Authenticity: Invitation for Graduating Seniors

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/27/.

 

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

Vincentian Mission and Management: Walking the Talk   

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

Virtual Event

Register Here

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

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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

The Soul of Good Leadership

“When I said that you must be unwavering as to the end and gentle as to the means, I am describing to you the soul of good leadership.”  Vincent de Paul (CCD, 2:403)

Checklists, systems, and metrics can serve important purposes in ensuring the consistency and effectiveness of our performance. However, if we consider the “soul” of good leadership, we recognize that these things can only get us part of the way there. There is more to good or soul-full leadership than simply following a prescriptive recipe. The soul of good leadership includes an ability to intuitively discern the signs of the times, the flexibility to adapt to circumstances beyond our control, the courage to take risks while remaining committed to guiding principles, and the grace to relate to others as human beings in a way that exhibits compassion and concern. How do you engage with the “soul” of good leadership in your life’s work, and how do you help others to do the same?

Moving from Idea to Implementation

“If there is a patron saint of implementation, it is our own St. Vincent. Always suspicious of pure ideas untethered to concrete effects, he looks to the world of action to validate the ideas and follow through on their possibilities.” — Rev. Thomas McKenna, C.M. (famvin.org) Many promising ideas never get to the finish line. Perhaps they are too abstract or too idealistic. Or, maybe we fall short in the courage, know-how, or perseverance to bring them to completion. However, consider Vincent de Paul’s inspirational lived example of testing out ideas, following through, and bringing them to the light of day. What idea might you seek to validate with others this week, or seek to move from your own imagination into action?

 


Quote Source:  https://famvin.org/en/2019/04/24/achievement-to-implementation/