Seeds of the Mission: Heartbeat Hello


Radical Creativity, Connection and Care
 

“Love is inventive to infinity.” – Vincent de Paul  

Vincentians, at their core, are trailblazers. When Vincent saw that people were eager to serve their neighbors but lacked the structure to do so, he organized charity in a new way that brought effectiveness to people’s care. When faced with a patriarchal system that limited women’s roles in society, Louise created the first order of non-cloistered Catholic sisters to be out in the world. In the face of poverty, conflict, and civil unrest, Frederic founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which allowed lay Catholics to be active in their faith in new ways.    

Radical creativity is at the heart of the Vincentian mission. It is a way we honor human dignity. In times of crisis, we listen deeply to the needs of our communities and respond with compassionate innovation. We believe there is a power in seeing another person, knowing the burdens they carry, recognizing their ever-changing needs. Relationship and human connection are essential to how Vincentians exist and make meaning.  We live dignity through recognition and care of the human person.  

These creative ethics of care apply to our own internal needs, as well. As Vincentians, we know that in order to foster meaningful relationships with others and tend to the world’s needs, we must take time to pause for contemplation and meaning making. In our current times, practices of internal care likely look different than they have in the past. Just as our heritage figures in times before us, we are called to find new, sustainable ways to care for ourselves and our communities.   

Sustained by Deep Roots: Celebrating our Heritage

“Nature makes trees put down deep roots before having them bear fruit, and even this is done gradually.”1

Over the next seven days we celebrate Vincent de Paul Heritage Week. This includes a series of events leading up to Vincent’s church-designated feast day on September 27th. These events are meant to invite the university community into a deeper reflection on our shared mission and heritage, which traces all the way back to seventeenth-century France.

When facing urgent and troubling challenges such as those of our present reality, you may ask why spend our time and energy remembering historical roots going back over 400 years? How do the words and actions of those who have preceded us and lived in such different contexts so long ago speak to us now? How can this focus on history help us to discern a meaningful and relevant mission for today?

Ultimately, whenever we reflect on our sense of mission, whether personal or institutional, we are asking: what is essential to who we are? Thinking about such profound questions may spark a religious, spiritual, or philosophical impulse in us, including a consideration of our origin stories. From where do we come and why were we created? Is there a purpose to our existence? If so, who are we called to be and what are we called to do? Storytelling traditions surrounding the origins of communities of people have been common since the dawn of humanity. These stories often help us to hold and communicate values, meaning, purpose, and a sense of connectedness with one other, as well as to engage present-day circumstances with a deeply formed sense of identity.

We have a storytelling tradition at DePaul University. It is passed on within the history of the Congregation of the Mission and all those in the Vincentian family who live and sustain our shared, foundational mission rooted in the lives of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. Over his many years at DePaul, Vincentian historian, Fr. Edward R. Udovic, C.M., often reminded us that in order for the lessons of history to be meaningfully re-contextualized for today, we must first understand the historical background from which these gifts emerged.

In other words, our efforts today to be rooted in and clarify our common mission as an institution comes with a two-fold responsibility. First, we must continually seek to better understand the historical roots and foundational stories of the Vincentian family, which ultimately gave birth to DePaul University. Second, we must seek to faithfully discern how those roots can be extended creatively and effectively to sustain our lives and work today. This is so even considering that the current challenges and opportunities we face could never have been imagined by Vincent de Paul hundreds of years ago.

The roots that have sustained our Vincentian tradition over time are characterized by a generous and caring spirit, essential to both historical and modern-day Vincentian communities, religious and lay. It is a spirit that focuses its efforts and attention on the service of those in society who are most in need. It asks critical questions about who is being left out or marginalized and seeks to affirm their dignity. It is a spirit that works to change social, economic, and political systems for the better.

When we reflect upon our Vincentian heritage this week, we do so with great humility, a virtue many recognized in Vincent de Paul. We do so with a willingness to acknowledge how far we still must go to live up to the deep, time-tested ideals that urge us forward. We take heart in knowing we are not alone on this journey. In fact, we join the decades and centuries old caravan of those who have also taken the Vincentian spirit to heart and sought to improve the lives of others.

To be Vincentian is to ask, as Madame de Gondi did of Vincent de Paul, “What Must be Done?” It is to get up day-after-day and continue our mission by taking concrete action. In times like these that challenge society and our institution, we are indeed fortunate for the deep roots of our mission.

Reflection Question:

How do the deep roots of our Vincentian mission and story inform your approach to today’s challenges?


1 1796, To Charles Ozenne, Superior, In Warsaw, Paris, 13 November 1654, CCD, 5:219.

 

Reflection by Mark Laboe, Associate VP for Mission and Ministry

 

See all the Vincent de Paul Heritage Week Events

We must go there!

candlelight-vigil

October 1, 2015.  My family and friends were texting me. “Are you ok?”

I ignored them.

I knew what they were asking and I didn’t want to go there.

I didn’t want to return to a horrible day at Northern Illinois University — Valentines Day 2008 —when a student burst into a classroom and started shooting. Months before this heinous act on a campus that was supposed to be safe, I had begun serving as a campus pastor. Years later as news broke this past Thursday that there was another shooting on another “safe” campus I tried my best to ignore the realities that come with such a tragedy.

I didn’t want to remember the screams of disbelief from friends and family who discovered that a dear one had been wounded, or even worse, killed. I didn’t want to remember the scenes of confusion and cries of terror in the hospital emergency room. I didn’t want to remember the funerals and vigils. I didn’t want to go there.

But tonight, here at DePaul, I WILL go there.

I will stand with students, faculty and staff around the St. Vincent Circle in the heart of campus and I WILL go there. I will enter into the depths of heartache and I will stand with others as a gesture of solidarity against violence in our communities, on our campuses, in our world. I will remember all of the people in a slumbering university town not too far from Chicago who were affected by gun violence. I will reflect upon all of those in Roseburg, Oregon and throughout the country whose hearts are broken and whose lives are disrupted by another senseless killing rampage. And I will pray for peace and yearn for the same in my heart and the hearts of victims of violence.

Taking a few moments to light a candle, to offer prayer and to take a stand against violence may seem like a very small thing to do. But I know–having been with the mothers and fathers, sisters, grandparents, professors, friends, brothers and broken community members—that such a small gesture is more powerful than anyone can imagine. I know how important moments of remembering are for those who are trying to make sense out of the senseless.  I know the warmth and balm that one small shining candle can bring to hearts broken.

Tonight, WE must go there! We must go and stand with our brothers and sisters near and far and pray. We must go there to remember those who have died and those who are dying inside over loss of life and so much more. We must go there to let the world know that this school, built upon the foundations of loving and serving one another, is standing solidly together to offer a bit of balm and a prayer for peace for all those whose lives are ripped apart—or ended—by violence.

Tonight, standing around St. Vincent’s Circle, our lights will burn, our prayers will be offered and we will tell our sisters and brothers in Roseburg and the world that we are resolved to be lovers of peace and caretakers of one another. Tonight we must go there!

Rev. Diane Dardon is a Protestant Chaplain at DePaul.  She invites you to join the DePaul Interfaith Scholars tonight at 6:00p.m.  in St. Vincent’s Circle for a Vigil to honor those slain last week at Umpqua Community College.

Macon Memories

by Katie Sullivan

This past week, from December 2-9, residents of DePaul’s Vincent and Louise House (V&L) spent their winter break service immersion trip at Daybreak, a project of DePaul USA, in Macon, Georgia.  Daybreak is a day/resource center that provides the homeless population of Macon with critical services in one location.  Daybreak believes that “everyone should have a place to call home and a stake in their community.”

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The students from V&L got to know guests and helped with the daily tasks that needed to be done, from serving breakfast to helping with laundry and showers to assisting guests with resumes and job searches in the technology room.  It was a week filled with connections and memories and gratitude.  Being welcomed into the Daybreak community was like being welcomed into someone’s family!

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Olivia Johnson, a junior living in the V&L House, is excited to help guests in the technology room at Daybreak.
Liam Kemmy, a sophomore V&Ler, pets a puppy one of the Daybreak guests brought with him.
Sophomore Erica Dix sits with Caleb, one of the guests from Daybreak.
Morgan Spears, a senior living in the V&L House, plays checkers with Eric, a guest at Daybreak.
Juniors Katie Wallace and Nicolette Prociuk sit in the great room at Daybreak. Nicolette made beaded bracelets for many of the guests and Katie kept her company.

Daybreak provides much needed services to those in need in the Macon community, and it also provides volunteers, such as the students from the V&L House, the opportunity to simply be present with the guests and get to know them and hear their stories.  Sr. Elizabeth Greim, DC, the program director, encouraged the V&Lers to participate in the “ministry of presence” during their time at Daybreak, which for some involved sitting with a guest and talking.  For others, it involved playing a game with a guest or two and getting into the competitive spirit with them. The ministry of presence looked different for everyone in the group, but all were embodying the spirits of St. Vincent and St. Louise as they used their time intentionally to get to know guests.

The V&L House residents pose with a statue of Otis Redding, who was from Macon, in a park close to Daybreak. Front Row (L to R): Olivia Johnson, Nicolette Prociuk, Liam Kemmy, Morgan Spears, Katie Wallace. Back Row (L to R): Erica Dix, Beth Pedraza, Nick Cuba, Alli Grecco
Vincent and Louise House residents outside Daybreak. Front row (L to R): Beth Pedraza, Morgan Spears, Olivia Johnson, Alli Grecco, Nicolette Prociuk. Back row (L to R): Erica Dix, Liam Kemmy, Nick Cuba, Katie Wallace

Interested in learning more about the Vincent and Louise House and the work they do throughout the year?  Think you might want to apply to live in the house next year?  Follow the V&L House on Facebook for updates about what’s going on in the house and information about the application process, which takes place during Winter Quarter.

Katie Sullivan is the University Minister for Catholic Social Concerns in DePaul’s Catholic Campus Ministry office and coordinates the Vincent and Louise House.