Learning to be Led

“(P)lease be steadfast in walking in the vocation to which you are called.”1

Spring Break may give us a little space to pause and reflect. So, let me ask: how much of your life’s journey has been due to your choice, and how much of it has been something not of your own making?

In the United States, at least, the narrative we often tell ourselves is that we are independent and “self-made” people who can overcome every obstacle to achieve our dreams. We trust all things are possible. This sustained optimism can indeed enable us to work through difficulties and continue to believe–and that is a good thing.

However, life often throws us curveballs. The coronavirus pandemic is not something anyone would have chosen. Nor is the unexpected death of a loved one, or other such difficult life challenges that leave us upside down. Even something minor like the untimely arrival of bad weather during an outdoor walk or picnic can be such a curveball. Much of our lives amount to responding to circumstances out of our control.

Furthermore, few of us are world class athletes, though we may have dreamed of hitting the perfect “10” on the balance beam, swimming a championship level butterfly, or hitting a game winning shot. And, few of us will author an award-winning novel, become a nuclear physicist, win an Academy award, or win a million dollars even though we may have fantasized what it might be like. Our lives are probably somewhat less remarkable. They are typically characterized by some degree of human limitation that is not of our making, nor our desire.

Further tempering the narrative of the “self-made” person, consider that our identity and the choices we make are shaped by our families, communities, and relationships. We are often required to balance our own needs and wants with those of others.

Learning to be led through the events and relationships that shape our lives, then, is at the heart of living with a sense of vocation and mission, both individually and as an institution. The dreams we have for our lives are tempered, shaped, and redirected by the realities and circumstances we face. Most of these are outside our control or making and not of our choosing.

Living with a sense of vocation, or mission, is a way of being, a way of journeying through our lives. We are not simply choosing our personal playlist, making everything exactly how we would like it. Our personal hopes and dreams are an important part of the big picture. But so is being receptive to what life offers and to what our reality enables us to do and to be as we respond to the challenges that unexpectedly arise along the way.

Being steadfast in living our mission and walking in our vocation may not mean that things work out exactly as we planned, or in a predictable manner. It does mean faithfully discerning each step we take along the way as circumstances allow. The story of our lives is as much about being led, about being receptive to what emerges on the journey, as it is about forging a path of our choice.

Perhaps this is what Vincent meant when he said: “Wisdom consists in following Providence step by step.”2


1 Letter 1824, To a Priest of the Mission, 2 January 1655, CCD, 5:256.
Letter to Bernard Codoing, in Rome, 6 August 1644, CCD, 2:521

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate VP for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

Light at the end of the tunnel…

If you missed our “Remembering the Year Past: Transitioning to Hope” Program… Watch it above. 

It’s been a year! Over the past few days and weeks, many have engaged in reflection on the long year we have just endured together. Thoughts have swirled around hardships, sacrifices, broken dreams, lost moments, loss of life, on-going illness, virtual classrooms, vaccinations and all the realities that we’ve experienced due to the COVID pandemic.

It has been a long, arduous year and, at times, many have wondered if we would ever get past the turbulence. But, today there is a glimmer of light at the end of this pandemic tunnel as vaccinations become more abundant. We are hearing hopeful chatter about returning to campus, returning to gatherings, and returning to life as we once knew it. There is hope, and yet, we are cautioned to continue distancing, wear masks and SLOW DOWN!

As we move forward, much more slowly than we’d like, we are certain to be engulfed in the on-going struggles of these times. Indeed, these waning days of the pandemic may truly be some of the most challenging. It is in such times that we return to our wisdom figures, those who have endured so much in their own lives and in their own ways, and we find encouragement. St. Vincent, through the echoes of time, encourages us as we keep our eyes on the light:

“Trust firmly in God’s guidance and encourage your people to have this trust in the present disturbances; the storm will abate, and the calm will be greater and more pleasing than ever. “[ Vincent de Paul (Volume: 5 | Page#: 454) To Charles Ozenne, 15 October, 1655 added on 6/28/2011]

In the weeks and months ahead, please know that DePaul’s Mission and Ministry staff is here to encourage you and accompany you along the way. If you find yourself weary, please do not hesitate to reach out to the ministers in your midst who will bring you words of hope and cheer you on as we all wait for the storm to abate and the light to shine brightly.

FACULTY & STAFF

Individual Pastoral Support for Faculty and Staff

Mission and Ministry’s Faculty and Staff Engagement Team (FASE) is available to provide a listening ear and pastoral support for individual faculty and staff. Appointments can be scheduled using the following links:

Abdul-Malik Ryan:  https://ChaplainAbuNoor.as.me/
Mark Laboe:   https://MarkLaboe.as.me/
Siobhan O’Donoghue:  https://Siobhan.as.me/
Tom Judge by email:   tjudge@depaul.edu
General FASE email address:  FASE@depaul.edu

STUDENTS

Individual Pastoral Support for Students

Available Mission and Ministry staff who accompany students are available to provide a listening ear and pastoral support for all students.  Appointments can be scheduled using the following links:

RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY & PASTORAL CARE

Pastor Diane Dardón |  DDARDON@depaul.edu (Protestant Chaplain)
Imam Abdul-Malik Ryan | MRYAN42@depaul.edu (Muslim Chaplain)
Minister Jene Colvin | JCOLVIN3@depaul.edu (Protestant & Interfaith Minister)
Matthew Charnay | MCHARNAY@depaul.edu (Jewish Life & Interfaith Coordinator)

CATHOLIC CAMPUS MINISTRY

Amanda Thompson  | ATHOMP44@depaul.edu
Matt Merkt  | MMERKT@depaul.edu
Ceni de la Torre  | ADELATO2@depaul.edu

VINCENTIAN FORMATION AND SERVICE

Karl Nass  | KNASS@depaul.edu
Emily LaHood Olsen  | ELAHOOD@depaul.edu
Joyana Dvorak  | JJACOBY5@depaul.edu
Katie Sullivan  | KSULLI47@depaul
Gina Leal | GLEAL1@depaul.edu

Georgie Torres-Reyes GTORRES@depaul.edu

Can We Endure This Much Longer?

You may have recently seen the news that Europe’s oldest known person survived Covid-19, after having tested positive just weeks before her 117th birthday. That person, Sister Andre (Lucile) Randon, happens to be a Daughter of Charity, a member of the religious community founded by Louise de Marillac and Vincent de Paul in 1633. She became a nun in 1944 at the age of 40, after having lived through two world wars and the Spanish Flu pandemic. She devoted many of her years to working with children as a teacher and governess and spent over two decades working with orphans and the elderly in a hospital. Sr. Andre was quoted as saying, “I’m not afraid of dying, so give my vaccine doses to those who need them.”(1)

Her long life and generous spirit puts things into perspective and help us to recognize that this difficult period we are living through shall eventually pass.

I have heard it said that the difference between a child and an adult is that an adult knows a challenging moment will pass. If only it were that easy for us! Like a distraught child overcome by intense feelings, we often have difficulty seeing beyond our present situation. Feelings can overwhelm us, cloud our vision, and prevent our understanding the larger context. We forget that life is about more than our current reality and that time will surely change our perspective. Looking back on our lives, our thoughts about all we have experienced have certainly evolved and will do so again. Sr. Andre’s life can help remind us of this fact.

Over the course of our lives, we may fall into ruts. This may happen without our even being aware. The ruts may be habits or draining, even harmful, ways of seeing, thinking, acting, or relating with others. We may wake up days, weeks, months, or even years later, only to recognize we have gone astray and lost touch with our heart’s desire. In facing this, strong doses of humility and self-compassion are necessary and healing antidotes. Surely, in her long life, Sr. Andre learned many times of the need for forgiveness.

The examples of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac also encourage us to take a long view on life. Vincent wrote to Louise: “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.”(2) Louise, meanwhile, encouraged her fellow sisters by saying: “It is not enough to begin well, one must persevere, as, I believe, you intend.”(3) Keeping this perspective in mind, Sr. Andre’s example and the words of Vincent and Louise invite us to reconsider what it really means to live a good life.

Thinking of how we might look back on our life in old age, what can we do now to be able to someday say, as St. Paul did, and Sr. Andre might, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith?”(4)

How might our perspective of our current difficult reality shift or evolve with time? What can we forgive or let go of today to start anew or better move in the direction of our deepest hopes?


1) Elian Peltier, “As she turns 117, French nun is oldest to recover from virus,” New York Times; as published in the Chicago Tribune, Thursday, February 11, 2021, p. 11.
2) Letter 58, “To Saint Louise, In Beauvais,” CCD, 1:92. See: https://‌via.library.‌depaul.edu/‌vincentian_‌ebooks/‌25/
3) L.300, “To Sister Charlotte and Sister Françoise,” 17 March 1651, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 346. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/13
4) 2 Timothy 4:7.

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Division of Mission and Ministry

What Must Be Done?

This past weekend we celebrated the graduating Class of 2020. After years of hard work and perseverance, our students are ready to go out and change the world. We, as a DePaul community, have prepared them to thrive, care for others, and act justly. We have given them the tools to act upon the Vincentian question, both in their lives and in their communities, “what must be done?”

However, as we celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2020, we must also recognize that our job as a Vincentian, Catholic, and urban university is not done. Our world is broken. We must look ahead to the Class of 2021 and our incoming Class of 2024 and ask how are we preparing them to change, or even heal, our broken world? What action must the DePaul community take today to ensure that future classes flourish. Perhaps in 50 years theirs will be a world that is more just, more loving, filled with students whose experience of our broken world is only to be found in history textbooks?

Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac lived in a society marred by systemic inequality. They asked and strived to answer, “what must be done?” Today, inspired by our shared mission, we seek to emulate Vincent and Louise by asking that same question. To follow in their footsteps we recognize, as Vincent did, that “having charity in our heart and words isn’t everything, it has to be put into action.”1

What is one way you can personally take action to help fix our broken world? What must we do to better teach, advise, or support the Classes of 2021, 2024, or 2070, to build a world in which all can thrive?


1) 207, Charity (Common Rules, Chap. 2, Art. 12), 30 May 1659, CCD, 12:223.

 

Reflection by:

Michael Van Dorpe, Program Manager for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission & Ministry

 

Read the Division of Mission and Ministry Statement on the Dignity of Black Lives

Finding Hope

Louise de Marillac once wrote Vincent de Paul, “I see such disorder everywhere that I seem to be overwhelmed by it.” (L.10, Spiritual Writings, 335.) While we may not know the full extent of what Louise was going through, can we not relate to what she felt? In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DePaul community is facing challenges we have never seen. Moving out of the dorms on short notice, social distancing and isolation, transitioning an entire quarter of in-class instruction to an online format, and working every day from home. All these major disruptions can certainly feel overwhelming.

Yet, in confronting such a feeling herself, Louise then noted, “Nevertheless, I continue to hope.” (Ibid.) The challenges we face are daunting, for some more than others. However, in opposition to that, we’ve seen the DePaul community come together to support each other, and to support those who may be struggling. We’ve seen deadlines extended and timelines modified, we’ve seen university employees receive wages even if their jobs can’t be done remotely, and we’ve seen numerous offices and departments move their face-to-face services online to provide outreach to students and colleagues.

We may be a long way from returning to “normal.” The challenges we face as a university and as a society will only continue to become more difficult in the coming weeks and months. As we endure and attempt to move forward amidst the disorder and disruption of the current crisis, we must be inspired to find hope as Louise once did. That hope may grow from our DePaul community, our family and friends, our God, larger society and the world, or all the above.

How are you currently challenged or overwhelmed by our current reality? Despite this, where do you find hope?

Reflection by:

Michael Van Dorpe, Program Manager for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Mission & Ministry