What would Vincent say about my Performance Appraisal?

This week I received an e-mail reminding me that my annual DePaul Performance Appraisal is due soon. Quite honestly, this email is never one that fills my heart with joy. It triggers familiar and frustrating thoughts I would rather avoid. “How can I possibly capture a year’s worth of toil and effort in an electronic template?” “Be honest, Tom, have you really been doing your best work lately anyway?” “Performance Appraisals, Teacher Evaluations, Annual Assessments…why are we always being judged?!”

Fortunately, before dwelling too long on these self-defeating thoughts, I received another e-mail from a colleague. It contained, serendipitously, a quote from Vincent de Paul: “God is satisfied with our good will and honest efforts.”1

God is satisfied with my good will and honest efforts. Huh. Really? That’s all? My good will and honest efforts? Not that those are always easy for me to produce, but at least I can wrap my head around the concept. I usually have an idea when my attitude may be lacking, or my efforts failing, and I can work to correct this.

Vincent, in collaboration with others, oversaw a large network of organizations and services. However, neither he nor his great colleague, Louise de Marillac, seemed to lose sight of their own humanity. Nor did they lose sight of the humanity of those with whom they worked and served. Vincent understood that the future was not always clear, and that perfection was not attainable. Nevertheless, he had faith that if people did their best, with good will and honest efforts, all would be well. God would be satisfied, and good would result.

Almost 400 years later, I appreciate these thoughts immensely. Particularly as I approach my performance appraisal! They motivate me to stop worrying about being perfect and to simply do my best, as well as encouraging others to do the same. They also make me grateful for our DePaul community, built around a wise, timeless heritage and people who do so much with good will and honest efforts.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

As you reflect upon the past year and your role at DePaul, where do you witness your good will and honest efforts? As you look ahead, what tasks or responsibilities in your role at DePaul make you feel especially motivated or excited? If you ever notice that your attitude is faltering, or your efforts are dwindling, what do you do to revive yourself?


1 Letter 962, To Etienne Blatiron, Superior in Genoa, 21 June 1647, CCD, 3:206

Reflection by: Tom Judge, Assistant Director and Chaplain for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

When Justice Prevails

“Justice prevailed this week” was the statement made at a modest staff meeting. Justice prevailed? Considering everything going on, it’s hard to see justice prevailing. “With the two Supreme Court rulings.” Ah, yes, the DACA and LGBTQ+ cases. “Would you be willing to write a blog piece on how these connect to the Vincentian story?”

Yes. The requestor knew that I possess a keen interest in Vincentian history and values and in trying to discern how those play out in twenty-first-century America and that I could write about it. What they probably didn’t know was that I have had the experience of a former boss responding to a 2008 announcement that I was getting married to my female partner by saying, “Wonderful news! Congratulations! You do realize that since you work in ministry, you could lose your job if someone decides to make you the focus of a morals campaign, right? But don’t worry, DePaul would find you another job internally!”  I also have a spouse who came out as transgender last year. I watched them navigate the process at their workplace, anxious about the reaction of managers and colleagues, and wondering if they had trashed their hopes for a promised promotion despite workplace protections. It all seemed to rely on the good will of others, a seemingly shaky foundation in a time of partisan divide and culture wars.

What I have not experienced is being a vulnerable DACA recipient, nor their family and loved ones, relieved at yet another reprieve but having to listen to the President of the United States tell his supporters, “People don’t understand, but we actually won on DACA yesterday…. We actually won, because [the court] basically said, ‘You won, but you have to come back and redo it.’” Once again, their futures in the U.S. which I believe should be assured are in doubt, despite studies showing what a strong contribution immigrants in general and DACA recipients in particular make to this country.

Regardless of my personal relationship to the LGBTQ+ or DACA recipient communities, though the Court decisions made me reflect on both, the question remains the same:  how does the justice of the recent Supreme Court decisions relate to the Vincentian story? Broadly I see the connection around the value of human dignity, a Vincentian commitment to justice for all people, and a commitment to working for justice in community. On a personal level, I can view the rulings through the lens of my twelve-year experience at DePaul.

President Esteban’s recent statement on the Supreme Court DACA and LGBTQ+ rights decisions reads, “Our commitment to DACA students is rooted in our Vincentian mission to serve marginalized individuals and groups. This case, and other actions at America’s borders, sought to demean and dismiss their inherent value to American society and our community…. DePaul strives to be an inclusive community that draws on diversity as a source of learning and understanding. We are encouraged by this week’s momentous decisions, and we continue to be inspired by the legacies of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac, who instilled in us a belief in the God-given dignity of all people.”(1)

DePaul University has long supported Dreamers and DACA recipients, and this commitment can be seen in the context of its mission statement: “Motivated by the example of Saint Vincent, who instilled a love of God by leading his contemporaries in serving urgent human needs, the DePaul community is above all characterized by ennobling the God-given dignity of each person. This religious personalism is manifested by the members of the DePaul community in a sensitivity to and care for the needs of each other and of those served, with a special concern for the deprived members of society. DePaul University emphasizes the development of a full range of human capabilities and appreciation of higher education as a means to engage cultural, social, religious, and ethical values in service to others.”(2) DePaul has very publicly stood for undocumented students, providing resources, support, educational opportunity, and public affirmation in living out its mission of upholding human dignity.

I have also experienced DePaul being inclusive and just (though not always perfect) from an LGBTQIA+ perspective. I recall being at the “Out There” conference for scholars and Student Affairs personnel supporting LGBTQ Issues on Catholic Campuses, hosted by DePaul. The event had raised the ire of some who were waging a national campaign to say DePaul could not support this conference and still call itself “Catholic.” As I recall, then President Holtschneider said something along the lines of, “When other local universities had religious quotas, DePaul did not have religious quotas. When most schools restricted women to teaching or nursing, DePaul had general matriculation, and now we have same sex partner benefits, an LGBTQ Studies program, and are meeting an obvious practical need with this conference. We want our professional staff do the best job they can to support the many LGBTQ students who attend our school. It’s not particularly trail blazing stuff. The rest of you will catch up.” This, to me, was Vincentian pragmatism—meeting people where they are and attending to their human dignity while also practicing justice by challenging unjust understandings and policies.

So what must be done? What is the Vincentian story both here and beyond DePaul?

In writing about Frédéric Ozanam last year, the President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Renato Lima de Oliveira, wrote, “what is our understanding of justice? As members of the worldwide Vincentian Family justice consists of service on behalf of those people who are poor and of the promotion of much needed structural change in present day society. Social justice implies a willingness to engage in a struggle for the rights of those persons who have been excluded from participation in Society. This understanding of justice was, in fact, one of the primary virtues of Frédéric Ozanam.”(3)

In writing about advocating for justice, my colleague and University Ombudsperson, Craig Mousin noted, “Vincent was ahead of his time and saw the importance and necessity of providing just wages and medical benefits for his employees. Ozanam and others provided spiritual and intellectual leadership in pinpointing resolutions of social questions through more just treatment of working people.”(4) The Vincentian Family of organizations is rightly focused on justice as well as charity, and systemic change is included as a core value.

Justice did prevail against naked injustice, in my opinion, with the recent Supreme Court decisions. Many, many people have worked and will continue to work on behalf of justice for these two groups of people who often face marginalization, threats to wellbeing, and dehumanization. They work knowing that individual wins are to be celebrated and “Jubilee” moments recognized and savored. Yet, like institutionalized racism, the structural oppression countering the realization of justice for undocumented people and LGBTQIA+ community members must be named and seen as alive and well and working for justice must be done in community.

Vincent and Louise established communities for the sake of mission that still exist today. Ozanam’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul went from a college-student’s dream to a modern organization with 800,000 members in 140 countries. DePaul students who participate in service and justice activities using the “Vincentians in Action” reflection model take part in community mobilization and action. They gain critical Vincentian values of being in mutual relationship with people on the margins, working together, maximizing one another’s gifts from a place of humility, and even through simple actions serving the common good to the greatest extent possible. Communities share in celebration and in pain, both when justice prevails and when it does not.

Looking at the recent Supreme Court decisions through a Vincentian lens gives me hope and a sense of broader community and possibility. This moment is tied to justice and injustice worldwide, and it provides meaning to the work I do for justice. It is a reminder that the work for justice is never finished in our imperfect world, but that there are still times that call for celebration and building strength for our continuing work.


Written by – Katie Brick

1) A. Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D., Statement from DePaul University president on U.S. Supreme Court decisions affecting DACA and LGBTQ+ rights, 18 June 2020, at: https://resources.depaul.edu/newsroom/news/press-releases/Pages/statement-from-university-president-on-supreme-court-decisions.aspx

2) DePaul University’s Mission Statement, at: https://offices.depaul.edu/mission-ministry/about/Pages/mission.aspx

3) Renato Lima de Oliveira, Justice and the Members of the Vincentian Family, 19 November 2019, at:  https://famvin.org/en/2019/11/25/justice-and-the-members-of-the-vincentian-family/

4) Craig B. Mousin, “Vincentian Leadership—Advocating for Justice,” Vincentian Heritage 26:1 (2005), 270. At: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol26/iss1/14/

 

Seeds of the Mission Campaign

Reflections on Mission in our Current Times  

“Every good work…we do is a grain of seed for eternal life.” – St. Elizabeth Seton ¹

“The review and possible revision of DePaul University’s Mission Statement is happening at an unprecedented time that combines many different aspects related to the Vincentian mission.

The Covid-19 pandemic has unveiled that our social fabric is broken, as illustrated by a healthcare system that excludes most people in the world. The labor system has been exposed by the scale of unemployment and the sheer number of workers lacking rights, protection, or insurance. Our political system has also been exposed. Individual good and personal gain dominate political agendas, and political will has been compromised by business interests and corruption. What has been lost is the common good, which is needed now more than ever.

The recent killing of George Floyd and the national and global unrest that followed is alerting us that large portions of society are long tired of racism, exclusion, and discrimination. In the wake of these crises comes an outcry for systemic change and transformation.

From the perspective of our Vincentian mission we want to be a part of this call to action, this movement. DePaul’s mission must never be separated from the needs of the world. The Seeds of the Mission Campaign seeks to embrace this movement for justice that current events are inspiring. We expect the Seeds of the Mission campaign to lift up stories of mission-in-action and demonstrate how people make an impact at DePaul, in our city, across our nation, and throughout our world.” – Fr. Memo Campuzano, C.M.

What is the Seeds of the Mission Campaign?  

“Nature makes trees put down deep roots before having them bear fruit, and even this is done gradually.” -Vincent de Paul ²

The Seeds of the Mission Campaign invites our DePaul community to witness, uphold, and celebrate DePaul’s mission-in-action as a tool for revising the university mission statement. A seed is a symbol of hope, something we need now more than ever. Rooted in the Vincentian practice of valuing experience, the Seeds of the Mission Campaign will gather stories of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners living the DePaul mission.

We recognize and celebrate the many diverse, creative, and deeply rooted seeds already answering the Vincentian question, “What Must Be Done?” Listening to and amplifying Seeds of the Mission stories helps us to understand who we have been, and who we are now, so that we may transform into who we are called to be in the twenty-first century.

Gathering Seeds of the Mission Stories 

Over the course of the summer, the Division of Mission and Ministry will gather Seeds of the Mission stories. The process of revising a mission statement is about more than changing words on paper. It is about fostering ownership of the mission and taking action to live it out. To better do so, we need to hear your stories!

As we come to the end of an historic and unprecedented quarter, take some time to reflect on the Seeds of the Mission within your DePaul communities, both now and in the past. What stories do we need to tell to honor and celebrate all we have lived through together? We encourage DePaul students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners to participate. The following questions are meant to be guides, but if you find yourself reflecting on the Seeds of the Mission in a different way, please share that as well:

  • Who do you see living the DePaul mission?
  • During your time at DePaul, what creative ways have you answered the Vincentian question, “What must be done?”
  • Where have you witnessed creative, transformative, or inventive love, solidarity, and education?
  • Whose actions planted seeds of hope in the difficult soil of confusion, pain, and transition?

Submit your Seeds of the Mission Story Ideas HERE

Over the next couple of months the Division of Mission and Ministry hopes to find ways to  share these stories.  

 


  1. – 10.2, Maxims, Collected Writings, Elizabeth Bayley Seton, 3a:488.
  2. – 1796, To Charles Ozenne, Superior, In Warsaw, 13 November 1654, CCD, 5:219.

Plan to Review the University Mission Statement

The Division of Mission and Ministry is pleased to announce that the Mission Committee of the Board of Trustees has approved a plan to review and possibly revise DePaul’s mission statement.  The 2020-21 Mission Statement Review is beginning now, and you are invited to participate in the process.

Building on the Vincentian practice of valuing experience and creating guidelines or statements that generally affirm what is already taking place as well as communicating aspirational goals, the review of the DePaul mission statement will take place through a 4-part process:

  1. Rolling out a “Seeds of the Mission” campaign to share stories and gain insights about where the mission is already operative at DePaul through highlighting mission in action. This campaign will start this month and its details will soon be shared.
  2. Creating a document over the summer and fall based on academic research about the history of DePaul’s purpose/mission statements that also brings in external perspectives through accreditation documents to outline how DePaul’s mission statements and understanding of mission have evolved to meet DePaul’s changing reality over time.
  3. Conducting a Mission Survey with the members of the Board of Trustees in the fall.
  4. Holding institutional mission dialogues in the fall to foster an understanding of DePaul’s mission with diverse community stakeholders as we seek to ensure DePaul’s mission statement reflects mission in a 21st century context.

In the winter, the information gained through executing the phased plan above will quite likely feed into a revised university mission statement, which we imagine will be concise, memorable, and actionable, and which would be accompanied by a lengthier supporting academic document.  A revised mission statement, if warranted, would be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in May 2021.

Division of Mission and Ministry staff expect that the Seeds of the Mission campaign and mission dialogues will involve people at all levels of the university in the mission statement review process and expect it to generate new ideas for DePaul moving into the future, provide an opportunity to educate people on the mission, and increase DePaul community members’ knowledge about and ownership of our shared mission statement and mission.

 

We look forward to involving you in this process!

Guillermo Campuzano, C.M., Vice President for the Division of Mission and Ministry

We Want the Best

 

J. Patrick Murphy argues that for Vincentian educational institutions to fulfill their mission, their leadership must model Vincentian values. It is also essential to hire faculty who will put those values and mission into practice. It is better to employ people whose personal principles match those of the Vincentians than it is to hire candidates who look the best qualified on paper, but who do not connect with the mission. The greatest results come from asking people to do their best and providing a work environment in which they can do that. Once hiring is done, leaders must continually educate faculty in Vincentian values. This fosters their own initiative to engage with the mission.

“We Want the Best” is an article published in 2005 in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 26, Issue 1, Article 3 and is available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol26/iss1/3

 

About Saint Vincent de Paul and DePaul University’s Vincentian, Catholic, and Urban Identity

 

In this original unpublished essay by Fr. Edward R. Udovic, C.M., we hear a bit of history of the Vincentian Community’s involvement in higher education in the United States.  There is also a reflection on Vincent de Paul and his character as values-based, honoring diversity, willing to take risks, innovative, pragmatic, and intimately involved with the people in his urban community of Paris, especially the poor.  Vincent and his followers were committed to serving the needs of their poor.  They were interested in making a difference in people’s lives.

In the context of today’s world, the efforts of DePaul University’s faculty and staff are aimed at providing an education to its traditional students from marginalized communities to help in supporting a change in the well-being of those generations to come.  Serving the multi-cultural, religiously diverse student, staff, faculty, and alumni community the University continues to foster social engagement within the urban community of Chicago and, through its alumni, the communities of the world.  From “Little college under the ‘L'” to the largest Catholic University in the country, DePaul University continues its history of values-driven service, innovative programming, pragmatic activity deeply connected to the world.

Faith and Deconstructing the Exclusivity of Truth

world

Enass Zayed gives her take on the concept of faith and truth in a world of varied ideologies and experiences.

Over the course of this last year I have been asked to reflect on my religious ideologies quite a bit. There have been questions that I have had welling up from my own traditions that I have had to find answers to and there have been aspects of other traditions that I have felt were so profound that I have tried to incorporate them into my own belief structure. One of the biggest things that I have had to work my mind around is the concept of faith and how it exists within the concept of exclusive truth. There are many people who hold the belief that their traditions are the only proper way to behave. This phenomenon is prevalent in all aspects of life; religious or secular. My biggest challenge has been trying to remove myself from the ranks of the exclusive.

On our very first meeting, Mat Charnay asked me to define faith. While the clear and obvious answer is full trust in something outside of your self, I felt as though that was not enough to encapsulate the idea. Faith is taking the leap and hoping something catches you. In my mind, the strongest faith comes from knowing that there is a possibility that things are not quite as you imagine them, but committing to your ideas anyway. Faith is built by making informed decisions and seeking knowledge in all its forms so that any ideas that are created are likely to stand the barrage of obstacles that life throws at us. I am a firm believer in the idea of individual truth as opposed to a general and exclusive truth. Not everyone’s idea of religion are going to be able to satisfy the needs of the rest of the world and that is okay. In fact, that is the most beautiful things about faith in general. When properly executed, faith allows many people to have beautiful, complicated, and extensive ideas about every part of their lives: ideas that are relevant to their relationship with their world and their religion.

While most of this idea is pretty elementary to most, the part that I believe is left out is the idea that we might be wrong. I know that there is slight possibility that everything I hold true could be proven wrong tomorrow, but this understanding is what keeps my concept of faith growing. My personal approach to religious belief is that (most) everything is fluid. Ever since I was a child, I have done my own research into the religious systems that have surrounded me. I was never content to let someone give me traditions without understanding why there were valid or relevant. I was never content in settling on one answer because that would have meant that my research into faith would have stopped. Once I reach a comfortable conclusion, there is no point in continuing my search for a self relevant truth. My faith is built on the idea that I have to build knowledge to minimize the possibility that I am wrong about everything.

So, is the exclusivity of truth even relevant in the discussion of faith? In my opinion it is. From personal experience I have found that many people are unwilling to question their concept of truth as it would apply to another person. There is also little thought put into the idea that we do not always have the answers to everything. The idea of an exclusive truth lends itself to the idea that one religion is more valid than any others. This concept is problematic because so many religions teach that religion is a shared experience even if we do not all carry out our beliefs in the same manner and traditions. While my understanding of truth may be valid today, it is valid only in my experiences and only until something to the contrary comes into my world view. Until then, I feel as though I owe it to my faith and my religious belief to continuously research and build a stronger foundation from which I can take my leap of faith.

New Scholars. New Reflections.

Over the summer, a group of our interfaith scholars headed to New York City in order to experience each other’s faith in such a way that we could move past any preconceived notions and actually grasp what the others believed. For most college age students, a trip to New York is all about the kind of shenanigans that can be accomplished and summer is about losing all responsibility and just relaxing. This summer shifted our focus because we were not letting time idly pass by. We were pushed out of our comfort zones in an effort to bring all of us closer together. We had the rest of the summer to reflect and decide if that plan worked or not. 

Each scholar was asked to reflect on:

  • What experience was inspiring?
  • What was surprising?
  •  

    What challenges were confronted?

  • What made you care?

Interfaith Scholar extraordinaire Kamieshia Graves gave us her reflection:

“New York. (insert happy sigh here) The city of wonders and great opportunities. The place to be with all its magnificent city lights illuminating the picturesque skyline. All the snazzy people with ambitions and dreams that are out of this world. Forget Home, Dorothy! There’s no place like New York!!!!!!”

Yeah… definitely not how I felt initially. May I offer a bit of my reality?

I never had the burning desire to go to NY. In fact, I was so dedicated to being a Chicagoan that I was almost positive that I would never partake in the blasphemous act of going to New York. It sounds ridiculous because it was ridiculous– don’t judge me. I think NY simply terrified me causing the lack of motivation to visit; however, I agreed to go with Interfaith Scholars 2013-2014 (woot woot!) and the adventure began.

You see, the day of travel came and butterflies are too cute to describe how I felt. I hadn’t previously met any of my team members with whom I would be riding all the way to NY. I’m a pretty easygoing person, but the thought of not being accepted into the group worried me quite a bit and I must say that first day was quite a challenge for me. It was like transferring to a new high school during senior year—I know from experience. Everyone was already comfortable and easily initiated conversations and laughed. Meanwhile, I fought to find a cool way to just jump in, which I never figured out. Instead, I randomly would ask a question, like a dork, never realizing that the focus was on the Game of Thrones, which I knew nothing about. (PS. Thanks guys for inspiring me to watch it. It is good!) Needless to say, I slept most of that ride.

Fast-forward:

We arrived and had arrangements to stay in the Bronx! I loved the Bronx immediately because it gave me a sense of comfort when I needed it most. I felt more connected with the residents of that area more so than I did with the individuals I was to live with. I felt that if I walked into a random group of New Yorkers they would listen to me, but I did not feel that way with my own team. Then all of a sudden, a bright light broke through the sky and we had a “Haaaaaaallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelu-u-u-u-jahhhh” moment and one person from my group struck up a conversation with me and then another and we just clicked, which actually surprised me! Although I believe that the foundation of Christianity with regards to behavior towards others is to be Christ-like by loving everyone despite differences, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I, a nondenominational Christian, had so much in common, including some religious beliefs, with the two young women who are both Muslim. The shared commonalities even extended to the other faith practices represented in the group. Can you imagine the look on my face when I met the Greek Orthodox priest and learned that he is just as crazy hilarious as my own pastor?! I’m sorry, but when I first heard Greek Orthodox I let my preconceived notions nurture the idea of taking a nap before going to that church. I expected it to be boring, but I happily admitted my error after learning that the St Nick is Santa. I had to send silent prayers of forgiveness to each of the faith practices many times that trip; I wouldn’t have changed it though because I learned a great deal about others as well as myself.

Though some may disagree, I would be comfortable saying that we are all working toward the same goal, but simply using different paths. I love it!

During a free day, I got to explore this a bit more when the leaders of the group gave us the challenge of initiating a conversation with a native and, if not too strenuous, centering the conversation on religion. I, along with the same two young ladies, found it rather easy to achieve this at Union Square with a bunch of random men from different faith practices. We got into this really crazy discussion (borderline debate at times) about Christianity, Atheism, and Islam with a man who identified himself as atheist. More and more people joined, and we developed this cycle of discussing religion and being silly. In the midst of all this enjoyable chaos, there was an older Islamic woman whose mere presence was awe-inspiring. This woman was selling water to make a profit. A couple of the guys bought water, and one said that he had done it because he felt sorry for her. The crazy thing is this lady was joyous and goofy. At least for the moment, she had not let life steal her love of living. I remember that she had jokingly asked one of the men why he hadn’t made a pass at one of us ladies and she laughed with us. It seems so simple, but I found it inspirational because life has dealt some crazy cards to me and I had allowed it to start having an effect on my perspective, but her presence reminded me of what I do have- laughter. (I have this crazy obnoxious laugh but I love it because it makes others laugh too.) I let the hard stuff blur my positive and optimistic outlook, but her presence.

Jumping gears to a not so religious moment that I have to share because it touched me:

I cannot remember where we were or why we were there but we were at a very small park- it was literally a fountain with benches around it- and there was this little girl who was in her own little world. She danced and danced without a care in the world, and all of us just watched her, but not in a creepy way. She eventually realized she had an audience and she stopped and returned the favor. She just looked at me… and looked… and looked until she smiled a big cheerful smile provoking me to do the same. She waved at me giddily twice before her mother looked back to check on the fuss. Her daughter ran to her and pointed at me and waved again. Our group had turned to leave, but before leaving to proceed to our next destination I turned to see her awaiting a goodbye. We waved one last time and I walked away touched by the purity of that carefree child.

I could go on and on about the IFS trip to NY, but I think I have already talked waaaaay too much. What can I say? Because of the memories I was gifted, I had a lot to say about the remarkable city of New York. As of right now, there is no place like it.