The Enduring Spirit of DePaul’s Mission

“Let’s take renewed resolutions to acquire this spirit, which is our spirit; for the spirit of the mission is a spirit of simplicity, humility, gentleness, mortification, and zeal. Do we have it or don’t we?”[1]

In 1659, Vincent invited his community to reflect upon the distinguishing characteristics, core values, and commitments of the Vincentian mission and to recommit to the essence of its spirit. Vincent understood the importance of reflecting on our actions to inform our understanding of the present, as well as to better craft the evolving future.

The seeds of DePaul’s mission were planted in seventeenth-century France and our heritage begins there. Yet, to paraphrase Vincent, even in these early days he challenged his community to discern “do we have the Vincentian Spirit or don’t we?”

Today, centuries later, each of us is invited to reflect upon similar questions. In what ways is the Vincentian Spirit manifest in our work and community? Where is it lacking? How are we interpreting the spirit of the mission for the reality of DePaul University’s present and the reality of its tomorrow?

In 2020-2021, for the first time in 35 years, DePaul engaged 600 community members in a ten-month-long participatory process to reflect upon who we are and whom we dream of becoming. Our updated mission statement is the result of this inclusive and communal process. Drawing on the same spirit as Vincent, it expresses the university’s current reality, reflects our shared values, and articulates our evolving hopes and common dreams.

Over the next seven days, we invite you to participate in the annual St. Vincent de Paul Heritage Week. In attending one or more of an array of mission-focused events, you will have the opportunity to celebrate our Vincentian Heritage, reflect upon the mission in today’s context, and examine its dynamic, unfolding meaning at both a personal and professional level.

We look forward to welcoming you and celebrating at one or more of these events. Registration information for the week can be found here.

Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director of Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] Conference 211, The Five Characteristic Virtues (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 14), 22 August 1659, CCD, 12:251.

Sharing the Way of Wisdom

In a fast-moving world saturated with information, visual stimuli, and an abundance of options for every decision, whether important or mundane, living and acting with wisdom can be a daunting task. Growing wise requires courage, grace, and a community of trusted others from whom we learn.

Since approximately 1954, the official motto of DePaul University has been Viam sapientiae monstrabo tibi. This Latin phrase is taken from the biblical book of Proverbs (4:11) and translated into English reads “I will show you the way of wisdom.”1 Additionally, the university’s distinctive logo depicts the “tree of wisdom,” hearkening to the wisdom tradition. It also reflects several other biblical passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that reverence the virtue.

While all universities seek to generate knowledge, participate in research, and help prepare students with the necessary professional skills to succeed in their careers, the commitment implied by our university’s motto is a much taller order. Are we up to the task? What does it entail to show the way of wisdom? How is wisdom evident and learned during the student experience and our communal life?

Wisdom clearly goes beyond the acquisition and retention of cognitive knowledge or facts. It integrates other forms of intelligence, whether interpersonal, emotional, or ethical. Wisdom involves the practical application of intelligence in timely and effective ways, requiring the ability to pay attention to the nuances of situations and to carefully discern the how as well as the what. Wisdom involves knowing when to push a little harder and put in more effort, and when to accept a tough reality and resign oneself to inevitable limitations. There is a reason why ancient spiritual writers praised wisdom and valued it above all things; it doesn’t come easily. In fact, wisdom is often most profoundly gained through experiences that lead us to greater humility or loss. In these we often realize a deeper interconnectedness and interdependency with others.

At DePaul University how do we, or how might we, educate in such a way that we demonstrate, discover, support, or initiate each other into the way of wisdom?

First and foremost, we must each be on our own path of authentically seeking and appreciating wisdom. We must value it above other things, because at some level “we teach who we are.”2 Second, we must understand that we are always teaching, and students are always learning. This occurs not only in the classroom, but also in experiencing the way that we function together as a community and as an institution. Students gain wisdom both through how they are treated and in observing how we treat each other. Third, we have the opportunity in and outside of the classroom to invite students to think about their lives and careers in a larger context. Beyond their own individual success, the education we offer invites them to ponder and re-envision what makes for a meaningful life, what betters the world for others, and what contributes to the common good. Finally, we recognize the mutuality and communal dimension of learning. In the end, whether we are student, teacher, employee, manager, faculty, or staff, we shape and influence one another through our words, decisions, and actions. Herein the way of wisdom is most often evident and manifest daily.

What is the wisdom you believe is important for us to pass on to students, and thus to model in our individual and collective lives at DePaul?

What is the wisdom that you have been blessed to discover or receive that you would like to pass on to others?

Beyond academic degrees and intellectual growth, how can we be an educational institution that also models and shares the way of wisdom?

1 For more on the university’s motto, see this Mission and Ministry blog post or the University Marketing website.

2 Educator and author, Parker Palmer, is most often credited with this important insight. As much as any content or expertise that we seek to convey to students as educators, we are, at the same time, always teaching through the depth of our personal integrity and the quality of the relationships we have with others. See Parker Palmer, The Heart of the Teacher, at:

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

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.


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

Time for a Change

DePaul University Mission Statement

Approved unanimously by the Board of Trustees on March 4, 2021

As an innovative Catholic, Vincentian University anchored in the global city of Chicago, DePaul supports the integral human development of its students. The University does so through its commitment to outstanding teaching, academic excellence, real world experience, community engagement, and systemic change. DePaul prepares graduates to be successful in their chosen fields and agents of transformation throughout their lives.

Guided by an ethic of Vincentian personalism and professionalism, DePaul compassionately upholds the dignity of all members of its diverse, multi-faith, and inclusive community. Through education and research, the University addresses the great questions of our day promoting peaceful, just, and equitable solutions to social and environmental challenges. Since its founding in 1898, DePaul University has remained dedicated to making education accessible to all, with special attention to include underserved and underrepresented communities.

♦                      ♦                      ♦

What would DePaul University be without its mission? Would it be like wearing a pair of glasses without lenses, our vision blurred? Would it be like piloting a ship without its rudder, drifting aimlessly with no sense of direction? Or, would we be like a tree without its roots, slowly dying until no longer able to withstand the first strong wind that comes its way? None of these metaphors are very rousing or hopeful, are they? They are certainly not the kind of symbolic images you would want applied to your mission-based institution.

Fortunately, however, DePaul is far from being a university without a mission. In fact, one could argue that the spirit behind our mission is stronger and more heartening than ever. This is thanks, in no small part, to our newly adopted mission statement which came to fruition during the fall and winter quarters. The document was accepted unanimously by DePaul’s Board of Trustees on March 4, 2021.

Drawing from the best of our Vincentian tradition, guided by our institutional identity and history, and shaped by the voices of our present-day community, DePaul’s new mission statement emboldens us to face current opportunities and challenges with an eye towards the future. Yet, for all the documents’ import, we cannot forget that a mission is only as strong as the commitment of those entrusted to keep it. Now that we have gone through the process of creating a new mission statement, the task in front of us is to bring it to life. We must find ourselves and help others find themselves within it. Doing so will ensure that DePaul University can, more fully, become a community gathered for the sake of our mission.

Take a few moments and re-read DePaul’s new mission statement. Read the words slowly and ask what they mean to you? Does any word or phrase stand out? How are you inspired? Where do you find yourself in our mission?

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:

2) DePaul University’s Mission Statement, at:

3) Renato Lima de Oliveira, Justice and the Members of the Vincentian Family, 19 November 2019, at:

4) Craig B. Mousin, “Vincentian Leadership—Advocating for Justice,” Vincentian Heritage 26:1 (2005), 270. At:


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: