Yet perhaps what we manage best along the way, amid our daily journey, is that next encounter with the person before us or that next action that may impact other human beings in our care. In these situations, and in your approach to your life and work at DePaul, how do you—how do we—put people first? As an educational institution, isn’t that what we are most about in the end?

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

The Final Word is Love

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”[1] – Dorothy Day

November is a month when people of many cultures and traditions celebrate the lives of those who have died. Recently, you may have noticed the many beautiful “ofrendas” or altars set up throughout our campuses to celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us. Indeed, in the Mexican tradition, the “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead” is a way of affirming the ongoing presence and spirit of one’s ancestors. Furthermore, at the beginning of November, Catholics all over the world designate All Saints and All Souls Days as a time to go to Mass and pray for the souls of the departed and honor their memory.

One of the greatest privileges of my work in the Division of Mission and Ministry is when I accompany a person who has lost a loved one. Sometimes this involves planning a memorial service, often held on Zoom, where colleagues, friends, and family can come together to pay tribute to the life and living memory of the deceased. People often attend these virtual gatherings with cherished photographs in hand, keen to recall poignant stories or offer funny anecdotes. Favorite songs may be shared, as well as an abundance of prayers and poems. In such emotional and reverential moments, we gather to say, “you matter,” “your life matters,” “your loss matters,” and “your pain matters to me and to us.” While no one can take away the brokenness of a grieving heart, we can certainly walk together and support each other when the journey ahead feels daunting and perhaps even impossible to travel alone. Walking together in love is what Vincentian personalism calls us to do. It is the best of DePaul.

There is certainly no one blueprint to help us navigate the meandering journey of grief. Indeed, we must all forge our own journey along this most human of paths. Yet, at DePaul we understand ourselves to be “a community gathered together for the sake of the mission.” We are a place that offers a deep sense of belonging; a place where we “take care DePaul;” and a place of human flourishing. So, what, beyond individual acts of human kindness, might we do as a community to support those who are recently bereaved?

One November, perhaps over a decade ago, such questions prompted the Division of Mission and Ministry to invite our DePaul community to come together in a show of solidarity and support with those who were grieving among us. We called this event the “Gathering of Remembrance” and it has continued ever since. The Gathering, which is a short interfaith service, invites DePaul to pause and make the world stop for the smallest of moments to remember those who have died. It also serves to assure their loved ones that we are here to walk with them as long as the journey of grief may take. During this short service, we read aloud the names of recently deceased loved ones that a DePaul community member has shared with us, and we call these people to mind in prayer. It is a service that is both beautiful and powerful in its simplicity. We remember those who have died. We honor them, and we let our colleagues and DePaul friends know they are not alone in this journey we call life. We walk together in love and that love is demonstrated through community.

On November 16th at 4:30 pm in the Commons, I would like to invite you to join us for this year’s Gathering of Remembrance. In making this invitation, the words of Dorothy Day resonate deeply within my heart, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”

We hope to see you there, but even if you can’t join us, feel free to send any names of your loved one(s) who have died during the last year that you would like us to remember.

If you would like to attend the Gathering of Remembrance click here to RSVP.

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

[1] “The Final Word Is Love,” Dorothy Day, 1 February 1952, at:

Stories of Life Made New

The 1947 French film Monsieur Vincent opens with a striking sequence during which Vincent de Paul arrives at the city of Châtillon to serve as a priest. Châtillon is depicted as a place where the sick and the poor are left to die. Meanwhile, the rich party behind closed doors as the plague sweeps through town. Everyone has seemingly lost faith. People laugh when Vincent tells them he has come to serve as priest, horrified that he intends to assist the poor and the sick most of all. While Vincentian historians may point out the many ways this dramatization conflicts with historical record, it does bear a thematic resemblance to some of the testimonies given by residents during the investigation for the canonization of Vincent after his death.

Although we are fortunate to have many volumes of letters and conferences by Saint Vincent, we are sometimes stymied in our search to better understand details of Vincent’s life. He seems to have been reluctant to talk about himself, especially his past. In his spiritual urging of others, Vincent was often self-deprecating and humble. He was fond of referring to his peasant origins and his childhood tending animals, which was understood to be very humble work. Of course, in many spiritual traditions the work of the shepherd is linked to the tasks of prophets and other servants of the divine. Indeed, in the Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad affirms that in his youth he too served as a humble shepherd and that in fact this is true of all the prophets of God.

In addition to the inherent humility of this occupation, many have written of the important lessons one learns from this type of work in order to “pastor” human persons. In another hadith, or prophetic teaching, Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, is reported to have said, “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for their flock.” A central aspect of the value of personalism embraced at DePaul can be found in this shared human understanding of pastoral responsibility. Margarita Mooney Suarez has described personalism as a “middle way between radical individualism and collective authoritarianism.”[1] In the pastoral wisdom of personalism one may be responsible for a group, whether large or small, but one can only fulfill that responsibility by recognizing the sacred dignity and uniqueness of each of the persons under their care.

The Qur’an calls the attention of the listener to the revival of the earth, which appears dead, with the coming of the rain: “And among His signs is that you see the earth devoid of life, but as soon as We send down rain upon it, it begins to stir ˹to life˺ and swell. Indeed, the One Who revives it can easily revive the dead.”[2] In this and other verses like it, the Qur’an affirms both an everlasting life for the soul after death and the revival of hearts which appear dead. I would argue that in the sacred attention and care that accompanies personalism, one can find not only a revival of individual hearts but of communities that may appear dead or devoid of vibrancy.

This is one lens through which to understand the testimonies of those in Châtillon detailing Monsieur Vincent’s effect over several months in 1617. After someone has a wonderful revival experience it is often difficult to communicate the depth of that to others. When individuals testify to an important life-giving change they often emphasize or even exaggerate the more negative aspects of their prior life. Sometimes this is done to make their story more compelling or dramatic, but just as often it is a desperate attempt to convey just how important and beautiful the change was for them.

Both individually and as an institution, as we continue the process of revival in emerging from the depths of the pandemic and the many other difficulties we have faced, let us embrace sacred attention to all those under our care. Furthermore, let us remember and celebrate the countless sacred acts that carried us through our lowest moments and prepared us for the coming of a new spring.

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

[1] Margarita Mooney Suarez, “Being Human in the Modern World: Why Personalism Matters for Education and Culture,” 25 June 2018, Public Discourse, at:

[2] Quran 41:39.

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/.


Both/And: Vincentian Personalism and Professionalism

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Letter 270, To Bernard Codoing, Superior, in Rome, 6 August 1644, CCD, 2:521. Available at:


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

Vincentian Mission and Management: Walking the Talk   

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

Virtual Event

Register Here

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


Sustaining the Mission

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

Virtual event.

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

Registration: Sustaining the Mission Fall Quarter 2021

Blue Demons and Butterflies

When you see a butterfly fluttering its wings, what comes to mind? For some, possibly the complete metamorphosis from eggs to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult; others might imagine grace and beauty. In the richness of its diverse expressions, nature provides many images of transition and change like the dynamic life of a butterfly. For example, the genus Morpho butterfly includes 29 species and 150 sub-species. Living harmoniously, the size, color, and wingspan of each manifests its unique beauty amid natural diversity. The life and behavior of butterflies teach many lessons if we take time to observe them. Ponder the possibilities.

The royal blue color and dazzling iridescent wings of Morpho butterflies reminds me of the Blue Demons of DePaul University wherein true blue signifies respect, loyalty, and search for truth. As nature is enriched by its diverse expressions, diversity enriches our academic community. When embraced and celebrated, diversity inspires transformation, which butterflies symbolize.

The fleeting, flickering presence of butterflies reveals not only delicate designs but also fragility. Their ongoing fight for survival challenges us to sustain their existence in our world. Created to flourish, human life is also fragile. Human and natural diversity challenges us to live, work, and play together harmoniously—to care for one another, to tend our common home, and to nurture the earth community. Personalism makes that possible.

As a diverse, multi-faith, and inclusive community Vincentian personalism enables us to uphold the dignity of everyone. Respect for each person is foundational. Vincent de Paul taught, “Respect is an expression of the esteem you have for the person you respect…Respect has its source in the understanding because it comes from the knowledge of a person’s worth.”1

We honor one another as Blue Demons and show our Vincentian spirit when we wear DePaul blue on Thursdays or at events. Like the Morpho butterfly with its royal blue robe and fluttering wings, Blue Demons wear blue with pride as their DePaul robe of distinction. Vincent de Paul encouraged his collaborators to “Strive always to have the robe of charity” because that signified love of God and love of neighbor.2 Actions, attitudes, and attentiveness to others express our Vincentian values—the spirit of DePaul.

  1. Just as a caterpillar undergoes change and transformation before spreading its wings as a butterfly, what new attitudes, or behaviors must I develop to appreciate and respect others who do not believe or look like me?
  2. In what ways can I participate in cultural transformation for greater equity and justice for the DePaul community? For the global city of Chicago? For the neighborhood where I live?

1 Conference 96, Cordiality, Respect, and Exclusive Friendships, 2 June 1658, CCD, 10:394. Available at:

2 Conference 93, Mutual Charity and the Duty for Reconciliation, 4 March 1658, CCD, 10:379.


Reflection by:    Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., Vincentian Scholar-in-Residence, Mission & Ministry

Turning the Coin

In his 2001 article, “People of the Scarred Coin,” Tom McKenna, C.M., explores Vincent de Paul’s understanding of human dignity. McKenna suggests that if Vincent were asked “why help this disheveled old man?” he would have replied “because you’ve seen through to the other side of the coin.”1 Vincent describes an ordinary, bent, scarred coin that lies on the ground and is ignored by those walking past it. He is drawing a parallel to the way that some walk past or ignore those on the margins in their lives. Some may see a homeless woman on the street and ignore her because of how she looks. Some may hear a man asking for change but pretend to not hear him.

When asked again, “why treat that common nobody on the ground as if he is somebody?” Vincent instructed, “I must not judge a poor peasant man or woman by their appearance or their apparent intelligence […] but turn the medal [coin], and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, who willed to be poor, is represented to us by these poor people.”2

Sometimes a person’s appearance or personality clashes with our view of the world. Vincent de Paul challenges us to not walk past the homeless woman on the street or ignore the man asking for change. As Vincentians, we are invited to see the dignity inherent in every single person we meet. As Vincentians, we are called to see through to the other side of the coin.

When thinking about your experiences with those on the margins, how have you seen through to the other side of the coin? What are some of the obstacles that prevent you from “turning the coin?”

1) Thomas McKenna, C.M., S.T.D., “People of the Scarred Coin,” Vincentian Heritage 22:2 (2001), 205. See:

2) Conference 19, The Spirit of Faith, CCD, 11:26.

Reflection by: Michael Van Dorpe, Program Manager for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Mission & Ministry


This past Saturday, October 10, was World Homeless Day. This week, the Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) will be sharing more about their efforts to end street homelessness throughout the world.

Save the Date: October 21st, 8 a.m. CST. Join IGH and United Nations Habitat for an event featuring international youth activists and a rousing discussion on “Leave No One Behind: Ending Youth Global Homelessness in the Decade of Action.” Follow IGH on Facebook and/or Twitter for event updates and registration links.

Connecting Charity with Justice

Responses to injustice based only on charity may readily be maligned for not addressing the systemic issues that cause suffering to be perpetuated; yet, properly understood, charity should be seen as an essential part of transformative action and as the vital relational and affective dimension of justice. The word charity derives from the Latin, caritas, and can be better understood as a generous and self-giving love. It reflects an understanding of love as a sustained virtue and not as a fickle or thoughtless passion.

Frédéric Ozanam, influential lay leader and founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, understood that acts of charity enabled insight into the plight of the poor and oppressed, and facilitated more substantive and transformative social change. His beliefs resonate with those of Vincent de Paul and others within the Vincentian tradition. Ozanam emphasized personal relationships as fundamental to both affective and effective social action and transformative service. This Vincentian personalism, as we have come to know it, recognizes the unique circumstances of individual people, while concurrently working toward broader, systemic change. Ozanam’s words on the power of experience help us understand this piece of Vincentian wisdom:

The knowledge of social well-being and reform is to be learned, not from books, nor from the public platform, but in climbing the stairs to the poor’s man garret, sitting by his bedside, feeling the same cold that pierces him, sharing the secret of his lonely heart and troubled mind. When the conditions of the poor have been examined, in school, at work, in hospital, in the city, in the country… it is then and then only, that we know the elements of that formidable problem, that we begin to grasp it and may hope to solve it.[1]

As you consider social issues that must be addressed in our time, how do you maintain a personalism consistent with our Vincentian mission? That is, how can you better recognize and respond to the unique personal circumstances of those affected, while also working at the same time for systemic change that addresses the root causes of their suffering?

How might this Vincentian approach apply given the context of your work in higher education? How might DePaul University better reflect such a way of being?

1) Raymond L. Sickinger, “Frédéric Ozanam: Systemic Thinking, and Systemic Change,” Vincentian Heritage 32:1 (2014), 8. Free to download at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vhj/‌vol32/‌iss1/4/


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


DePaul’s former Clifton-Fullerton Hall was renamed Ozanam Hall this past summer. See the Newsline Article from July 23, 2020 for more information.