Seeds of the Mission: Matt Schultz

Service Beyond DePaul & Intentional Community

The Catholic tradition is rooted in the practice of sacramentality, the understanding that the gifts and graces we receive throughout life are meant to be shared. As a Vincentian university, DePaul strives to inspire students to use their gift of education to live a life of service to others, regardless of the academic field or career choice. Post-graduate volunteer programs are one way that DePaul graduates live this call to service. Rooted in intentional community, faith, service, and social justice post-graduate volunteer programs bring to life the Vincentian way for young adults today.

Living in intentional community is deeply rooted in our Vincentian tradition. When Louise de Marillac founded the Daughters of Charity she formed a community out of the poorest of the poor, creating home for them. She actually invited young peasant women into her personal space. She saw their potential, taught them to read and write, and equipped them to make change in their communities. This kind of hospitality for a noble woman was unprecedented during her time, breaking social class barriers and opening new opportunities for women.

Louise had the deep intuition from the start that living together in community was the way forward to sustaining a life of service to others. Even in her last will and spiritual testament she  reminds the Daughters of Charity to “live together in great union and cordiality.” She tells her sisters often to “encourage one another.” The word encourage comes from the Old French encoragier—“make strong, hearten.” It means “to inspire with courage, spirit, hope.” Louise knew what she was asking her community to do was not easy and that they would need each other and courage in their hearts. Time and time again you see in her letters to the Daughters of Charity Louise helping them navigate the joys and struggles of living in community with others.

When young adults have the opportunity to serve and live in intentional community, they experience this rich tradition and learn a countercultural way to exist in our society.  It invites them to see beyond individualism and begin to realize our interconnectedness. They also grow in concrete skills of conflict resolution and dialogue as they navigate the realities of living with other humans! This transformative formation gives them tools to continue living another way beyond their year of service.

DePaul hosts an annual Post-Graduate Volunteer Fair for students interested in exploring this opportunity after graduation. In partnership with the Catholic Volunteer Network (CVN), this year’s fair will take place virtually on Monday, November 9 from 4:30-7:30pm and Tuesday, November 10 from 11:30am-2:30pm. Students can RSVP on DeHub here and sign onto the fair here.  For more information about post-graduate volunteer opportunities, visit the CVN website.


Seeds of the Mission: Susana Martinez

Go-Then 

The Vincentian mission starts not from a place of theory, but instead out in the world. After taking time to listen, learn, and understand the stories of people in our communities, we then return to make meaning. We call this approach, “Go, then.” The Vincentian mission calls us to go into the world, to serve and accompany those who are most marginalized. Then, we begin to ask questions of systemic change. When they co-founded the Daughters of Charity, Louise and Vincent realized the need for the Daughters to be out in the streets, in direct contact with those they were serving. Vincent advised that Daughters of Charity have to go everywhere… for chapel, the parish church; for cloister, the streets of the city.” [1] They put the lives of those on the margins at the center of their work 

Direct relationship, care, and interconnectedness are central to the Vincentian charism. We see our community as co-educators and do not assume that we have all the answers. We trust that each person is the expert in their own lived experience. We encourage students involved in community service to listen deeply to the stories of those on the margins and allow those stories to shape their understanding of the world. Wstrive to form mutual relationships with a sense of humility that allows us to be served and taught in return. At DePaul, this holds true especially in our commitment to the city of Chicago. We strive to create opportunities for students to connect to this city and its people in meaningful, transformative ways. 


[1] #111, Rules for the Sisters in Parishes, CCD, 10:530. 

Indiscreet Zeal

“The spirit of God urges one gently to do the good that can be done reasonably, so that it may be done perseveringly and for a long time.” Vincent de Paul  (CCD, I:92)

Vincent seemed to be aware that he and others often falter by pursuing passions uncritically. Rather, he advised his followers not to rush into new ventures, aware that “indiscreet zeal” can at times lead more to harm than good. He advocated for a more discerning approach, rooted in experience. In his regular Tuesday Conferences, he would often invite the input of others with different perspectives, reflecting a way of proceeding in which discernment was dynamic and dialogical, open to various viewpoints, and aware that one person does not hold all of the answers. What regular practices of discernment can help to provide a healthy balance to your zeal and enthusiasm? How do you invite diverse and even contrary perspectives into dialogue with your own thinking?

Practicing Charity on the Way to Justice

“Charity is the cement that binds communities to God and persons to one another.” Vincent de Paul (CCD, 2:413)

For some, charity is construed negatively because it is equated to paternalism or perhaps a band-aid – – an approach that fails to address the root causes of systemic injustice. When viewed this way, Vincent de Paul’s notion of charity can strike us as inadequate and even problematic if applied uncritically to today’s world. Yet, to understand Vincent effectively we must re-contextualize his teaching and practice of charity in a meaningful way for our time, such as understanding it as the affective and relational dimension of social justice. Charity, or its Latin root “caritas,” translates closely to our present-day notion of love. Re-contextualizing Vincent’s charity, then, presents us with a challenge rather than a concept easily dismissed. Is justice truly possible in the absence of charity? How can we channel our generosity and compassion for others into actions that communicate love and move us towards justice?

Reflecting Our Values to the World

…we are as it were a mirror for the world on which it pauses to look and easily does what we do. St. Vincent de Paul The world of Vincent de Paul seems a distant mirror to us today. Yet these words he shared with his community in 1654 are worth pondering even now. Occasionally, it is good to reflect on the way in which we live our lives. What comes to mind if you imagine yourself as a mirror to the world? How do your actions reveal the values that are important to you? What are your favorite Vincentian values? Does your work at DePaul mirror those that mean the most to you?

 

 


On Scandal. Conference of October 9, 1654, Conferences of Vincent de Paul to the Daughters of Charity

Love is Inventive to Infinity

“Love is inventive to infinity” – Vincent de Paul

In the year 1617, in Châtillon, France, the new pastor Vincent de Paul preached about a sick and impoverished family who were in need of assistance. Vincent’s appeal proved so persuasive that it led many more people to respond to the family’s needs than was necessary. In witnessing such an overwhelming response, Vincent became convinced that if good works are to be effective they need to be well organized. This incident was the catalyst that led Vincent to found conferences of charity to care for the poor and marginalized in parishes throughout France, and eventually all over the world.

Vincent’s experience in Châtillon helped him see the need to make substantial changes to the way charity was administered. In the good work being done at DePaul, how do you see ways that might help us fulfill our mission in a more sustainable or effective way?

The Gift of Community

“Oh, what a favor to be a member of a community, for each member shares in the good that is done by all.” *— Vincent de Paul

Each of us has a role to play, and something important to contribute, to the whole enterprise that is DePaul University. We recognize ourselves to be part of a community gathered together for the sake of a shared mission. Whether our role places us out front or behind the scenes, our personal success always depends to some degree on the work of others. Consider taking a moment this week to give thanks to a colleague whose work contributes to what you do every day, someone who makes your experience in this community a little brighter and more effective. *Ryan, Rybolt, eds., Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac: Rules, Conferences, and Writings (1995), 201.

The Value of Relationships

“So then, gentleness and forbearance are necessary among ourselves and for our service to the neighbor.” — Vincent de Paul (Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, 12:249)
By the end of his life, Vincent was known for his gentleness and approachability. However, these characteristics grew over time and were part of Vincent’s long, slow transformation. He spoke of being “firm and unchanging with regard to the end but gentle and humble as to the means.” (CCD, 1:290) Vincent understood that the way we interact with others can have a ripple effect on a whole network of relationships, and therefore might influence the long-term effectiveness of a mission shared with others. With this in mind, how, then, might you make such gentleness and care evident in your interactions with others this week?

Vincent de Paul as Mentor

 

When leading the Congregation or advising individual members, Vincent de Paul acted from spiritual principles as well as an understanding of psychology. He believed that everyone should follow God’s will by loving others and helping them to imitate Christ’s example of charity. By doing this, each served as a mentor to one another. He guided from both a paternal and fraternal perspective. While discipline and judgment were sometimes necessary, he more often dispensed advice and wisdom. Humility, empathy, gentle persuasion, suggestion, affirmation, and flexibility were the cornerstones of his leadership.

“Vincent de Paul as Mentor” is an article published in the Vincent Heritage JournalVolume 27, Issue 2, Article 1 (2008) which is available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol27/iss2/1/

 

Ask Big Questions

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DePaul freshman Charlotte Mukahirn gives us her reflection following her experience with the university’s Ask Big Questions event on January 16th, 2014. Ask Big Questions is an initiative of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life in partnership with the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust that aims to foster understanding through better conversation. 

     Upon entering the conference room, I had only expected to discuss one question with the attendees of ABQ: “What will you do differently this year?” I had thought about the question to some extent beforehand, but my answer was still up in the air. Soon enough, people began to file in through the door. I could spot a few familiar faces, but at least half were unknown to me. We were asked by the leaders of the group, Sam and Joel, to arrange the chairs into a large circle while they set up their presentation. At first, a slight panic struck me. I’m going to be speaking in front of so many people. In reality, the group consisted of perhaps fifteen to eighteen people. But, for someone with social anxiety (like me), the number was a bit daunting. Then, Joel and Sam began the discussion by walking us through the guidelines for the night’s meeting. The rules were simple: Be respectful, give each person their time to talk, and if someone happens to offend you, don’t be afraid to let them know how and why their words affected you. Afterward, a short icebreaker took place in which each person told the group their name, major, and a change that happened to them recently. An atmosphere had already begun to form in which we felt comfortable sharing the highlights of our break, or even the lowlights. Familiarity spread about the room like ripples in a pond until we were all ready to move on. Then, Joel pulled up a document on the screen.

     “Take a moment and read through this,” he said, “and then find someone near you to discuss which parts of this passage stick out to you.” Simple enough. The title and author of the passage escape me now, but it generally stated which actions people commit that are damaging to their happiness. Actions like hiding your talents from the world, working jobs that violate your values, and silencing yourself for fear of criticism were among many of the actions presented in the passage. Afterward, we broke off into either pairs or small groups to discuss what we had just read. Surprisingly, the conversations began to flow almost effortlessly. Everyone in the room could connect to some part of the passage and had experiences to share with the group. After a few minutes, we merged back into our circle and began to share. Each person had their own insights, a new perspective to bring to the table. The conversation shifted from only discussing the passage to divulging experiences from our own lives in which we had been frozen with fear and doubt. Nearly everyone could recall a time in which they had restrained their true selves for fear of being criticized or mocked. But then there were also those who had overcome their fears and realized that our reluctance stems from nothing more than internalizing our doubts. Eventually, we arrived at a conclusion: our assumption that the people around us will react negatively to our true selves holds us back from being happy. And, people generally are not that volatile when confronted with differing opinions. Miscommunication is at the root of our negativity, and having a dialogue is the cure. We finished our discussion with the question, “What will you do differently this year?” and then called it a night. As we left, everyone seemed to feel more at ease, confident, and even relieved.