Happy New Year, DePaul!

Usually, when sitting down to compose a Mission Monday reflection, I try to find something … topical … to write on. A matter that is, I trust, of relevance or interest to at least a portion of the DePaul community. Once I have selected a topic, I search for a Vincentian quote to apply, a nugget of wisdom from our institutional legacy that I think sheds light on the chosen subject, provides hope or even connects the challenges of today with the ones faced by our Vincentian forebears. The result, ideally, is a piece that engages readers in a meaningful way with our Vincentian heritage as well as with their own lived experience and insight. At least, that is what I hope happens!

Given the freshness of the year 2023, today’s chosen topic is … new year’s resolutions. I admit that I am hesitant to make new year’s resolutions this year, despite doing so most of my life, considering all we have been through personally and as a community over these recent months and years. Why would I voluntarily invite more tests of my character when those already present seem to be ample enough?! However, old habits die hard, and I am not willing to forgo tradition before asking what Vincent de Paul might have to say about the matter. What wisdom might this man of action, who lived through great upheavals all the while exhibiting faith and common sense, have to say about new year’s resolutions? After digging around, not surprisingly, I found a little something.

At a conference he was giving in November of 1656 for members of the Congregation of the Mission (whom we know as the Vincentian priests), Vincent was discussing their growing in virtue by living out the Rules of their Company. His message to them was pragmatic, encouraging, and reasonable. Vincent did not set unrealistic expectations. He did not expect success all at once. He had this to say: “[I]f today, for example, someone practices one degree of an act of virtue, tomorrow he [sic] will practice it to the second, then the third degree of perfection, and that’s how we grow little by little.”[1]

Little by little. Change, growth, success do not happen suddenly. Progress, not perfection, is the goal. Patience and dedication toward our goals is the key. With the support of community, reasonable efforts on our part, and faith in something larger than ourselves, Vincent believed we would experience this progress. Little by little.

I like that. It makes modest new year’s resolutions like watching what I eat, sending a note to a friend, saying yes to a community service opportunity, or completing compliance training in a timelier manner seem … doable. Making progress “little by little” gives me hope. To be sure, it does not absolve me, or our community, of taking on the larger, systemic problems that we know need urgent attention. Those larger needs should always have some of our attention and energy. But accomplishing small tasks inevitably equips us to better take on the bigger issues. Being mindful of Vincent’s practical wisdom, committing to even simple new year’s resolutions gives me confidence that personally, and communally, we can make progress and that the year 2023 can be a year of growth and peace for each of us, for DePaul and for our beautiful, challenged world.

Invitation for Reflection:

As the year 2023 begins, take a moment to close your eyes, breathe deep, and lift up a hope for greater love, justice, and flourishing throughout the world in the coming year.

Is there a new year’s resolution that you would like to make, perhaps one that is modest and makes you feel hopeful?

Is there someone in your network, perhaps a co-worker at DePaul or a family member, with whom you could share your new year’s resolution and who could support you along the way? Perhaps you could do the same for them too.


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

[1] Conference 162, “Repetition of Prayer,” November 19, 1656, CCD, 11:346. Available online at https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/37/.

How do you know when you belong?

In her work with new students, a dedicated DePaul staff person I happen to know well often draws upon her own experience as a DePaul freshman and her courageous struggle to find community and a sense of belonging. As a first-generation college student, she was particularly excited to be in college and eager to get involved. However, due to a three-hour roundtrip commute on public transit and her introverted nature, becoming engaged proved harder than originally anticipated. Indeed, her attempts to join student organizations and make new friends were usually thwarted by the fact that, as she said, “I was never in a space long enough with people to really get to know them.” As a result, as a freshman, she often felt relegated to the margins. Many painful memories of eating alone in the cafeteria or studying long hours by herself in the library drove home a palpable sense of isolation and loneliness.

Such feelings of invisibility and alienation continued to grow during her first year at DePaul. Indeed, by the beginning of her sophomore year this young woman was considering transferring to another college. She decided to give DePaul one last quarter. It was during this pivotal time that she encountered a DePaul staff person who welcomed her in such a way that she felt as though someone was truly seeing her for the first time. As she vividly recalls, “It was during the involvement fair when I was trying to make my way around a display table that a staff person kind of corralled me, and even before telling me about the program she was representing, asked me “What’s your name? How is the quarter going? What year are you? What are you studying?”

What may appear to be such simple questions today communicated a profound truth in that moment: “You matter. Your life and reality matters and we are glad you are here.” The sense that a DePaul staff person truly wanted to know who she was and cared about her stayed with this young student for years. Indeed, she ended up remaining at DePaul and finding a peer community in which she thrived, and in which she eventually became a senior leader. Today, serving in the role of a DePaul staff professional, she continues to model a praxis of radical hospitality to all who have the privilege of interacting with her.

“That feeling of being recognized made me realize this is exactly where I need to be—that I wanted to be part of a community that believed in recognizing the dignity of every single person.”

Vincentian wisdom calls us to create a sense of belonging, welcome, and inclusivity. A pillar to building such a community is by embracing a spirit of radical hospitality. In the words of Saint Louise de Marillac:

As for your conduct towards [others} never take the attitude of just getting the task done. You must show them affection; serving them from the heart; enquiring of them what they might need; speaking to them gently and compassionately; procuring necessary help for them without being too bothersome or too eager.[1]

Reflection Questions:

  • At what point did you feel that you truly belonged at DePaul?
  • What conditions were integral to you feeling you belonged and finding community?
  • How are we called to create a culture of radical hospitality and inclusion where all may feel welcome?

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

[1] Document A. 85 “(Instructions to the Sisters Who Were Sent to Montreuil),” (1647), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 773. Available online: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/21.

 

The Art of Hospitality: A Day with Vincent Retreat

You are warmly invited to join colleagues on the afternoon of December 15th (12:15-4:15 pm) for a Day with Vincent exploring the “Art of Hospitality” together at the Art Institute of Chicago. The program will involve lunch, meaningful reflection and dialogue with DePaul faculty/staff colleagues, a guided visit to the Art Institute, and a lot of fun and good cheer!

RSVP here

Just Say a Word Where You See It’s Needed

“Just say a word where you see it’s needed.”[1]

On September 28, Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, the internationally acclaimed anti-death penalty advocate and author, was awarded DePaul University’s highest honor, the Saint Vincent de Paul Award.

Before, during, and after the conferral reception, Sister Helen gracefully greeted guests, caught up with old friends, and gained countless new ones. She also made a point of delighting students, as they bustled through the sign-in, giddy with the hope of capturing a selfie with “the cool nun in that old movie about the death penalty.” Sister Helen eagerly welcomed them, wished them well with their academics, and told them to make sure they had fun at college.

Yet, that day, it wasn’t the general crowd that perhaps most captivated Sister Helen’s gaze. As I watched her work the room, there were distinct moments when she chose to pull herself away from the throng of admirers to position herself off to the sides or at the very back. Amid all the hustle and bustle of the grand occasion, it was in the peripheral shadows of the Loop concourse that Sister Helen created a quiet moment to seek out the library staff, who were otherwise hidden by the huge visual displays that had been meticulously prepared to showcase her work. She earnestly thanked them for their efforts. Then, without missing a beat, she made a beeline to greet the many serving staff who were hurriedly rushing in and out of the staging area, attentively replenishing plates and refilling unceasingly empty glasses.

As I watched this dynamic religious sister, an undeniable social justice icon on the global stage today, I was enthralled by how her actions exuded a simple yet profound truth, the power of radical hospitality.  As John J. Navone, SJ, once said in an interview, “The humanizing and personalizing power of hospitality is limitless.”[2] Indeed, genuine and radical hospitality are “possible only when persons know who they are, have a self to give, and are happy to share that self with others.”[3]

Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac’s lives were grounded in a similar wisdom. Their ministry was shaped by their response to such questions as “Who is in need and what do they need? Who among us are excluded? How can they be welcomed? Who among us are unheard and how do we help them to be heard?”[4]

We cannot know who may be need a kind word as we go through the busyness of our days. However, responding to the invitation to affirm the dignity of those in our midst through small acts of kindness is never a wasted moment.

Not all of us are called to be Sister Helen Prejean, Saint Louise, or Saint Vincent de Paul. Yet sharing a word of kindness with someone who may need it invites us all to create a more compassionate and loving world. Another world is indeed possible, and, if we create it with our hands, hearts and minds, it can happen within our midst.

What does radical hospitality mean in your everyday life and work at DePaul? What is an act of radical hospitality that has stayed with you? Why is this so?


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

[1] Conference 85, “Service of the Sick and Care of One’s Own Health (Common Rules, Arts. 12–16),” 11 November 1657, CCD, 10:270. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/35/.

[2] John J. Navone, SJ, Professor Emeritus of Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. Personal interview (2010) quoted in Thomas A. Maier, PhD, “Preface: The Nature and Necessity of Hospitality,” Vincentian Heritage 33:1 (April 2016) [unpaginated]. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vhj/‌vol33/‌iss1/1/.

[3] Maier, “Preface: The Nature and Necessity of Hospitality.”

[4] Ibid.


Participate in DePaul’s Annual Gathering of Remembrance:

The DePaul community is invited to join the Division of Mission and Ministry for our annual Gathering of Remembrance, an interfaith memorial service for all community members who have lost loved ones over the past year. This service in Cortelyou Commons (and broadcast over Zoom) on November 17 at 4:30 pm invites us to stand together in mutual support and solidarity with our colleagues as the calendar year draws to its close.

We invite the entire DePaul community to please submit the names of loved ones for remembrance by end of day Tuesday, November 15 so that they can be included in the service. If you know of anyone who has lost a loved one over the last year, please share this announcement. We want to honor their memory. All are invited and encouraged to join us as we celebrate their memory and surround all those who have experienced loss with loving support.

Learn more and RSVP at: https://gathering-of-remembrance.eventbrite.com

Transforming DePaul University

DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus on an autumn afternoon, Oct. 27, 2022. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

On Friday, amid much celebration and good will, DePaul will install Robert L. Manuel as our thirteenth president. This historic event, the culmination of a festive Inauguration Week, will not only mark the formal beginning of a new chapter in our university’s history; it will also amplify a call that is beginning to be heard around campus: the call for DePaul to change. It is said we must change to meet the challenges resulting from rising costs, social pressures, and demographic headwinds confronting higher education today and to which DePaul is not immune. And that we must change in ways that deepen our mission identity, ensure our sustainability, and allow us to flourish as a Vincentian, Catholic university in the twenty-first century. If all this is true and DePaul does need to change, the questions then become: what would this change look like? How would we do it? Where would we begin?

First, I suggest that the proper word for what DePaul needs to do at this moment is not change but transform. Change is inevitable. It is a constant. And there has probably never been a moment in DePaul’s 125-year history when we weren’t in the midst of some significant changes. Transformation, on the other hand, is special. It is unique, holistic, and even transcendent. Transformation is not reflexive but instead requires greater discernment, choice making, and faith in an uncertain future. It is more Vincentian. In seventeenth-century France, Vincent de Paul’s instinct was not so much to change the Catholic Church as it was to transform it from an institution of ill-prepared, absentee priests removed from their communities to one of service and accompaniment with those we might today understand as being marginalized. To echo the parables, Vincent, his collaborator Louise de Marillac, and their colleagues saw the church not so much as a pearl of great price, but as a seed whose roots burrowed into the soil of humanity, helping to bring life and growth to an awaiting world.

Second, as the call for transformation becomes louder, DePaul may wish to take direction from another wisdom figure, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s original, lengthier quote on change[1] may not be familiar to most, but its later, paraphrased version is known by many in the pithy statement “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” What if we at DePaul took this directive to heart? How might our university begin its transformation if the changes we seek also become the behaviors we model? For instance, if we aim for greater shared governance, how can each of us live out the elements of shared governance by listening more closely, striving for consensus, and treating all stakeholders with respect? If, as an institution, we value this thing called Vincentian personalism, how can we as individuals creatively show more care and compassion for our students as well as for our colleagues in faculty and staff? And, if DePaul is truly committed to our Vincentian legacy of service and justice for those most in need, how can we today more fully center those throughout our university, city, and world yoked by oppressive systems and struggling due to socioeconomic disadvantage.

To be sure, I am not saying that all change, let alone transformation, is simply the result of an individual’s inner workings manifested in their outer behaviors. As Vincent’s great colleague and cofounder, Saint Louise de Marillac, knew and communicated: changes are always difficult and they take time.[2] This is especially true at the systemic level, where much of the efforts need to be made. The work of transformation is challenging, arduous, disciplined, it comes with a cost, and it requires great numbers. That is why we will all need to play a role in transforming DePaul into the best version of our mission possible for the sake of the people who join our community in the decades to come.

Questions for Reflection:

Is there a change or transformation you would like to make in your own life? If so, how might the invitation to “be the change you wish to see in the world” help you? How might you contribute to DePaul’s ongoing transformation into more fully living out our mission?


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

[1] Originally published in Indian Opinion, August 9, 1913, and reprinted in The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, 98 vols. (New Delhi, Publications Division Government of India: 1999), chap. 153, 13:241. Available at: Gandhi Collected Works.

[2] “You are well aware that changes are always difficult, and that it takes time to learn new ways of serving the poor skillfully and well,” letter 337, “To My Very Dear Sister Cecile Agnés,” December 30, (1651), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, ed. and trans. by Louise Sullivan, DC (New York: New City Press, 1991), 385. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/.

 

The Bane of Communities—and its Remedies

Dorothy Day beautifully captured the spiritual journey of many when she wrote, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”[1] Our Vincentian legacy was pioneered by people who created communities of both religious and laypeople dedicated to noble missions. We have encouraged the DePaul community to see itself as a community gathered together for the sake of our mission.

Yet we have probably found that other stuff comes with community too, and not only good things. We find numerous examples in the letters of Saint Vincent where he advised people, often superiors of different Vincentian communities, about handling the mundane problems of community life. In one such letter, Vincent observed “The bane of Communities, especially small ones, is usually rivalry; the remedy is humility.”[2] Vincent also advised his confreres of his own struggles with anger and being short tempered.[3] While Vincent was probably being especially hard on himself to prove a point, in his remarks and in his writings, he convinces us he is no stranger to the experience of being annoyed by people. In our time, when we are used to dashing off a text or calling someone in times of frustration, it is remarkable to contemplate writing a letter in frustration and having to wait for a reply!

In response to such difficulties, Vincent consistently recommended two of the central Vincentian virtues, gentleness and humility.[4] Vincent often used the example of Jesus[5] to counsel forbearance in human relationships. “I can well believe what you write me about M … but I ask you to bear with him as our Lord bore with His disciples, who gave him good reason to complain–at least some of them did. Yet, He allowed them to remain in His company and tried to bring them gently.”[6] One finds a similar call in the Qur’an describing the character of the Prophet Muhammad[7] with his companions, “By an act of Mercy from God, you were gentle in your dealings with them—had you been harsh, or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you.”[8] Vincent saw the reality that human relationships are often difficult and that conflict among personalities not only makes life less enjoyable but prevents important tasks from getting done, leaving those who are vulnerable to suffer. Yet Vincent also believed in the power of gentleness and humility, especially from leadership, to win over hearts.

In a letter to a sister, Vincent began poetically: “I received two letters from you, which consoled me because they are your letters, but distressed me when I saw, on the one hand, that your Sister is not well, and on the other, that there is some slight misunderstanding between you. I ask His Divine Goodness to remedy both of these. The latter situation distresses me more because it seems to disrupt charity, of which forbearance is one of its principal acts; it is difficult for two persons to get along without it.” But Vincent was confident in the power of virtuous behavior, along with prayer, in such relationships: “[T]he virtue of humility is a good remedy for such antipathies because it makes those who practice it lovable.”[9] Vincent’s advice to those in leadership consistently makes clear that while verbal reminders may sometimes be part of their role, setting a powerful example of such virtues is most effective.

Reflection Questions: What are some personal relationships in your work that you can sometimes find difficult? What are practices you can engage in or foster for others that allow people to bring their best, most gentle, and humble selves to their work?


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

[1] “The Final Word Is Love,” The Catholic Worker, May 1980, 4. Available online at: https://‌www.‌catholicworker.‌org/‌dorothyday/articles/867.html.  Also included in the postscript to Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness.

[2] Letter 2037, “To Louis DuPont, Superior, in Treguier,” March 26, 1656, CCD, 5:582. Available online at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/30/.

[3] Conference 202, “Gentleness (Common Rules, Chap. 2, Art. 6),” March 28, 1659, CCD, 12:151. Available online at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/36/.

[4] See Robert P. Maloney, C.M., “A Further Look at ‘Gentleness,’” Vincentiana 39:4 (1995). Maloney explores the various meanings with which Vincent uses the term gentleness (French douceur). See: Gentleness article.

[5] Peace be upon him!

[6] Letter 1676, “To Mark Cogley, Superior, in Sedan,” November 5, 1653, CCD, 5:47.

[7] Peace be upon him!

[8] Qur’an 3:159 tr. M.A.S. Abdel Haleem. Note: For Muslims this example is especially powerful as they consider the companions of the Prophet to have been very righteous, yet, they would have run away if not treated gently, a similar point to that made by Vincent in talking about the disciples of Jesus.

[9] Letter 2110, “To Sister Charlotte Royer, Sister Servant, in Richelieu,” July 26, 1656, CCD, 6:50. Available online at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/31/.


Submit names of loved ones lost over the past year and join us for the Annual Gathering of Remembrance:

The DePaul community is invited to join the Division of Mission and Ministry for our annual Gathering of Remembrance, an interfaith memorial service for all community members who have lost loved ones over the past year. This service in Cortelyou Commons (and broadcast over Zoom) on November 17 invites us to stand together in mutual support and solidarity with our colleagues as the calendar year draws to its close.

We invite the entire DePaul community to please submit the names of loved ones for remembrance by the end of Thursday, November 10th so that they can be included in the service. If you know of anyone who has lost a loved one over the last year, please share this announcement. We want to honor their memory. All are invited to join us as we celebrate their memory.

Learn more at: https://gathering-of-remembrance.eventbrite.com

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.

Building your resume or building your legacy?

A number of years ago, the political and cultural commentator David Brooks penned a thought-provoking article juxtaposing resume virtues with eulogy virtues.[1] While resume virtues are skills that you bring to the marketplace, eulogy virtues run deeper and define one’s depth of character. Eulogy virtues are the characteristics that we recall at a person’s funeral when we seek to describe the quality of their life.

According to Brooks, although most of us would probably agree that eulogy virtues are the most important, our culture and educational systems tend to put more effort into teaching skills for professional success. As a result, many of us neglect to cultivate the skills necessary to deepen our interior lives. We don’t until life confronts us with situations that require us to wrestle more profoundly with questions of meaning and purpose.

Saint Vincent de Paul’s trajectory seems to mirror the developmental shifts that Brooks lays out. Indeed, much of Vincent’s early experience reveals the ambitions of a young cleric who, motivated by “chances for advancement” and thoughts of “an honorable retirement,”[2] focused on furthering his ecclesial career and “building his resume.” While spiritual and ecclesial formation were certainly an integral part of his theological training, Vincent’s initial priestly motivation stemmed primarily from his desire to escape the financially uncertain life of a peasant farmer. As a result, Vincent, “the eager and ambitious cleric,” sought upward mobility by climbing the ecclesial ladder.[3]

Yet Vincent’s dreams of social advancement did not remain the driving force of his ministry for long. Amid the twists and turns of his vocation, a series of pivotal moments would challenge Vincent’s aspirations and invite him to think beyond himself and consider those in front of him who were living in deprivation. Prompted by such encounters as his visit to a dying peasant in 1617,[4] Vincent began to focus his ministry primarily on the needs and spiritual well-being of those who were poor and abandoned, whose dignity was not often recognized in seventeenth-century French society. He became immensely dissatisfied with the way the world appeared around him.[5] Yet, rather than accept the status quo, he channeled his frustration into a quest to build the world that he wanted to see.[6]

In tangible terms, these spiritual invitations led Vincent to abandon his desire for his own career advancement in favor of seeking a more just and equitable world. Consequently, he spent the rest of his life not merely asking, What must be done?[7] but using his actions as a pathway to live his way to the answer.

As Brooks notes, “some people have experiences that turn their careers into a calling.” While Vincent’s motivation to do good stemmed from his desire to build the Kingdom of God, his trajectory as an ambitious young clergyman might never have changed direction were it not for his ability to listen deeply and respond to what God asked of him. Vincent quite simply longed to serve God faithfully. The cries of those on the margins transformed his heart and motivated him to use “the strength of [his] arms and the sweat of [his brow]”[8]

Reflection Questions:

“We all go into professions for many reasons: money, status, security. But some people have experiences that turn a career into a calling.”[9]

Have there been moments in your career at DePaul when you have experienced your work as a calling? What was it about these moments that transformed your work?

What do you feel called to build in your life right now?

 

Reflection by:           

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


[1] David Brooks, “The Moral Bucket List,” New York Times, April 12, 2015, Sunday Opinion, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/david-brooks-the-moral-bucket-list.html.

[2] Letter 0003, “Vincent de Paul To His Mother, in Pouy,” 17 February 1610, CCD, 1:15  Available on line at: https://digicol.lib.depaul.edu/digital/collection/depaul01/id/84/rec/1

[3] Douglas Slawson, C.M., “Vincent de Paul’s Discernment of His Own Vocation And That of the Congregation of the Mission,” Vincentian Heritage Journal 10:1 (1989): 6. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol10/iss1/1.

[4] Luigi Mezzadri, C.M., and José María Román, C.M., The Vincentians: A General History of the Congregation of the Mission, trans. Robert Cummings (New York: New City Press, 2009), 1:10. Quoted in Scott Kelley, “Vincentian Pragmatism: Toward a Method for Systemic Change,” Vincentian Heritage Journal (2012): 31:2. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol31/iss2/2.

[5] Edward Udovic, C.M., Ph.D. “St. Vincent de Paul, A Person of the 17th Century, a Person for the 21st Century,” Office of Mission and Ministry DePaul University, YouTube video, January 16, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrwez_neJT4.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Edward R. Udovic, C.M., Ph.D., “’Our good will and honest efforts.’ Vincentian Perspectives on Poverty Reduction Efforts,” Vincentian Heritage Journal (2008): 28:2, 72. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol28/iss2/5.

[8] Conference 25, “Love of God,” n.d., CCD, 11:32. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/37/.

[9] Brooks, “Moral Bucket List.”

Living into Who We are Called to Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

Living Our Words through Actions

During this Black History month, I have been reflecting a great deal, as I often do, on the life of Malcolm X. February 21 marked the fifty-seventh anniversary of his martyrdom. Encountering the life and work of Malcolm, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, changed the course of my own life, and I have studied and taught about him for three decades now.

There is often mystery involved in who becomes known and influential and who is largely forgotten to history. Some people are famous during their lifetimes and become unknown later. Others are obscure in their lifetimes and become famous after their deaths. Many people become known and thought of in ways that would surprise them and those who knew them. For those of us who have faith, we believe there is divine providence in these processes, and yet none would deny that many truly good people are never known or recognized beyond their families.

One of the Vincentian virtues, in fact the virtue most beloved to Vincent de Paul, was simplicity.[1] Although Malcolm first came to national prominence on the basis of his rhetorical powers, I believe it is his simplicity that continues to inspire. Simplicity involves actions such as witnessing to what is true, living in a way where deeds match words, and believing with complete sincerity in ideals. None of us—not even Vincent or Malcom X—are perfect, but if we strive in a way that honors this virtue, it will show in our lives.

It can at times be easier to love such exemplars from a distance. Simplicity requires us to tell the truth, as we understand it, to ourselves, those whom we love, and those who have power. It requires us to push ourselves and others to live up to our words when hypocritical virtue is often more comfortable. It requires us to not only speak what is popular but to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. It requires us to change and grow, which often demands more courage than facing physical danger.[2] In the last years of his life, Malcolm was passionate about acknowledging the shortcomings of people and institutions to whom he had devoted all his gifts and energies. He saw it as necessary to honoring the ideals that he held sacred.

Some may say Malcolm X is far different than Vincentian role models such as Vincent, Louise de Marillac, or Frédéric Ozanam. Malcolm’s rhetoric was revolutionary and at times harsh, even if often marked with humor and love that are salient to anyone truly familiar with his life and character. Yet the similarities are what strike me. Malcom and our Vincentian role models were all committed, not just to speaking about suffering or injustice, but acting effectively to lessen it. They were all driven by a need to be true to their ideals and to form and live in vibrant, life-giving communities. And they were all willing to change and grow even when it was hard or scary. They were all able to embrace these challenges due to their profound faith in God and love for humanity.[3]

Christians around the world are preparing to enter the season of Lent, when, through intensified worship and closeness to God, they prepare themselves to better meet such challenges. This year, the fasting month of Ramadan falls shortly after, when Muslims will pursue similar goals.

What are some ways you can live up to your own ideals effectively through your work at DePaul? Are there ways in which you have changed or may feel a need to change to be true to your values, even if it is hard or frightening?


Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Assistant Director and Muslim Chaplain, Office of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] For past reflections on simplicity, visit https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/tag/simplicity/.

[2] For Malcolm, change involved physical danger as well. Vincentian role models also faced danger in their work. For example, Marguerite Naseau, who is regarded as the first Daughter of Charity, followed God’s call to serve the poor and the sick. This resulted in ridicule and, eventually, in her own illness and death. For more, see https://daughters-of-charity.com/marguerite-naseau/.

[3] For a deeper examination of what we may learn from Malcom X, see my article, “Lessons from the Life of Malcom X.” Available at https://muslimmatters.org/2011/06/29/lessons-from-the-life-of-malcolm-x/.

 

UMMA’s Fast-a-Thon Iftar Dinner will take place this year on March 9, 2022, at 5:30 PM in Cortelyou Commons. DePaul community members can RSVP on DeHub: https://‌dehub.‌campusgroups.com/‌event_‌details?uid=d5ef46fe6af4f974d637b60ec8a25c2b