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 Shadows Give Way to Light

“I remain the daily subject of that boundless Mercy. The mists of Night and darkness dispersed, and if even at the Eleventh hour, Yet permitted to share in the Vineyard and gather the fruits of Eternal Life. Glory, glory, glory forever, forever, and forever.”1

As we begin the new calendar year, we celebrate the Feast Day of one of the recognized saints in the Vincentian tradition, Elizabeth Ann Seton (née Bayley). She is the namesake of DePaul University’s residence hall, Seton Hall.

Born August 28, 1774, Elizabeth was a daughter of Colonial New York. Married to William Magee Seton, a Manhattan businessman, Elizabeth had five children and helped start the first charitable association managed by women in New York City, the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children. However, Elizabeth was shortly to undergo great hardships. The Seton family business went bankrupt, and then, in 1803, her husband died while on a visit to Italy. It was there that Elizabeth was introduced to Catholicism, which she converted to in 1805. In 1809 Elizabeth moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, the first society of religious women established in the United States. Soon thereafter she became known as Mother Seton.

Mother Seton modeled the society’s foundation on the Daughters of Charity, begun two centuries earlier in France by Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac. She became a pioneer in Catholic education for young women from impoverished families. In establishing St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School, she made tuition-free education accessible for poor girls in rural Maryland. Mother Seton died at Emmitsburg two hundred years ago this week, January 4, 1821. Remembered for always seeking to know and do the will of God, in 1975, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton became the first native-born North American canonized by the Catholic Church.

Today, as we contemplate the year ahead, and undoubtedly utter a sigh of relief as we leave 2020 behind us, how might the life of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton offer us some seeds of wisdom?

Clearly, Elizabeth endured trials, loss, and much suffering during her lifetime. One can only imagine the enormity of being widowed and left alone to raise five children at the young age of 29 and in the wake of the failure of the family business. What fears and concerns might Elizabeth have experienced in that moment as she confronted the precariousness of her family’s situation and the uncertainty of their future? How was she able to find enough light amidst the overwhelming shadows to begin to map a pathway ahead?

Elizabeth weathered such storms by relying on her endurance and faith, which clearly played an integral role in shaping her future path. Over time, Elizabeth was able to find her way out of the shadows through her mission to open new doors of opportunity for young women on the margins, doors that had previously remained firmly shut. Enabling access and attainment of quality education for those in need meant that their dreams could become reality. Elizabeth’s legacy continues today in a vast network of Setonian schools that share the spirit our Vincentian mission.

At the dawn of this New Year, as we continue to wrestle with the impact of the pandemic, where do you find glimmers of light amidst the shadows? What opportunities do these glimmers of light reveal to you about the pathway ahead? In what ways, might the darkness of last year be preparing you to embrace the promise of today?


1 4.55, Spiritual Journal to Cecilia Seton, August 10 to October 16, 1807, Collected Writings, 1:475.

 

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

For more on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, see the following:

Christmas Novena: A Vincentian Tradition

A “novena” is a form of prayer that dates to the early days of Christianity. Over the last two millennia, several cultures and traditions have created their own unique form of novena. Most often, it consists of reciting, singing, or chanting prayers towards a particular devotion over a period of nine days (or even nine weeks).

In the early eighteenth century, Fr. Carlo Antonio Vacchetta, an Italian Vincentian priest, wrote a Christmas Novena for his parish in Turin. This specific Christmas Novena is recited in anticipation of the joy and wonder of the coming of Jesus on Christmas Day. According to Fr. John Rybolt, the Christmas Novena likely arrived in the United States with the first Vincentians who came here from Italy. Fr. Rybolt also notes, to his surprise, that “the novena is practically unknown outside the United States.”1

In the spirit of the novena, we invite you to devote yourself to meditation or prayer in your own tradition for nine consecutive days. For those who would like to participate specifically in the Christmas Novena, you can click here to listen, pray, and sing along with a version recorded by the Daughters of Charity. Here you will find 15-minute-long recordings for each of the nine days of the Christmas Novena to enjoy.

This is the last week of daily Newsline in 2020, and our last Mission Monday of the year. From all of us at the Division of Mission and Ministry, Happy Holidays!


1 John E. Rybolt, C.M., Ph.D., “The Christmas Novena,” Vincentian Heritage 6:2 (1985), 258. See: Christmas Novena

Reflection by:

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

Turning the Coin

In his 2001 article, “People of the Scarred Coin,” Tom McKenna, C.M., explores Vincent de Paul’s understanding of human dignity. McKenna suggests that if Vincent were asked “why help this disheveled old man?” he would have replied “because you’ve seen through to the other side of the coin.”1 Vincent describes an ordinary, bent, scarred coin that lies on the ground and is ignored by those walking past it. He is drawing a parallel to the way that some walk past or ignore those on the margins in their lives. Some may see a homeless woman on the street and ignore her because of how she looks. Some may hear a man asking for change but pretend to not hear him.

When asked again, “why treat that common nobody on the ground as if he is somebody?” Vincent instructed, “I must not judge a poor peasant man or woman by their appearance or their apparent intelligence […] but turn the medal [coin], and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, who willed to be poor, is represented to us by these poor people.”2

Sometimes a person’s appearance or personality clashes with our view of the world. Vincent de Paul challenges us to not walk past the homeless woman on the street or ignore the man asking for change. As Vincentians, we are invited to see the dignity inherent in every single person we meet. As Vincentians, we are called to see through to the other side of the coin.

When thinking about your experiences with those on the margins, how have you seen through to the other side of the coin? What are some of the obstacles that prevent you from “turning the coin?”


1) Thomas McKenna, C.M., S.T.D., “People of the Scarred Coin,” Vincentian Heritage 22:2 (2001), 205. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol22/iss2/5/

2) Conference 19, The Spirit of Faith, CCD, 11:26.

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

 

This past Saturday, October 10, was World Homeless Day. This week, the Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) will be sharing more about their efforts to end street homelessness throughout the world.

Save the Date: October 21st, 8 a.m. CST. Join IGH and United Nations Habitat for an event featuring international youth activists and a rousing discussion on “Leave No One Behind: Ending Youth Global Homelessness in the Decade of Action.” Follow IGH on Facebook and/or Twitter for event updates and registration links.

Connecting Charity with Justice

Responses to injustice based only on charity may readily be maligned for not addressing the systemic issues that cause suffering to be perpetuated; yet, properly understood, charity should be seen as an essential part of transformative action and as the vital relational and affective dimension of justice. The word charity derives from the Latin, caritas, and can be better understood as a generous and self-giving love. It reflects an understanding of love as a sustained virtue and not as a fickle or thoughtless passion.

Frédéric Ozanam, influential lay leader and founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, understood that acts of charity enabled insight into the plight of the poor and oppressed, and facilitated more substantive and transformative social change. His beliefs resonate with those of Vincent de Paul and others within the Vincentian tradition. Ozanam emphasized personal relationships as fundamental to both affective and effective social action and transformative service. This Vincentian personalism, as we have come to know it, recognizes the unique circumstances of individual people, while concurrently working toward broader, systemic change. Ozanam’s words on the power of experience help us understand this piece of Vincentian wisdom:

The knowledge of social well-being and reform is to be learned, not from books, nor from the public platform, but in climbing the stairs to the poor’s man garret, sitting by his bedside, feeling the same cold that pierces him, sharing the secret of his lonely heart and troubled mind. When the conditions of the poor have been examined, in school, at work, in hospital, in the city, in the country… it is then and then only, that we know the elements of that formidable problem, that we begin to grasp it and may hope to solve it.[1]

As you consider social issues that must be addressed in our time, how do you maintain a personalism consistent with our Vincentian mission? That is, how can you better recognize and respond to the unique personal circumstances of those affected, while also working at the same time for systemic change that addresses the root causes of their suffering?

How might this Vincentian approach apply given the context of your work in higher education? How might DePaul University better reflect such a way of being?


1) Raymond L. Sickinger, “Frédéric Ozanam: Systemic Thinking, and Systemic Change,” Vincentian Heritage 32:1 (2014), 8. Free to download at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vhj/‌vol32/‌iss1/4/

 

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

 

DePaul’s former Clifton-Fullerton Hall was renamed Ozanam Hall this past summer. See the Newsline Article from July 23, 2020 for more information. 

 

Changing Attitudes and Changing Structures: Walking with Frederic Ozanam

Today, most of us are familiar with the concept of systemic and structural change. In the context of 17th Century France, however, in which Saints Louise and Vincent lived, the idea of systemic change had yet to be developed. Instead, during this period, any efforts to improve the situation of those living in poverty tended to focus on solving the immediate material needs of the person in front of you. Given this context, the contributions of Vincent and Louise were notable and ground-breaking for their time in the way they went beyond addressing the immediate demands posed by poverty, to the level of organizing charitable efforts at a structural level. Not only did their labors lead to more effective and efficient forms of service delivery but they continue to shape the professions of health care and social work centuries later.

If we fast-forward two centuries to 19th Century France, a deeper appreciation of the world as a complex interrelated system was evolving. It was during this time that Frederic Ozanam, a 20-year old student studying at the Sorbonne, was one of the principle founders of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 1833.  Ozanam helped recruit students for this lay Catholic organization to serve the poor in the slums of Paris, and at the same time regenerate French society to create a more just world. Indeed, after years of revolution and at the dawn of industrialization, Ozanam’s vision was to create “a community of faith and works erasing little by little the old divisions of political parties and preparing for a not-too-distant future a new generation which would carry into science, the arts, and industry, into administration, the judiciary, the bar, the unanimous resolve to make it a moral country, and to become better themselves in order to make others happier.”[1]

Thus, during this period, even though the terms systemic change and systemic thinking were not yet in common parlance, Ozanam’s ideas were infused with the seeds of such concepts. Indeed, for this Vincentian family member, if solutions for poverty were to be found, both individual lives and societal forces had to be transformed.

Today the Society of St. Vincent de Paul continues on a global scale. It is currently comprised of more than 800,000 members in 153 countries. While the Society has grown and changed over the years, its mission has not: to serve those on the margins, and shape a more just and compassionate world.

In 2006, Reverend Gregory Gay, C.M., then Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, founded a Commission to promote systemic change as a way to end poverty, building upon the strong Vincentian foundation dating back to the time of Vincent and Louise. He called all members of the Vincentian Family to engage in strategies to help end poverty through systemic change as an essential dimension of living out Vincentian virtues and values in today’s context.

In light of this call and reading the signs of the times in our world today, how might you be hearing a similar call in your professional work at DePaul or in your personal life to improve the larger systems that impact the lives of those who are poor or marginalized?  Given the problems that confront our society, what inspiration might the example of Frederic Ozanam offer as we seek to construct a more just world?

Note:   DePaul University’s former Clifton-Fullerton Hall was recently renamed Ozanam Hall.  See the Newsline Article from July 23, 2020 for more information. 


[1] Dirvin, Joseph I., CM.  Frédéric Ozanam: A Life in Letters. Society of St. Vincent DePaul, Council of the United States. 1986.  “Letter to Henri Pessoneaux,” 13 March 1840. p. 178

 

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

 

The Internal Desire for Justice

Louise de Marillac once noted that “hunger and thirst are two urgent needs of nature, especially in strong bodies… If our souls are healthy, they should have the same urges, not as passions, but as desires for justice.”1 Louise was suggesting that in the same way our bodies need food and water to be healthy, our souls are only healthy when we are living in and working towards a just society. More specifically, this desire for justice is an ongoing, long-term pursuit. The need is not just a quick “passion” or trend, but something at the core of who we are as human beings.

Yet, as strong as our internal conviction to create a just society may be, none of us can do it alone. It takes a community working together for the sake of a common mission to create systemic change. Our personal desire for justice will only be effective if we use it to support and collaborate with others, and in turn lean on them to support us. It is in “this spirit of support and adaptation […] we would regard the interest of others as our own! And with the strong sustaining the weak, everything would go better.”2

How are you nourishing your soul’s desire for justice? How are you supporting and collaborating with others in your community to create change? How can your community support you?


1) A.30, (Meditation on the Hunger and Thirst for Justice), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 733.

2) 1910, To Étienne Blatiron, Superior, In Genoa, September 1655, CCD, 5:423.

 

Reflection by:

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

 

Meekness and Gentleness in Today’s World

Vincent de Paul’s idea of meekness is explored in an article by Robert Maloney, C.M, former superior of the Congregation of the Mission.1 He suggests that meekness for Vincent could best be translated today as gentleness. Meekness and gentleness seem like odd things to be discussing in the current political climate. Societal advances made during the civil rights era and after were largely forged using methods we certainly would not characterize as meek.

However, meekness and gentleness are ideas that Vincent used when talking about treating others with dignity and respect. He said to the Daughters of Charity, “[The] chief concern will be to serve…with compassion, gentleness, cordiality, respect, and devotion.”2 To serve others with respect and to recognize their human dignity is paramount in our times. Human dignity is not just a Catholic tenet. As a secular humanist, for example, I also believe treating everyone with human dignity is a precept.

Meekness or gentleness confers an openness to listen. To hear and recognize the struggle of others is a necessary precursor to work toward a solution. But that openness needs to be sincere. Listening without compassion and the willingness to work for real change is not enough. A lack of concrete action reflects the cycle we are trying to break right now—the empty nodding by government officials, the inaction that dooms us to return to the same old policies of systemic racism and systemic privilege.

I would caution you not to interpret Vincent’s conception of meekness and gentleness as weakness. Vincent never extolled the virtue of being meek to power. Gentleness in Vincent’s mind was to be accompanied by firmness. Such firmness is necessary so that the voices of people who have lost theirs can be heard. Given where we are today, it seems a good time to revisit Vincent’s idea of meekness or gentleness. His words advise that we respect all people for their inherent dignity, listen to those that have been marginalized, and stand side-by-side working in solidarity with them in their struggle for equality.

How can I be gentler and thus more open to recognizing other people’s struggles? How might I work in solidarity with others in their struggles?

————————————

  1. https://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1659&context=vincentiana
  2. Conference 85, Service of the Sick and Care of One’s Own Health, Common Rules, 11 November 1657, CCD, 10:267.

From Darkness to Light

“I felt interiorly moved freely to place myself in a disposition of total availability…” – Louise de Marillac.  A.5, (Retreat), c. 1632, Spiritual Writings, 715.

A woman entered a church in a large city. Anxious and uncertain about her future, she sought a few moments of peace, and perhaps a hint of clarity. Taking her place amidst still surroundings, she closed her eyes and began to interlace words and images into the form of prayer. She was comfortable in the familiar ritual, gradually feeling calm restored to her spirit as she gently drew nearer to God—a power greater than her own anxieties. Attentive to what stirred within her heart during this quiet time, the woman had a vision. A moment when her mind was instantly freed of all doubt. She received a glimpse of her future and knew that her deepest desire would someday be realized.

The woman at prayer that day went by the name of Madame le Gras, but she is better known to history, and to us at DePaul, as Saint Louise de Marillac. The vision she experienced led her to understand that her greatest desire would be fulfilled, and that she would someday live in a community spending her life serving the poor. Upon leaving the church that day in 1623, Louise immediately wrote about what she called her “Lumiere” (or Enlightening) experience. She carried this description with her always so that she would never forget the grace of that moment, and the peace and purpose it provided her.

Almost 400 years separate Louise and her Lumiere from us today. But, like Louise, we too know periods of anxiety and confusion, as well as times of great peace and clarity of purpose. We harbor hopes for what the future could be for ourselves and for the world.

Perhaps today we can be like Louise, make a calm space around and inside of us, and devote a few moments to silent meditation or prayer. We can use this quiet time to begin to listen for the voice within and to pay attention to the desires of our heart. What may they be telling us? Maybe, like Louise, we can make this time of contemplation a regular habit to help us meet the challenges of the day, as well as to discover the grace and peace that await.


Reflection by:

Tom Judge, Chaplain, Division of Mission & Ministry

Enduring Life’s Challenges

“You say you experience great difficulty in the Mission. Alas! Monsieur, there is no lot in life where there is nothing to be endured.” – Vincent de Paul (931, To Claude Dufour, 31 March 1647, CCD, 3:173.)

 

As we continue to move through the challenging ramifications and unpredictable events associated with the COVID-19 virus, how might we find some perspective in the lived example of Vincent de Paul? Vincent’s era was replete with tragedy and critical challenges, including violent conflict, hunger, sickness, and natural disasters. How might his example in the way he faced such crises offer us perspective in moving through the challenges ahead with grace and wisdom?

Vincent encouraged his colleagues to practice “unwavering courage” and to be “stouthearted in the face of difficulties.” (CCD, 11:216.) He was realistic and pragmatic, and not prone to trusting idealistic fantasies or pipedreams. He recognized that troubles were a part of life and not something we can expect to avoid, for “they are to be encountered everywhere.” (CCD, 8:113.)

For Vincent, such times invited creativity and adaptability as a response. He was tremendously resourceful and believed challenges like these “give rise to the practice of two beautiful virtues: perseverance, which leads us to attain the goal, and constancy, which helps us to overcome difficulties.” (CCD, 4:36-37.) He was known for his “prayerful and calm attentiveness” in facing terrible suffering, particularly among the poor and marginalized. (Deville, “French School of Spirituality,” Vincentian Heritage 11:1 [1990], 40.) He felt that such circumstances can allow us to grow in compassion for one another. Ultimately, and so important for us to recognize today, Vincent remained confident in the future, trusting that “the storm will abate, and the calm will be greater and more pleasing than ever.” (CCD, 5:454.)

Inspired by Vincent de Paul’s example, let us find creative and meaningful ways to apply this Vincentian spirit to the particular challenges before us during this crisis.

How might Vincent’s way of navigating difficulty inspire your own creative action and response to today’s challenges? How can you be a source of encouragement and support for those around you?


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