Vincent de Paul and Accepting Change

In the cold mid-winter of 1656, Vincent de Paul took up his quill pen and began writing a letter to a community member far away. At one point in his epistle, Vincent reflected upon the changeability of the human experience and wrote to his colleague:

…the instability of the human person… is so great… that the person never remains in the same state. What he wants this year, perhaps he will not want the next—maybe not even tomorrow…1

In essence, Vincent was saying to his friend that to be human is to change. From one year, from one day, even from one moment to the next, for better or for worse, change is inevitable.

For all its universality, however, change is still so difficult for us to accept. It can surprise us, discomfort us, frustrate us, and plainly terrify us. No wonder we sometimes lose sight of the joys and benefits that only occur because of change in our lives. Without change, we don’t learn, we don’t progress, we don’t grow. As the journalist and author Gail Sheehy famously said, without change “we aren’t really living.”2

Right now, the year 2021 is still as fresh as new fallen snow. The DePaul community—students, staff, and faculty—are in the midst of an academic year that has summoned us to generate more creativity, resilience, and faith than we knew we had within us. Perhaps now would be a good time for us to look back on 2020, with all of its challenges, and ahead to 2021, with all its hope, and ask how we might harness change to lead us to better things.

What is one change you wish to keep from the year that has just ended? What is one change you wish to embrace in the year that has just begun?

1 Letter 1842, To Étienne Blatiron, Superior, In Genoa, 19 February 1655, CCD, 5:316.

2 See:

Reflection By: Tom Judge, Chaplain, Division of Mission & Ministry

Adjusting Your Approach

Considering our changing reality at DePaul and throughout the world, we are called to adapt and change with it. While not always an easy task, it is necessary to adjust our approach to our work or studies as circumstances change.

The image that accompanies this reflection is of Vincent sending forth Philippe Le Vacher to Algiers to continue an ongoing ministry to prisoners. Around 1652, Vincent wrote Philippe with some encouragement and advice concerning his ministry. In this letter Vincent advised his confrere to use a different approach, and said “it is not light they need but strength, and strength permeates through the external balm of words and good example.”1 Vincent suggested that Philippe not preach to the prisoners as he would the people in a countryside parish, but that he adjust his method and message in light of the realities of the population he served. Further, Vincent emphasized speaking kindly and performing good deeds. He believed that treating these prisoners humanely and building relationships was the key to supporting them in their challenges.

As our personal and professional lives continue to be disrupted, how are you adapting and adjusting to our evolving reality? If Vincent de Paul were writing a letter to you today, what advice would he give you on how to change your current messaging and behaviors to better serve students, colleagues, or others in our community who need support? How can you continue to put relationships at the center of your life as you adapt to new circumstances?

1) 1297, To Philippe Le Vacher, In Algiers, [1652], CCD, 4:127.


Reflection by:

Michael Van Dorpe, Division of Mission & Ministry

Saint Vincent de Paul as a Leader of Change


An examination of noteworthy change efforts enacted by Vincent de Paul underscores the importance of believing in the higher purpose of one’s goals. Empowered “followers” need to believe and find meaning in the “leader’s” vision, in order to buy into and support the change efforts. The empowerment of Louise de Marillac as a Vincentian leader was critical to the accomplishment of many great works. Organizations undergoing change or renewal can look to Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac for examples of servant leadership, and the change roles they enacted are integrated with a well-regarded organizational change model for the twenty-first century.

“Saint Vincent de Paul as  Leader of Change: The Key Roles of a Higher Purpose and Empowerment” is an article by Margaret Posig, Ph.D. appearing in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 26, Issue 1, Article 4 (2008) available at:


Vincent the Alchemist


As an “alchemist,” Vincent de Paul manipulated common elements to transform them into precious realities.  Fr. Jack Melito, C.M. points out how Vincent’s “Tunisian captivity” can serve as a metaphor for his life’s work of changing evil into good, challenge into blessing, the non-intelligible into an understandable Gospel message, the uneducated into the empowered, and the simple poor into our Lords and Masters.

“Vincent the Alchemist” is a chapter from the book Windows on His Vision (pp.  37-42) available at:

It is also available as an ebook here: