Ted Lasso, the Mission, and relying on stories to share the load.

In the depths of the pandemic last year, my family, friends, and even work colleagues began sharing recommendations for which show to binge watch next. I’m sure we weren’t alone. This probably started because retelling stories of our daily lives was bleak and became an exercise in recycled trauma, whatever our vocation. We weren’t seeing each other, scattered as we were across the country and world, or even next door, so TV shows became our lingua franca and way of being with one another.

Some of the shows were old standbys that had long since aired, so the spark of rediscovery and most importantly—knowing what came next—helped ease the overwhelming anxiety that permeated every other aspect of our lives. Even if we had seen the episode or heard the jokes before, there was something reassuring about that familiarity. Other shows were new (to us) and exploring their undiscovered countries felt like a joint expedition. Whether the series was just released, like The Flight Attendant or Loki, or was just finishing, like Schitt’s Creek or Killing Eve, we foraged streaming services looking for the next story to share.

With hindsight, a particular kind of humor ran through most of the series we collectively watched—a humor that borrowed a “dash of vinegar” [1] with its gentleness, a comic sense that didn’t flinch from the sadness and tragedy of the world, but that found a way to acknowledge sorrow and still laugh, and in so doing provide relief from its weight. Everything in our lives pushed us towards loneliness and individual sorrow, but through sharing these stories, we found ways to collectively persevere through humor. It made all the difference.

I’ll end with a quote from one of our favorite new shows, Ted Lasso, about an (American) football coach from Kansas who gets hired to lead a premier league (European) football team in England. On the surface, the series seems to be a celebration of joy and positivity (the eponymous Ted is unrelentingly optimistic, after all). Underneath, however, it is a show not about happiness alone, but how to cope with grief, together.

In a memorable scene (no spoilers), from the wonderfully titled episode The Hope That Kills You, Ted professes: “I promise you there is something worse out there than being sad, and that’s being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.” [2]

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

When things seem bleak and most sobering—what are ways that we can authentically find and share joy with one another? How can we find ways to make each other laugh, even while acknowledging the pain all around us? When pursuing our collective Vincentian mission, how do we make sure that we are taking care of each other along the way, so that our “immortified moods” [3] do not overtake both ourselves and our community?


Reflection by:            Alex Perry, Program Manager, Division of Mission and Ministry

  1. [I]f the gentleness of your spirit needs a dash of vinegar, borrow a little from Our Lord’s spirit. O Mademoiselle, how well He knew how to find a bittersweet remark when it is needed!
    Vincent de Paul (Volume: 1 | Page#: 383) To Saint Louise, 1 November, 1637
  2. “I promise you there is something worse out there than being sad, and that’s being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.”
    Ted Lasso, “The Hope that Kills You” Season 1, Episode 10, airdate October 2020
  3. We must hold as an irrefutable maxim that the difficulties we have with our neighbor arise more from our immortified moods than from anything else.”
    Vincent de Paul (Volume: 1 | Page#: 597) To Nicolas Durot, in Toulouse, December 1639

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

Finding Hope

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

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

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

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

Reflection by:

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

Step a Little Lighter

by Tom Judge

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At the end of December, as I contemplated the calendar and the flip from 2014 to 2015, I imagined myself, of all things, an Acapulco cliff diver, balancing at the edge, preparing to take the plunge. Once the calendar turned, I jumped (and I had to jump) there was no way to hit the pause button, no way to turn back. The laws of gravity took over and my task since then has been simply to make the most of the journey.

Contemplating the New Year left me bit anxious, a little excited, somewhat resigned. I can’t stop time from passing, I know. But, I can have some influence over the way it passes.

I think of myself as a unique and dazzling being – special just for being me. But, just as importantly, a part of the greater whole. A community expanding outward to encompass many individuals and communities – all just as valuable and essential as myself.

I thought now – the middle of February – would be a good time to check in on the New Year with people. What did you commit to at the start of 2015? Are you still committed? What stars have you been steering by…touchstones to ground and center you during the coming year of change and challenge? In case you’ve struggled to find these touchstones, I offer three possibilities here:

Hope – in the future, in what lies ahead. Hope that we will all learn a little this year and that we will not simply make the same old mistakes time after time. (NEW mistakes are ok!)   Hope that is born of faith in something Transcendent. A hope that the same Transcendence that placed a star over a manger and moved three wise men to follow it will be present in our lives, too. Guiding and caring for us as we make our own journeys towards unknown epiphanies.

Compassion – for both others AND ourselves. That we may be gentle and understanding when disappointments arise. For, the reality is that while hope must never be extinguished, we know our aspirations and efforts do not always unfold as we envision. So, however straight or crooked, bumpy or smooth our path is this year, let us try and remember to have compassion. To find the good in life, learn from and accept it and then move on.

Care – if we hold this value dear in 2015, it will manifest in our actions. The stranger, the person on the margins, the homeless, oppressed and disadvantaged. They are never too far from our thoughts; we move in and out of their world and they ours. We grow in understanding and acceptance of the reality that “I am my sister’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper.” Not only will I serve them, I will purse justice. I will do so in communion with others. This purpose will be visible in my behavior throughout the year.

As January has moved into February and I have adjusted to the new number on the calendar, I have envisioned myself an ancient sojourner. Cloak to protect me from the wind, sturdy shoes and a walking stick for company. But, I am not alone. Being in relationships of love, guided by hope, compassion and care, my heart is brighter, my steps a little lighter as I continue to move forward through 2015.

Tom Judge is a Chaplain at the DePaul Loop Campus.  Feel free to share a comment below about how you’re stepping a little lighter in 2015.

Macon Memories

by Katie Sullivan

This past week, from December 2-9, residents of DePaul’s Vincent and Louise House (V&L) spent their winter break service immersion trip at Daybreak, a project of DePaul USA, in Macon, Georgia.  Daybreak is a day/resource center that provides the homeless population of Macon with critical services in one location.  Daybreak believes that “everyone should have a place to call home and a stake in their community.”

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The students from V&L got to know guests and helped with the daily tasks that needed to be done, from serving breakfast to helping with laundry and showers to assisting guests with resumes and job searches in the technology room.  It was a week filled with connections and memories and gratitude.  Being welcomed into the Daybreak community was like being welcomed into someone’s family!

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Olivia Johnson, a junior living in the V&L House, is excited to help guests in the technology room at Daybreak.
Liam Kemmy, a sophomore V&Ler, pets a puppy one of the Daybreak guests brought with him.
Sophomore Erica Dix sits with Caleb, one of the guests from Daybreak.
Morgan Spears, a senior living in the V&L House, plays checkers with Eric, a guest at Daybreak.
Juniors Katie Wallace and Nicolette Prociuk sit in the great room at Daybreak. Nicolette made beaded bracelets for many of the guests and Katie kept her company.

Daybreak provides much needed services to those in need in the Macon community, and it also provides volunteers, such as the students from the V&L House, the opportunity to simply be present with the guests and get to know them and hear their stories.  Sr. Elizabeth Greim, DC, the program director, encouraged the V&Lers to participate in the “ministry of presence” during their time at Daybreak, which for some involved sitting with a guest and talking.  For others, it involved playing a game with a guest or two and getting into the competitive spirit with them. The ministry of presence looked different for everyone in the group, but all were embodying the spirits of St. Vincent and St. Louise as they used their time intentionally to get to know guests.

The V&L House residents pose with a statue of Otis Redding, who was from Macon, in a park close to Daybreak. Front Row (L to R): Olivia Johnson, Nicolette Prociuk, Liam Kemmy, Morgan Spears, Katie Wallace. Back Row (L to R): Erica Dix, Beth Pedraza, Nick Cuba, Alli Grecco
Vincent and Louise House residents outside Daybreak. Front row (L to R): Beth Pedraza, Morgan Spears, Olivia Johnson, Alli Grecco, Nicolette Prociuk. Back row (L to R): Erica Dix, Liam Kemmy, Nick Cuba, Katie Wallace

Interested in learning more about the Vincent and Louise House and the work they do throughout the year?  Think you might want to apply to live in the house next year?  Follow the V&L House on Facebook for updates about what’s going on in the house and information about the application process, which takes place during Winter Quarter.

Katie Sullivan is the University Minister for Catholic Social Concerns in DePaul’s Catholic Campus Ministry office and coordinates the Vincent and Louise House.

O Captain! – Reflections on the Death of Robin Williams

robin Williams

In the days since the news of Robin William’s death rocked Hollywood and the world I have been drawn back to some of my favorite scenes from his movies. I have found myself smiling and laughing again at the absurdity of Mrs. Doubtfire dousing out a fire as her sumptuous bosom went up in flames, of Genie flowing out of a magic lamp with a crick in his neck.

Robin Williams was a truly talented man who brought life and voice to hundreds of characters that have delighted and moved us. But nothing is quite as moving as the way in which this amazing man died. In the midst of a life dedicated to bringing humor and laughter to the world, we are told that Robin Williams was not able to find reasons to smile in his own life. His struggles with depression and the sadness that must have surely crept into his soul caused him to find solace only by ending it all.

It is in this final act of Robin William’s life that he speaks most poignantly to us. He is not speaking with a foreign accent or ranting as a comic mad man. His words are not coming as he prances around on stage or flies through Neverland. Instead, his voice comes to us quietly and in the chambers of our souls.

In the whisper of his death, Robin is imploring each of us to be attentive to the difficulties and realities of mental health issues. He is inviting us to attend to our own suffering or the suffering of those around us and to seek help. We cannot pretend that struggles with depression, substance abuse or other debilitating diseases of the mind and soul will simply fly away on a magic carpet. Instead, Robin Williams reminds us that we need to take mental health issues seriously and be very proactive in dealing with the many forms of pain and suffering that haunt so many.

In one of the final moments of the movie Dead Poets Society in which Williams played the enthusiastic literature teacher John Keating, Williams picks up a book that belonged to his student who had taken his own life. Williams opens the book and sorrowfully reads a quote from David Henry Thoreau:

    I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberatively.
    I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life!
    To put to name all that was not life.
    And not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

In his death, Robin Williams reminds us to live deliberatively and to suck out all the marrow of life. That can only happen if we are in a place where life doesn’t feel constantly overwhelming.

If you or a friend or family member are struggling, please know that you are not alone. There are many who have walked in your shoes or accompanied someone through tough times. If you want to reach out to someone who can help, here are links to a few resources (click on them):

DePaul University Counseling Services
Veterans Crisis Line
National Suicide Hotline
National Helpline ( for individuals and families facing mental health and/or substance use disorders)

Rev. Diane Dardon is Protestant Chaplain with DePaul University’s Office of Religious Diversity

A Parade of Casseroles

casseroleWorking at DePaul University I’ve learned a lot about St. Vincent DePaul the charity saint. While many others were doing good works during his time, Vincent was the first to organize charity in a systemic way. One of the first places he experimented with this was at a parish in Chatillon, France. He recognized that parishioners would respond when there was a neighbor in need, but that the person would be overwhelmed with too much attention all at once and so the good will was not put to good use – back then they didn’t have freezers to hold extra casseroles! So, Vincent began to organize the parishioners into small groups of people who would go out and do home visits to assess need and then decide together how to respond to it. In these visits, both the physical and spiritual needs would be attended to.

This practice continues today around the world with the St. Vincent DePaul Society and other ministries, where volunteers go into others’ homes. It is also happening right here in Chicago in my own St. John Berchmans (SJB) parish community thanks to the ministry of HOPE (Helping Other People Enthusiastically).

For the past few weeks my family has been the gracious recipient of the generosity of SJB friends who have brought us meals as we welcome home our son Theodore.

Typically I’m on the giving, not receiving end. At first my husband was hesitant to receive such generosity since “we” don’t really need it. When I asked if he was going to suddenly take up cooking as his new hobby and leave his newborn in order to go to the grocery store, he quickly changed his mind. Yes, perhaps we could use some extra help! It is a humbling time as we welcome with open arms a parade of casseroles and tasty treats to give us the endurance to push through sleepless nights.

There is something very intimate and sacred about inviting someone into your home, especially during a moment of need. People we see in the pews on Sunday entered both the joy and messiness of our life with a newborn. Some would stay and visit for a while, sharing their wisdom on parenthood. Others saw we had our hands full and just left instructions of how to heat the food.

The simple act of preparing and delivering a meal is profound way to continue to build bridges of solidarity together. We are grateful for the physical and spiritual nourishment we’ve received from the SJB community –the actual meals and the many powerful prayers that have made all the difference in our and Teddy’s life. Hopefully someday you will have the opportunity to join or receive a parade of casseroles too.

Joyana Dvorak serves as Service Immersion Coordinator with DePaul University Ministry when she’s not home on maternity leave with her son.

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

 

The Hope of Spring

Colorful_spring_garden

It’s been a long, cold, harsh Chicago winter. I am one among many who are clearly eager for the spring to arrive and to announce its presence with gusto.

Living in North America, the Christian remembrance of Easter and the Jewish celebration of Passover are accompanied by the slowly emerging warmth, the hope of spring, and glimpses of what soon will be: budding trees, chirping birds, evidence of green life breaking through the soil, and even early flowers beginning to show their colors. These hopeful signs make our religious celebrations come alive in tangible ways.

The Passover and Easter stories highlight spiritual themes deeply meaningful and relevant to our human journeys: new life emerging from death, liberation from bondage, light overcoming darkness. These stories are important reminders that no matter how dark and cold our days, and even when we forget or lose sight, there is always more than just what we see and experience in any given moment. The winter struggles are no less true – but somehow they are held and transcended by the hope of spring.

New life
shall again emerge,
breaking forth
from the cold,
hardened
soil.

Hope and possibility
will return
like good friends,
soul mates,
once lost
but found again,
and my heart
shall again
flutter and take flight
like the birds
and butterflies
of spring.

Mark Laboe is Associate Vice President, DePaul University Ministry