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.   

Faith, Hope and Love on our Journeys  

“Faith lifts the staggering soul on one side. Hope supports it on the other, experience says it must be – and Love says let it be.” — St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
(6.30, “To Julia Scott,” Collected Writings, 2:117)

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was foundress of the American Sisters of Charity, and she has been called the Mother of the Vincentian Community in America. Her life was marked by remarkable achievements, but also by many hardships. On the road to achieving any meaningful goal one encounters mountains and valleys, times of successes and also times of challenges and fatigue. We see this in our students’ journey, as well as that of faculty and staff. Part of the gift of having a strong sense of mission is that it serves to sustain and encourage us through those valleys.

What lifts and supports you during challenging times? What are the ways we strive to lift and support each other in the DePaul community?

Reflecting Our Values to the World

…we are as it were a mirror for the world on which it pauses to look and easily does what we do. St. Vincent de Paul The world of Vincent de Paul seems a distant mirror to us today. Yet these words he shared with his community in 1654 are worth pondering even now. Occasionally, it is good to reflect on the way in which we live our lives. What comes to mind if you imagine yourself as a mirror to the world? How do your actions reveal the values that are important to you? What are your favorite Vincentian values? Does your work at DePaul mirror those that mean the most to you?

 

 


On Scandal. Conference of October 9, 1654, Conferences of Vincent de Paul to the Daughters of Charity

Love is Inventive to Infinity

“Love is inventive to infinity” – Vincent de Paul

In the year 1617, in Châtillon, France, the new pastor Vincent de Paul preached about a sick and impoverished family who were in need of assistance. Vincent’s appeal proved so persuasive that it led many more people to respond to the family’s needs than was necessary. In witnessing such an overwhelming response, Vincent became convinced that if good works are to be effective they need to be well organized. This incident was the catalyst that led Vincent to found conferences of charity to care for the poor and marginalized in parishes throughout France, and eventually all over the world.

Vincent’s experience in Châtillon helped him see the need to make substantial changes to the way charity was administered. In the good work being done at DePaul, how do you see ways that might help us fulfill our mission in a more sustainable or effective way?

Knit with Meaning: Crafting for a Cause

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Katie Sullivan is the University Minister for Catholic Social Concerns in Catholic Campus Ministry.

In the last few years, I’ve found myself doing a lot of knitting. Some of this knitting is definitely because a lot of people I know are having babies – friends, siblings, co-workers, you name it. Some of this knitting is because I simply enjoy it or want to make something special for a loved one. And some of it is because of Crafting for a Cause, our CCM program for students who want to knit or crochet things to donate to those in need and build community with each other as they knit.

In the process of doing all this knitting, I’ve discovered that when I knit, I keep the person I’m knitting for in my consciousness and hope that the love I’m feeling for them goes into the item. In this way, knitting is now a spiritual practice for me. Knitting with intention, as I try to do, has become prayer.

During the 2013 summer months, one knitting project in particular took on extra special meaning for me – a blanket I was making for my older sister, Keary.   She had been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier that summer, and I had decided to make her a blanket she could take with her to chemotherapy.

This blanket felt extra special; it was a big blanket and required a lot of yarn and every time I worked on it, I thought of Keary and put my heart into the project, essentially praying for her health and recovery. Yet, it somehow seemed to have more mistakes than usual in it.

When I gave it to her, and apologized for the many mistakes, she smiled and said, “Don’t you remember what Mrs. Samson [our former teacher who taught us both to knit] said about mistakes? They’re your love.”

I hadn’t remembered that little nugget of wisdom from the woman who had taught me to knit but hearing it made me happy because it felt so true. I had been thinking of any mistakes in my knitting as my signature (thanks to a friend for sharing that piece of wisdom with me). Now, though, I think I’ll look at any mistakes and see them as both love and a signature.

In a very special way, knitting, for me, has become prayer in its own unique way. What are some things that you do that have become spiritual practice?

Do you want to try knitting as a spiritual practice now? If so, please join our Crafting for a Cause group on Fridays at 11am in the CCM office (Suite 104 of the Lincoln Park Student Center).

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

 

Flight 370: Questions, emotions – and a lesson

Flight 370

Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur. The questions abound. From Twitter to casual conversations, from news streams to classroom discussions, questions about a missing jet filled with innocent people roll out as fast as ticker tape in a hot market. How does a HUGE jet just vanish? Was it a conspiracy? What if it’s a terrorist plot—what’s the end game? What about the people on the plane—when did they know something was wrong—are they alive—and if they’re alive, are they ok? Why hasn’t Malaysia been transparent about the investigation? Even today, thirteen days after Flight 370 went off grid, with chatter about potential wreckage sited in the Indian Ocean, more questions emerge. If the flight went down, was it mechanical…why was the plane diverted? The many questions surrounding this mysterious event will continue to be asked even if we never have solid answers – and even if we do. We humans must ask questions….why, when, how, why, when, where, why….?

Flight 370. The emotions are all over the place. Fear fills the hearts of families and friends who are clamoring for information. Anger explodes in the face of a perceived “run around.” Desperation hovers in the home where mother and child cling to the hope that the person who cares for them and offers them their only security is perhaps just missing. Frustration oozes out of the experts. Sympathy flows from those who know from their own experience how horrible it is to wait and wonder for hours, days, weeks. Apathy enters in on the part of those who are busy and distracted with their own struggles of life—sometimes followed by a sense of guilt for not reacting like “everyone else.” Ambiguity sums it up for others. And perhaps we might even name a gnawing sense of morbid curiosity driving those who cannot get enough tweets, news updates, and conversations about the mysterious missing flight. Each and every one of these reactions—or lack thereof—is legitimate in this situation and in all situations of life. Ours is the task of accepting our place on an emotional roller coaster and allowing others to enter into their emotional space on a crazy, mysterious ride that makes no sense at all.

Flight 370. The lessons are significant. Boeing is learning how to make cockpits even safer. Nations are learning—we hope—the importance of collaboration and communication. Satellite companies and governments are convinced that much more than a ping is necessary and possible in this global world of uncertainties and dangers. Families and communities are discovering ways of supporting one another. And we…those of us so far removed…we have things to learn also. The mysterious and confusing circumstances surrounding what should have been a routine part of life hold a lesson that comes to us from family and friends of the 239 who are watching, waiting, wondering. The last conversations, the last text messages, the last moments with their beloveds are being remembered and revisited over and over again. And herein lies our lesson: every interaction, every conversation, every action, every selfie, every moment leaves a footprint in the hearts and minds of others. Flight 370 has taught us that—again. In the midst of this mystery each of us has another routine moment to offer kindness, honesty, helpfulness, integrity, caring, loving, goodness. Each of us has the gift of this moment to honor the 239 missing souls and their loved ones by living and being the kind and loving people I believe we are all created to be. With questions swirling through our minds and emotions beating in our hearts, we have this moment—perhaps our only moment—to leave a footprint of kindness and love. In the midst of that which makes no sense at all–in the midst of the mystery behind Flight 370- may we learn the importance of every moment.

-Rev. Diane Dardon