Why are We Here?

Many of us believe that now and again it is a good idea to ask, “why am I here?”

Why am I here…why am I here…? Such an innocent question. Such an infinite variety of existential responses. And, though we may never be fully satisfied with our answers, entertaining the question is worthwhile.

Right now, DePaul University finds itself asking institutionally “why are we here?” That question emanated throughout the Mission Statement dialogues undertaken around the university over the fall quarter. And, it continues to challenge us as we respond to the Covid public health crisis and wrestle with its corresponding economic circumstances. Addressing this question will take all the good will, wisdom, and participation DePaul can muster. Thankfully, we have DePaul’s nearly 125-year history to help illuminate our reason for being here today. Beyond that, we have the Vincentian tradition begun by Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, and their earliest colleagues. How might that heritage be helpful in shaping our answer to the question “why are we here?” Among many possibilities, one comes to mind.

In the spring of 1658, an elderly Vincent de Paul presented his only published work, “The Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission,” to his community. It was meant to serve as a guide and instruction manual. Not by accident, Vincent chose to begin the first and last chapters of the Rules with the same biblical verse. Taken from the first verse of the Acts of the Apostles, it says Jesus began “to do and to teach.”1 Vincent chose this phrase as the inspiration and model for his missionaries.2 How wonderfully it captures the legacy of Vincent de Paul and how prophetically it names our purpose at DePaul University.

“To do and to teach” calls us to be active and public facing in order to benefit the common good. To do and to teach asks that we be intentional and reflective in learning from our experiences. As community members and collaborators, to do and to teach means giving and receiving respect, joy, and empowerment from one another. We are called to do virtuous work, aspire to the highest ideals, and to pay particular attention to those who are neglected or marginalized. Now and moving forward, to do and to teach means being anti-racist. It means caring for the earth. It means giving our students the most cost-effective, holistic education possible; one that prepares them to succeed. At the same time, it means providing our staff and faculty with a place that is equitable and inclusive; a community wherein they flourish.

Why are you here? To do and to teach! Such a simple question and response. Such transformative, empowering potential.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS: How would you answer the question: Why are you here? How would you answer the question: Why is DePaul University here? How does “to do and to teach” apply to you?


1 “It is worthy of note that both the first and last chapters of the Common Rules open with the same biblical reference, namely to the fact that Jesus ‘began to do and to teach.’” Warren Dicharry, C.M., “Saint Vincent and Sacred Scripture,” Vincentian Heritage 10:2 (1989), 139. See: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/vhj/‌vol10/iss2/2/

2 In the Common Rules, Vincent made clear that Jesus began by doing and then followed with teaching. Both pursuits were equally important, with the former shaping the latter, and emphasized the importance placed on experience, action, and incarnation. See Chapter 1, Common Rules: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.edu/‌cm_construles/3

 

ANNOUNCEMENT:

You are invited to join us for Lunch with Vincent on Tuesday, March 2nd, from 12:00–1:00 pm. We will be joined by our colleagues from the Office of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care: Mat Charnay, Jewish Life Coordinator; Minister Jené Colvin, DePaul Christian Ministries; and Abdul-Malik Ryan, Muslim Chaplain. Together they will share how each of their Abrahamic traditions empowers them to be anti-racist. Participants will be invited to reflect and share how their values, philosophies, or religions calls and sustains them to be anti-racist.

To RSVP for Lunch with Vincent on 3/2/21: http://‌events.r20.‌constantcontact.‌com/‌register/‌event?‌‌oeidk=a07ehla8zhr4d41a1c6&llr‌=qiic4w6ab

 

 

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

Health as Treasure

As dawn replaces darkness in Chicago and lake effect clouds rise, patrons stand on cold pavement six feet apart to order hot coffee along quasi-empty streets with boarded-up businesses. The wind bites customers who shiver as they stand waiting under the gloomy sky. What do they recall about this time last year? What has changed?

Filled with nostalgia, memories may surface of bustling commerce and camaraderie—the simple enjoyments of life prior to COVID19. Then we lived with some predictability, although our sensitivities were numbed by expectations entrenched in the social constructs of yesteryear. We had hoped a new era would be more kind, just, equitable and inclusive, but life changed unexpectedly. An invisible enemy destroyed normalcy. Forced to separate, isolate, quarantine, and trace contacts, an unknown adversary began to shatter families, relationships, and communities, forcing us to acknowledge our vulnerability. Swiftly, security morphed into insecurity and anxiety, heightened by fear of the deadly danger. Modern society is neither the first nor will be the last to respond to such a challenge. Nevertheless, uncertainty and dread have bred inescapable apprehension.

“There is nothing that bothers me more than uncertainty,” acknowledged Vincent de Paul, who was keenly aware of the unpredictability of life changing events and their impact on individuals and families.(1) Louise de Marillac encountered victims of the plague in France, prompting her to advise the Daughters of Charity to “take good care of yourself amid the great dangers.”(2) She imposed travel restrictions in one town and reported that the Sisters there had “stopped the visiting of the sick and the schools.”(3)

As a Vincentian community gathered for the sake of the mission, we are called to care for one another and ourselves. In order to overcome quarantine fatigue, “we must go forward without becoming discouraged.”(4) We need to acknowledge our current reality of living during a global pandemic. Louise knew the value of self-care: “I have great need of a few days to think about myself and be renewed.”(5) As those patrons who sip their morning coffee and savor the aroma, recall Vincentian wisdom: “Take good care of your health.”(6) “Health is the most precious treasure of life.”(7)

Take care of yourself. Take care of one another. Take Care DePaul!

Reflection Questions

  1. How do I respond when dark clouds besiege my life?
  2. What enables me to summon the courage to go forward?
  3. What must I do for optimum self-care, or to be renewed?

1) 175, Vincent de Paul to Louise de Marillac, CCD, 1:240.

2) 411, Vincent de Paul to Louise de Marillac, 12 [December] 1639, CCD, 1:595-6.

3) Ibid.

4) 1307, Vincent de Paul to René Alméras, (3 January 1651), CCD, 138-40.

5) L.4, Louise de Marillac to Vincent de Paul, 4 September c. 1634, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 10.

6) 411, Vincent de Paul to Louise de Marillac, 12 [December] 1639, CCD, 1:595-6.

7) A.92, (On the Duties of the Motherhouse), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 810.

 

Reflection by Sr. Betty Ann

Look Up with Hope

Over the past weeks I’ve been privy to the laments of many who are trying to remain hopeful as they or their dear ones face the fear of COVID, as they struggle in a virtual world, or as they grapple with growing angst over our country. While we are living through very trying times, we are reminded by Elizabeth Ann Seton, a woman who knew suffering and struggles well, that sometimes all we can do is “look up with hope.”1

We hang onto a hope that tomorrow will be a new day with new challenges. But, in these trying times, our hope is often that we will be able to carry on and live to see a better day. Guiding the way, we are privileged to turn to the wisdom of our Vincentian sister who reminded us that no matter how difficult things are, “hope travels on nor quits us till we die.”2

It is in this hope that we will find the courage and energy to meet the challenges before us. It is in trusting hope that we look forward to a new and better day. Look up, and hope.


1) Regina Bechtle, S.C., Judith Metz, S.C., eds., Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings, 3 vols. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2000-2006), 2:611.

2) Ibid., 1:7.

 

Reflection by:  Rev. Dr. Diane Dardón, Director, Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, Division of Mission and Ministry

Simplicity in Hectic Times

Since the academic year started, I’ve felt like I’m learning to juggle while the balls are already in the air. Fall Quarter is hectic in ordinary times, but this school year is anything but average. We face a global pandemic, systemic racism and racist violence, a declining economy, massive unemployment numbers, and political upheaval and uncertainty. The pandemic has made burdens that people already carried much heavier, and it has added new burdens to our loads.

In those moments when it feels like there are too many balls to juggle, I turn toward the Vincentian virtue of simplicity. In the Vincentian tradition, the value of simplicity is twofold. On the one hand, it refers to clear and honest speech. When we speak simply, we are our most authentic selves. In The Way of Vincent de Paul, Robert Maloney, C.M., writes “The heart must not think one thing while the mouth says another.”1 In our context today, simplicity might invite us to name honestly when we have reached our limits and need support. Likewise, it might mean speaking truth to power in the face of injustice and political turmoil.

Simplicity also invites us to clear away the clutter in our lives to make room for the things that truly matter. In a time when we face an immense amount of mental clutter and overstimulation, simplicity can remind us to pause and refocus our attention where it needs to be. It reminds us to make room in our lives for stillness and rest.

As you start the week, notice the ways you feel called toward simplicity.

  • Where do you feel you need to speak your truth?
  • Where do you feel stretched too thin? If you’re juggling too many balls, is it possible to remove one from the rotation and/or ask for support?
  • Where is the clutter in your life? How can you actively clear it away to find room for stillness?
  • What is one way you can rest today?

1) Robert P. Maloney, C.M., The Way of Vincent de Paul: A Contemporary Spirituality in the Service of the Poor (New York: New City Press, 1992), 38. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/maloney/13/

 Reflection by:    Emily LaHood-Olsen, Ministry Coordinator for Service Immersions, Division of Mission and Ministry

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.   

Rosh Hashanah – Reflection at the Start of a New Year

This coming Friday evening at sundown marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year) starts the New Year in the Jewish calendar. During this holiday and the days leading up to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Jews are encouraged to reflect on the year past. We take stock of ourselves and take time to examine our own faults and shortcomings.

A Jewish custom coincides with this self-reflective spiritual exercise. Tashlich (“casting off”) is the practice of symbolically getting rid of one’s sins. During Tashlich, Jews are asked to walk to a large flowing water source (a creek, river, or large lake) and empty their pockets, to figuratively cast off our sins. Small breadcrumbs or bird seed is commonly placed in the pockets to be thrown. This practice is not mentioned in the Torah but has become a long-standing custom in Judaism.

As we move into this new academic year, this ritual of letting go and moving forward holds special significance. In beginning autumn, and facing the next stage of our COVID journey together, how can we take stock of where we have been and where we are going? What are some positive things you are looking forward to with this new season and academic year? What are some things you might be ready to “cast off” and leave behind? Do you have your own way of “cleansing” or “renewing” yourself to begin again?


Reflection by:  Matthew Charnay, Jewish Life Coordinator, Division of Mission and Ministry

 

Jewish High Holiday Services – DePaul University

All students, staff, and faculty of the DePaul community are invited free-of-charge to attend our fun, engaging and fully virtual High Holiday Services. For more information, visit: https://tinyurl.com/Depaulhighholidays2020

This Great Universe

“God also works incessantly from outside himself in the creation and preservation of this great universe, in the movements of the heavens, in the influences of the stars, in the productions of land and sea, in the nature of the atmosphere, in the regulation of the seasons, and in all that beautiful order we observe in nature, which would be destroyed and return to nothingness if God was not constantly guiding it.”  Vincent de Paul (CCD 9: 384).  Love of Work, 28 November, 1649.

Recently, several DePaul colleagues have shared with me about the joy they feel when they are in the natural world. A sense of awe, a feeling of pleasure, a wave of gratitude that may be found “in that beautiful order we observe in nature,” as Vincent de Paul once wrote. Although his defining years were spent within cosmopolitan Paris, Vincent was forever shaped by his childhood in the bucolic countryside of Gascony.   He learned early the handiwork of God that is evident in creation.  Hundreds of years later, in our own urban setting of Chicago, we know to take a stroll around the block or a turn in a park or just to look above the buildings towards the sky can bring a quiet moment’s peace and perhaps even surprise us with something unexpected and beautiful.

Today, in the midst of a global pandemic, spending time outside, in reflection, may not only be helpful for our physical health, it may also provide respite and a new perspective for our spirits.  A reminder that while we are only a small part of a larger whole, we are not alone.  In these late days of summer, as we prepare for the beginning of a most anticipated, and uncertain, school year, it seems an even greater imperative for us to experience the balm of creation. Not only for the benefit it promises to the body and to the soul, but also for the possibility of glimpsing the hand of God at work in our midst.

Where are places in nature you can go to and feel inspired or at peace? How can you enjoy these days of the summer season in ways that you know will bring you joy?    

We know not everyone has reasonable access to the natural world or a healthy environment. How might you be able to contribute to the beauty and sustainability of the earth for all its inhabitants? 


Reflection by:  Tom Judge, Chaplain, Mission and Ministry

The Vincentian Studies Institute in the Division of Mission & Ministry Vincentian Heritage Journal: A Call for Proposals Proposal Submission Deadline: July 31, 2020

2020: DePaul University’s Community Responds to Crises

The DePaul University Vincentian Studies Institute would like to invite everyone from our community—faculty, staff, students, and alumni—to participate in a special call to submit publishable materials dedicated to the unprecedented crises we have been challenged to confront in 2020. Covid-19 has disrupted daily life and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. At DePaul it has forced us to change how we work, how we teach, and how we learn. How has it changed you? Our nation has also erupted in protests over the brutal killing of George Floyd. His senseless death has reignited the Black Lives Matter movement and challenges us as a people to dismantle inequality, oppression, and systemic racism in the pursuit of justice. How has this affected you, your colleagues, or your family? How has your perception of DePaul, of Chicago, of our country, been changed? Considering both crises and their effect on marginalized peoples how do we see that they interplay? How can we move forward? How can our Vincentian values help guide us through this time of great pain and suffering? Ultimately, we would like to know, how have we responded as a Vincentian higher learning community?

What We Are Asking of You

We are asking for your contributions in the hope that they help us to reflect on what has happened and is still happening. Every type of production is welcomed: academic papers, short essays, poems, fiction, paintings, photographs, videos, etc. Individual or collective proposals are welcomed. Shorter works will be featured online, promoted by the Division of Mission & Ministry, and shared with the university community. Longer written works may be featured in a special collection published in the VSI’s scholarly journal Vincentian Heritage.

Process to Contribute

  • We ask that you submit your Proposal or short summary of your intended contribution, to: nmichaud@depaul.edu Please do so before July 31, 2020.
  • Proposals will be reviewed by the VSI board and you will be notified of their decision by August 21, 2020.
  • Once accepted, final drafts of your contributed work must be received by January 15, 2021.

Writing History in the Present

“There are no people in the world more obliged to do this than we are, nor any Community that should apply itself more to the external practice of heartfelt charity.”  – 207, Charity, Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 12, 30 May 1659, CCD, 12:214.

Thus far, 2020 has been an historic year—for DePaul, for our nation and for our world. Importantly, it is a story that is still being written. Before us lies an opportunity in the weeks and months ahead to shape how this year will be remembered and described to future generations. The calendar year remaining will go a long way toward determining the net impact of this period on our human community for years to come. How will we be remembered? Will it be as a generation that rose to the challenge and became stronger and better as a result, or as one that allowed difficulties to cause further harm both in the present and for those who follow us?

After the deepened revelation of our fragile interdependence made evident during the COVID crisis, will we see our inherent connection to one another as a beautiful gift or as a dangerous threat? After the killing of George Floyd and the long legacy that predates his murderous death, will we be inspired to make concrete changes in our personal and collective lives, to actively seek to correct the systemic injustices of racism and make amends for their impact? After this tumultuous year, what will be the resulting vision and shared goals that guide our future efforts to create a flourishing society? Will examples of generosity, courage, and sacrificial love, service, and commitment become central to the storyline of 2020? Will their positive energy continue to ripple outward into the future? Will actions for a more just and inclusive society result in the transformation of policies, minds, and hearts?

The result will depend upon our doing the work of writing the history of 2020, which will be determined by our actions in the present. Indeed, as a Vincentian university community, “there are no people in the world more obliged to do this than we are, nor any community that should apply itself more…” to this work. We now have an opportunity to create and be shapers of our history, and to not just passively accept the circumstances of our life.

What is at the heart of the human community you want to live and work in, and that you want for future generations to remember? What would it mean for you to begin to work now toward that vision? How can we act today so that our university more fully lives out its unique Vincentian mission of service to society in the future? How can you begin to plant the seeds necessary for this future vision?


Mission and Ministry is Looking for your Input

VSI Calls for Proposals Related to Crises

The Vincentian Studies Institute would like to invite everyone from the DePaul community to participate in a special call to create and submit publishable materials dedicated to the unprecedented crises we have had to confront in 2020.  We are asking for your contributions in the hope that they help us to reflect on what has happened and is still happening.

Every type of production is welcomed: academic papers, short essays, poems, fiction, paintings, photographs, videos, etc. Individual or collective proposals are welcomed. Shorter works will be featured online, promoted by the Division of Mission & Ministry, and shared with the university community. Longer written works may be featured in a special collection published in the VSI’s scholarly journal Vincentian Heritage. We ask that you submit your Proposal or short summary of your intended contribution, to: nmichaud@depaul.edu Please do so before July 31, 2020. Proposals will be reviewed by the VSI board and you will be notified of their decision by August 21, 2020. Once accepted, final drafts of your contributed work must be received by January 15, 2021.

Seeds of Mission Campaign

  • What initiatives, stories, and people serve as authentic and striking examples of DePaul’s Vincentian mission for you? Please let us know by submitting your input to the: Seeds of Mission campaign
  • For a full description of the Seeds of Mission Campaign: Click here