Seeds of the Mission: Sarah Cleveland Frost

Finding A Sense of Purpose 

When Vincent entered the priesthood, he hoped to provide for his family and retire early. He was on track to follow this plan and at age 29 wrote a letter to his mother letting her know he would be back soon to take care of the family. Little did he know that he would completely reform the structure of charity and dedicate his life to those who were poor. Similarly, Louise did not plan to be a wife and a mother, nor to pave a new way for women by co-founding the Daughters of CharityRather, she hoped to become a Dominican sister but was rejected from the order when the superior general told her, “God has other plans for you.” 

As Vincentians, we know that our willingness to learn and remain open to growth allows us to become our fullest, most authentic selves. We believe that our paths in life are not static, but rather driven by a sense of purpose. DePaul’s commitment to workplace learning stems from the Vincentian value that employees are more than a job description; they are people who bring their full humanity into work each dayThis intention and care of the whole person is deeply rooted in our Catholic, Vincentian tradition. Students, faculty and staff at DePaul are continually invited to reflect on finding a sense of purpose and discovering how to share their gifts to respond to the ever-changing needs.  

By offering professional development opportunities, management training, and employee support, Workplace Learning and Performance helps each employee at DePaul find what motivates and energizes their work at the university. When staff and faculty develop their skills, they offer the best possible education to students. When students are encouraged to explore their purpose throughout their time at DePaul, they enter the working world equipped to make positive change.  


For resources to foster more intentional purpose exploration and vocational discernment among students, staff and faculty at DePaul check out the Explore Your Purpose initiative on DePaul’s Teaching Commons.  

Seeds of the Mission: Ruben Parra

Because we are Catholic…All are welcome!  

At DePaul, we understand Catholicism to be an invitation to foster a universal human family. It is because of our Catholicism, not despite it, that we value interfaith dialogue and spiritual exploration. Throughout DePaul’s history, our Catholic, Vincentian identity also led us to admit immigrant populations, women, and students of color before many other universities across the country.  

From the very beginning, Vincent made it clear that love for the “most abandoned” was the central focus of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity. In a conference in January 1657 Vincent preached on the importance of the love for poor:  

God loves the poor, consequently, He loves those who love the poor; for when we truly love someone, we have an affection for his friends and for his servants. Now, the Little Company of the Mission strives to devote itself ardently to serve persons who are poor, the well-beloved of God; in this way, we have good reason to hope that, for love of them, God will love us. Come then, my dear confreres, let’s devote ourselves with renewed love to serve persons who are poor, and even to seek out those who are the poorest and most abandoned

Our Vincentian tradition places unheard stories at the center of the narrative. It calls us to hear the needs of those who have been made poor and marginalized and to respond with compassion, solidarity, and justice. Daughters of Charity today speak about “need not creed” guiding their response. The ministries of the Daughters of Charity around the world serve the most vulnerable without judgement or exclusion. The Vincentian tradition highlights communities’ assets and strengths so that those who are poor may be agents of their own transformation.  

Vincentians not only welcome but also seek out those who are invisible and forgotten. Because we are Vincentian, because we are Catholic, all are welcome. 


  1. 64. Love for the Poor, January 1657, CCD 11:349

 

The Complex but Necessary Union of Charity and Justice

 

Meghan Clark discusses the relationship between charity and justice as set forth in two of Benedict XVI’s encyclicals, Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate, and then considers what Vincentian tradition contributes toward the understanding of that relationship. Clark writes, “What emerges is a model of cultivating solidarity through justice and charity as integral to the life of Christian discipleship.” Deus Caritas Est calls for direct service to those in need because it is only through charity and loving others that we are fully aware of God’s love for us. As Clark summarizes Caritas in Veritate, “Justice in relations is a precondition for living charity. . . . Both charity and justice are required for healthy relationships with God and neighbor.” Justice and charity require work toward the common good, and charity expands justice to include the marginalized. Clark defines the institutional nature of charity in the Church and explains how Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, and their communities exemplify it. Vincent and Louise recognized that effective charity required organized personal and institutional responses to systemic injustice. Vincentian tradition seeks to foster solidarity through commitment to each person’s dignity and to nurture justice within all levels of society.

“The Complex but Necessary Union of Charity and Justice: Insights from the Vincentian Tradition for Contemporary Catholic Social Teaching” is an article that appears in the Vincentian Heritage Journal, Volume 31, Issue 2, Article 1 (2012) and is available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol31/iss2/1

 

Dignity and the Death Penalty

by Fadya Salem

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The Journal for Social Justice, University Ministry, and the Center for Public Interest Law had the honor and privilege of hosting Sister Helen Prejean for a roundtable discussion with students, faculty, and alumni in April.

Sister Helen, Nobel Peace Prize Finalist and New York Times bestselling author of the academy award winning movie, Dead Man Walking, is an anti-death penalty advocate who has served as a spiritual advisor to death row inmates.

As a law student, I was eager to join the discussion with Sister Helen. After having studied wrongful convictions in an undergraduate course, I came to law school with the desire to advocate for those who have wrongfully fallen victim to the criminal justice system. I learned from Sister Helen the importance of not only fighting for the people we believe are innocent, but to advocate for the rights of those who have done something wrong, because they too should still be treated with dignity.

My religion, like some others, teaches that there are certain acts that are punishable by death. I sought to participate in this discussion in hopes to reconcile my religion’s views with my moral belief that the death penalty is wrong. I was moved by Sister Helen’s discussion on Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whom she spoke on behalf of during his trial, and her insistence that, although his actions caused three people’s death, he still has human dignity.

Sister Helen began her anti-death penalty advocacy while living in the St. Thomas housing project in inner-city New Orleans.  It was there that she became aware of the harrowing connection between poverty and oppression and prison.  While in St. Thomas, she became pen pals with a Louisiana death row inmate.

The roundtable conversation began with Sister Helen describing her first experience as a spiritual advisor for a death-row inmate.  She described it as a “secret ritual” that much of the rest of the world renounces.  This experience became the subject of her first book, Dead Man Walking.  The book was published in 1993, a time when 80% of Americans supported the death penalty.

Despite the large number of death penalty supporters, Sister Helen knew the story needed to be told.  She finds that many people who support the death penalty do not know much about the process and what it entails.  She works tirelessly to resist the death penalty and educate the public as a lecturer and writer.

When asked how she chooses inmates to work with, Sister Helen said it is a decision that she can’t explain. She has been a spiritual advisor to five death-row inmates, visiting with them from throughout their time in prison and to their execution.  She also counsels the families of murder victims as the founder of “Survive,” a victim’s advocacy group in New Orleans.

A powerful point in the conversation came when Sister Helen pushed the group to think about how we treat a human with dignity.  With the firm belief that “everyone is better than the worst thing they’ve ever done,” she reminded attendees that, despite their actions, people in jail are still human, which is the same value that St. Vincent advocated in his work.

I recall a discussion in my criminal law course about different methods of executions, when a fellow student asked, “If they killed someone, why do we care how we treat them?” For many people, the death penalty is such an abstract phenomenon that may be difficult to conceptualize. Sister Helen adamantly believes that if people knew what happens at executions, there would not be as many supporters.

Sister Helen described the important role lawyers play in anti-death penalty work: Lawyers are critical in framing the story told about inmates and furthering the idea that they are better than their crimes. For death-row inmates, lawyers and advocates are often times the only human dignity they have left. It is the passion for human dignity that keeps Sister Helen moving forward in her fight against the death penalty.

Fadya Salem just completed her first year of law school at DePaul.  A Chicago native, she is an alum of the University of Illinois and hopes someday to practice law within the public interest arena.   

An earlier version of this piece was published online by the Center for Public Interest Law at DePaul University in May.