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

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

The Beauty of a Higher Purpose

Virtue is so beautiful and amiable that they will be compelled to love it in you, if you practice it well.1

In the remarkable short letter from which this quote was taken, Vincent responds to news that several of the missionaries would be travelling on a ship with “some heretics.” After briefly expressing his distress at what they may have to “endure from them,” Vincent spends the rest of the letter reminding them that this is God’s plan. He encourages them to use their best manners and “be careful to avoid every sort of dispute and contention.”2 Vincent expresses hope that an example of beautiful character will be “helpful” to all.

Muslims are now entering into the final week of the observance of Ramadan. Ramadan is normally a month filled with fasting, prayer, and charity; it has been this year as well, although in all other ways it has been different with mosques closed and social activity curtailed by the pandemic. In a traditional saying of the Prophet Muhammad (which he sources to John the Baptist) it is said, “the similitude of the fasting person is that of someone who is carrying a sack-full of musk in a crowd of people—all of them marveling at its fragrance (although they can’t see what has created it).”3

The experience of long days of fasting and nights of sporadic sleep risks making one impatient or hard to be around. However, we find that when undertaken with intention and perseverance, a connection to a higher purpose along with increased gratitude and vulnerability reveals a beauty in the fasting person that is attractive to those around them even if they don’t know the source of it. Such a state also increases generosity that rains upon us all, even upon those who may be seen as heretics in a particular time or place.

During times of difficulty and anxiety like those we are living now, it is tempting to be less patient, less compassionate, more selfish, or even divisive with each other, particularly with those who hold differing worldviews.

What are some practices or exercises you can engage in to remain grounded in a sense of higher purpose? Is there a foundational belief or perspective which enables virtue to emanate from you, such that its beauty and fragrance is enjoyed by and helpful to all whom you encounter?

 


1) 3032, To Philippe Patte, In Nantes, [November or December 1659], CCD, 8:209.

2) Ibid.

3) Jami at-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Amthal (Chapter of Parables), Book 44, Hadith 3102. See: http://sunnah.com/urn/630960

 

Reflection by:

Abdul-Malik Ryan
Assistant Director and Muslim Chaplain
Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care
Division of Mission and Ministry

Seeing with Vincentian Eyes

You will attain this happiness if you practice faithfully humility, gentleness, and charity toward the poor…1

Vincent de Paul remembered the moment captured in the featured illustration as pivotal for him in transforming his sense of mission and vocation. The sacred dignity of this poor, dying peasant became evident to him. With Madame de Gondi’s help, Vincent came to realize there were many people like this who lacked vital spiritual and physical care, and that existing systems within both the Church and society routinely neglected their needs.

Over time, Vincent de Paul grew to be consistent in living the mission he professed. He encouraged his companions to look at reality through the perspective of those enduring poverty, those who suffered basic needs, or those who were routinely left out by the status quo of church, state, and society at the time. He would ask his community, in essence: What do these people need and how do our actions and decisions impact them? How can our resources be used to better serve them? Vincent further recognized the importance of forming leaders who shared his vision and were committed to this sense of mission. He envisioned a community of solidarity that surrounded and supported people in need, and in so doing, enabled all to flourish.

Compassion and care for those struggling with the effects of material and systemic poverty is essential to a Vincentian perspective. Their realities make a claim on us, inviting us to take action. They call us to make changes individually and collectively to address their immediate needs, as well as to confront the root causes of their suffering. This is what we are challenged to do when asking ourselves what has come to be known as the Vincentian question: “What must be done?”

The COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath have required us to make difficult decisions about what we value, as well as the vision we will pursue, both individually and collectively. Vincent’s example invites us to center the perspective of those in poverty, or of those suffering or in pain, and to care for them. Currently, this includes those facing the horrible effects of COVID-19, those who have died, those who have lost loved ones, or those struggling because of unemployment. Vincent’s vision ensures that all people experience a sense of human community and that they are given both the opportunities and resources necessary to flourish. For Vincent, safeguarding hope for those left behind or forgotten by society, especially those in dire conditions, was a necessary part of working for the good of all humanity.

How might “seeing with Vincentian eyes” shape our vision for how to respond to the current crisis? For the education we offer? For the way we go about business as a university? What does it invite you to consider in your work as a colleague, or in your role as a neighbor, citizen, or family member?


1 2787, To Sister Françoise Ménage, In Nantes, 12 February 1659, CCD, 7:471.

Reflection by:

Mark Laboe
Associate Vice President
Faculty and Staff Engagement
Division of Mission and Ministry