What is Vincentian Hospitality?

Last week, DePaul University’s new president, Rob Manuel, shared a message in honor of the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul. He detailed the concepts of radical hospitality and service as deeply connected to the spirit and life example of Vincent de Paul, an ongoing inspiration for us today. While the connection between mission and service is familiar to most at DePaul, in subsequent conversations I observed that the idea of radical hospitality was new to many. This was especially true in articulating the present day meaning of DePaul’s Vincentian mission. The concept of such hospitality, however, has deep roots in our Vincentian heritage and is rooted in the life example and testimony of Vincent de Paul. There is great spiritual depth to the practice and experience of radical hospitality, particularly when considering our mission.

A common Vincentian story told at DePaul is often referred to as the story of the white tablecloth. In the foundational documents and rules established for the Confraternity in Châtillon-les-Dombes in 1617, Vincent de Paul explained the careful attention necessary when seeking to serve those in need. He recommended that missioners lay out a white cloth before serving food to a person in need, and that they engage in kind and cheerful conversation to better understand the context of that person’s story.(1) The attentive care communicated through gestures such as these reflect a recognition of the sacred dignity of those being served, as well as the essential relational dimension of human interaction, breaking down the distinction between “us” and “them.”

When Vincent established the Congregation of the Mission, he recognized the importance of establishing “a community gathered for the sake of the mission.” This community would not be based upon individual action, it would be built on the collective interdependence of those sharing a common purpose. Vincent took this further in establishing the Daughters of Charity alongside Louise de Marillac. Louise invited young peasant women into her personal space and formed a community. She recognized their potential and taught them to read and write, equipping them to be catalysts of change in their communities. Such hospitality was unprecedented at the time. Louise created entirely new opportunities that did not exist previously for women in society. With Vincent she shaped an intergenerational community, gathering women across all boundaries of social class. The Daughters believed that the “streets are our chapel,” and they continue to carry a spirit of personalism, openness, and hospitality outward, wherever they go.

In 2016, a special edition of the journal Vincentian Heritage was devoted to the theme of hospitality. It was inspired by our Vincentian spirit, so urgently needed in today’s world. The articles in this virtual compendium of Vincentian hospitality contain many insights on the transformative power of the practice of possibility.

The preface describes Vincent de Paul as a “hospitality practitioner” due to his desire to serve and care for others in the way that is best for them.(2) Subsequent articles further develop the theme through the lens of Vincentian tradition, emphasizing hospitality as a “sacred” experience that reflects the very nature of God. Vincent and Louise’s attention to the quality of the services they provided is singled out as a reflection of their deep, faith-based commitment to offering the best care possible to others, particularly those that society forgot or diminished.(3) An encounter of hospitality as a transformational event is highlighted “because we are engaging in new relations and opening ourselves to deep change.” In the process of encountering others, we must simultaneously address the harmful or unjust structures that get in the way of the effective care that hospitality demands.(4) Cultivating friendships and learning to listen deeply to oneself and the needs of others in the manner of Vincent de Paul is emphasized, as is the practice of hospitality to students of all faith traditions. We must recognize the importance of our words and actions in welcoming and caring for students, and in helping them to feel at home.(5) The intentional practice of hospitality, and how it effectively passes on the Vincentian mission and charism in the relational encounter between students and community partners, is also detailed.(6) Vincentian hospitality has been successfully used to address some of today’s most pressing societal issues.(7) Other articles discuss Vincent’s attentive care and concern for the sick and indigent, prisoners, and foreign migrants, and all those whom society tends to marginalize.(8) This edition truly illustrates how the practice of hospitality can serve as a catalyst for both inner and outer transformation.

Interestingly, an earlier Vincentian Heritage article by Sioban Albiol in DePaul’s College of Law points out that Vincent was himself a migrant and therefore he maintained a special concern for foreigners. This was reflected in the hospitality he provided to others.(9) The article states:

Saint Vincent de Paul must have felt the blessing and the pain of migration in his own life. Like so many economic refugees, at some personal cost to himself and his family. His father’s selling of two oxen to finance Saint Vincent’s studies is recounted by several authors. He left his home in order to pursue educational opportunity and economic security that could not be found in his place of birth. The land where he was born would have provided a bare existence.(10)

Vincent’s frequent reflection upon and practice of charity connects closely to the concept of hospitality. While today charity may sound soft and ineffective in the face of large, structured inequities, it also might be understood as the critical affective and relational dimension to justice. In fact, Vincent’s emphasis on charity was about action and generativity beyond the surface level.(11) Vincent advised his followers that charity involved the willingness to endure risks for the sake of offering hospitality to those in need: “If you grant asylum to so many refugees, your house may be sacked sooner by soldiers; I see that clearly. The question is, however, whether, because of this danger, you should refuse to practice such a beautiful virtue as charity.”(12) Enduring risks and vulnerability means extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone for the sake of others. Vincent’s charity, and his personal transformation over time, began by responding to the needs of those in front of him. He saw it as a virtue and an imperative of his Christian faith to be approachable.(13)

The resources above may help to shape a distinctive Vincentian hospitality vitally integral to sustaining and energizing the daily practice of our mission as we engage students, colleagues, community partners, and guests and visitors within our DePaul campus and community. However, in the spirit of Vincent de Paul, we will only learn radical hospitality and understand its profound meaning through concrete actions and experiences.

How might a radical Vincentian hospitality become concrete and real in our day-to-day interactions and encounters?

How might the practice of hospitality lead to both inner and outer transformation—within us and within the communities of which we are a part?


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

1) See Document 126, Charity of Women, (Châtillon-Les-Dombes), 1617, CCD, 13b:13; and Document 130, Charity of Women, (Montmirail – II), CCD, 13b:40. At: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian‌_ebooks/‌38/.

2) Thomas A. Maier, Ph.D. “Preface: The Nature and Necessity of Hospitality,” Vincentian Heritage 33:1 (2016), available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/1.

3) Thomas A. Maier, Ph.D., and Marco Tavanti, Ph.D., “Introduction: Sacred Hospitality Leadership: Values Centered Perspectives and Practices,” Ibid., at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/2.

4) Ibid, p. 5.

5) Annelle Fitzpatrick, C.S.J., Ph.D., “Hospitality on a Vincentian Campus: Welcoming the Stranger Outside our Tent,” Ibid., at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/9.

6) Joyana Dvorak, “Cultivating Interior Hospitality: Passing the Vincentian Legacy through Immersion,” Ibid., at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/16.

7) J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., Ph.D., “Hospitality in the Manner of St. Vincent de Paul,” Ibid., at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/12.

8) See John E. Rybolt, C.M., Ph.D., “Vincent de Paul and Hospitality,” Ibid., at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vhj/‌vol33/iss1/5; John M. Conry, “Reflections from the Road: Vincentian Hospitality Principles in Healthcare Education for the Indigent,” Ibid., at: http://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/14.

9) Siobhan Albiol, J.D., “Meeting Saint Vincent’s Challenge in Providing Assistance to the Foreign-Born Poor: Applying the Lessons to the Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic,” Vincentian Heritage 28:2 (2010), at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol28/iss2/20/.

10) Ibid., p. 282.

11) Conference 207, Charity (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 12), 30 May 1659, CCD, 12:223, at: https://‌via.‌‌library.‌depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/36/.

12) Letter 1678, Vincent de Paul to Louis Champion, Superior, In Montmirail, November 1653, CCD, 5:49, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/30/.

13) See Robert Maloney, C.M., “The Way of Vincent de Paul: Five Characteristic Virtues,” Via Sapientiae, (DePaul University, 1991), at: Five Characteristic Virtues; also Edward R. Udovic, C.M., Ph.D., “‘Our good will and honest efforts.’ Vincentian Perspectives on Poverty Reduction Efforts,” Vincentian Heritage 28:2, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vhj/vol28/iss2/5.

Committing to a Mission beyond Ourselves

I recently had the good fortune of accompanying leaders from DePaul, St. John’s, and Niagara, the three American Vincentian universities, to France for a Vincentian Heritage tour. The trip was a culmination of their COVID-extended participation in the Vincentian Mission Institute program, and it was the first Heritage tour involving DePaul faculty and staff since 2019.

The trip gave me an opportunity to reflect more intentionally and vividly on Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Frédéric Ozanam, and others in the Vincentian Family over the past 400+ years and their relationship to our current work at DePaul University. There were many striking insights for me during the experience, often connected to a deepened appreciation for the enduring legacy of Vincent de Paul, the “Lazarists” (Vincentians), and the Daughters of Charity throughout much of France. Certainly, the many churches we visited in Paris and beyond display numerous images, statues, paintings, and plaques that commemorate Vincent and his impact. Yet Vincent’s visible and sustained presence clearly goes beyond church walls. His life and work as a priest had a broader effect on French society, and he even gained the respect of the antireligious revolutionaries of the eighteenth century. He was a public religious figure whose service rippled outward to the peripheries of society where the poor and otherwise forgotten dwelled.

The trip to Vincent’s birthplace in Dax and to the site of his university education in Toulouse invited reflection on his young adult development and early priesthood. We saw the important site of Folleville, on the former lands of the de Gondi family, where Vincent had a transformative experience, where we frequently imagine Madame de Gondi posing the memorable “Vincentian question.” We remembered the foundation of the enduring model of the Confraternities of Charity when visiting Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne. And we walked through the streets of Paris to places that touched on the memory of Frédéric Ozanam and the founding of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Moreover, it seemed everywhere we went, we found the continued presence and the historical echoes of the Daughters of Charity, including Louise, Catherine Labouré, and Rosalie Rendu.

So, why does all this history still matter so much to us now? Why would we spend extended time in present-day France walking in the footsteps of the founders of the Vincentian tradition?

What ultimately matters in this exploration of our history is that we become inspired to carry on the Vincentian legacy in concrete ways through our lives and work today because, quite simply, our world still desperately needs it. Our Vincentian mission is as compelling now as it was 400 years ago: to sustain and enliven a community of people dedicated to service, charity, justice, and a purpose beyond themselves.

For generations now, Vincent, Louise, Frédéric, and others in the Vincentian Family have asked what it would mean for us to orient our time, our efforts, our intentions, and our vision more radically around the values reflected in the Jesus of the Gospels. Their enduring legacy reflects their response to this question.

Regardless of our religious convictions or the nature of our work, the legacy of Vincent, Louise, and the Vincentian Family invites each of us to ask:

  • How might we orient our lives so that our life and work manifest the generosity, service, and care for others reflected in the living spirit of our Vincentian predecessors?
  • What can we put in place that will outlast us, that will endure for the betterment of the common good?
  • How can we build and inspire the community of people that is DePaul University to be focused on this mission together, and in so doing, to address the larger societal needs of today?

Like those of our predecessors, may our responses to these questions be proclaimed through our actions.


Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Assoc. VP for Mission and Ministry

“Learning in War-Time”: The University in Perilous Times

It’s likely that in the midst of some recent clerical task, most of us have wondered: What is the point of all this? How can I be asked to go about the daily mundane responsibilities of my job in the face of all that is going on in the world? In the face of war, of plague, of hunger and violence? When people are killed because of the color of their skin, or when people are killed for no discernible reason at all, including precious and innocent children in school with their teachers?

The particular wars and other great events of our time chronicled in the news or on our social media feeds demand our immediate attention, and many strike home. Massive student debt and a widespread mental health crisis related to inadequate healthcare force us to think deeply about the role of higher education in our time and place. Above all these immediate calamities, the long-term environmental crisis calls to us as well. Serious people ask if having children in the face of these realities is even responsible or ethical.

I was recently introduced to a remarkable sermon that was given by C. S. Lewis in October 1939, less than two months after the invasion of Poland and Britain’s entry into World War II. He called it “Learning in War-Time.”[1] Lewis begins by asking his Oxford audience whether the study of academic subjects, the work of a university, is “an odd thing to do during a great war.” Unsurprisingly to those familiar with his work, Lewis’s own answer to this question is a profoundly eloquent Christian one. The essential point Lewis makes is one that can resonate with any one of us, regardless of the nature of our particular faith or lack thereof: the calamities of our time do not essentially change the nature of our predicament as humans; they only bring it into stark relief. They are disillusioning in the positive sense. They take away illusions that prevent us from seeing clearly. We are all mortal, and our lives are short—our task is to fill our lives with meaning.

Vincent DePaul was also no stranger to such existential questions; his seventeenth-century France was a place of frequent war, plague, and desperate poverty. We often tell the story of how Vincent found his mission, his true calling, at the bedside of a dying peasant who was racked with guilt over unconfessed sins and whose soul was liberated by the pastoral accompaniment of Vincent in that moment.[2]

We each have to discern our own calling, our own mission. Prior to his encounter with the peasant, Vincent’s life was about seeking worldly success and upward mobility from his own Gascon peasant background. There was no shame in this, and no shame if that is the focus of many students we serve here at DePaul. Yet there can be an invitation to something greater, to a calling that truly makes sense to pursue in any situation. Once you connect with that greater vision, you can approach any work that you do, regardless of how mundane it may seem to others, in light of the vital role it plays in a greater task of epic importance. It will make sense to you even in times of war, of plague, and of hunger.

Do you see your daily work as part of a larger calling or mission? A way to support and care for your family? Do you connect with and are you inspired by the shared Vincentian mission of DePaul? What can you do to ensure that whatever you are doing is meaningful?


Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Assistant Director, Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, and Muslim Chaplain.

[1] C. S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” at: https://www.christendom.edu/wp-content/‌uploads/‌2021/02/‌Learning-‌In-Wartime-C.S.-Lewis-1939.pdf.

[2] Edward R. Udovic, C.M., Ph.D., “History of the Church at Folleville,” The Way of Wisdom (blog), DePaul University, March 31, 2018, at: https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2018/03/31/history-of-the-church-at-folleville/; Andrew Rea, “The 400th Anniversary of St. Vincent de Paul’s Sermon at Folleville,” The Full Text (blog), DePaul University Library, January 25, 2017, at: https://news.library.depaul.press/full-text/‌2017/‌01/25/4809/.

DePaul… let’s be courageous!

Recently, due to a series of unique and unforeseen events, I received a surprising invitation. I was asked to stand-in as the “coach” for two DePaul student athletes competing at a tennis tournament in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What exactly were my qualifications for this role? Really, none at all… except for a relationship with DePaul Athletics, an amateur’s keen interest in the sport, and an open schedule and a valid driver’s license! Despite the spark of enthusiasm I immediately felt, given my lack of formal credentials it isn’t surprising I had reservations about this undertaking.

But looking back, I am so glad I did not give into my anxieties and decline the invitation. For if I had, I would have missed a truly memorable and enriching experience. The joy of connecting with students, the growth that results from new challenges, the fulfillment that comes from contributing to a greater good… none of these would have occurred in quite the same way if I hadn’t been open to opportunity.

As I reflect on our Vincentian Family’s 400-year history “gathered for the sake of the mission,” I know Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Frédéric Ozanam and others must have experienced fear and hesitation as they made decisions and took actions significantly greater than the one I described above. They made decisions involving risks and rewards, with outcomes that were uncertain. Understanding the challenges ahead, towards the end of his life Vincent de Paul exhorted his community members to, “Go, learn how to free yourself and to be open to God’s Will; let that be your lesson.”[1] Vincent must have believed that the best decisions are the ones made from faith, love, and freedom.

All of us at DePaul make choices every day for ourselves, others, and our institution. As we scan our horizon of opportunities and search our hearts for guidance, are we open to the invitations that excite us and hold out the promise of life? In those moments of surprise or hesitation, perhaps we at DePaul can remember these words of Vincent: “Let’s be courageous! Let’s go wherever God may call us… let’s not fear anything.”[2]

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

Are there invitations presenting themselves right now that spark excitement in you? What would it look like if you said “yes” to those invitations?

What might you do in your life that would enable you to become more open to life-giving opportunities? What might make you more open to the will of God?


[1] Conference 205, Indifference (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 10), 16 May 1659, CCD, 12:197.

[2] Conference 135, Repetition of Prayer, 22 August 1655. Ibid., 11:265.

 

Written by: Tom Judge, Division of Mission and Ministry

The Call to Sacrifice: An Invitation to Community

This year Muslims at DePaul and around the world celebrated our most important holiday of the year, Eid-ul-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, on July 20.(1) This holiday comes at the end of the Hajj Pilgrimage season. It commemorates the sacrifices made by the Prophet Abraham and his family, especially his son Ishmael and Ishmael’s mother Hagar, recognized as the founders of the holy city of Mecca.(2)

An insight into our human experience found both in spiritual traditions and in human psychology is the value of sacrifice in nurturing love. It creates powerful relationships and builds real community. This can be seen in the relationship between the human and God, but also in relationships amongst people. During the Hajj Pilgrimage rituals and Eid celebrations, as Muslims we remind ourselves about how Abraham and Hagar and Ishmael drew closer to God through the sacrifices they made for God. We encourage ourselves to follow a similar path. In our Vincentian tradition, the importance of sacrifice is linked closely to the Vincentian virtue of mortification. It is sometimes described as giving up something we value for the sake of something more valuable.(3)

I was moved by a powerful conversation related to this theme between journalist Ezra Klein and child psychologist Alison Gopnik.(4) They discussed the question of why parents care and sacrifice so much for their children. A common answer might be that parents do so because they love them. Of course, this isn’t wrong, but Gopnik suggests that we look at it the other way around. It could be said that parents love their children because of all they have sacrificed and done to care for them. We see this not only in interpersonal relationships but in people’s relationships with projects or achievements. For example, we might feel that a DePaul degree is especially precious when it results from a great deal of sacrifice, not only by the student but by the family and their broader community. We also may feel that our DePaul community itself is most precious to those who have sacrificed and cared most for it, and not just to those who have concretely benefitted most from it.

Considered this way, the invitation to sacrifice for each other is a valuable opportunity to build community. In reflecting on our lives we realize that whenever we truly work for something we believe in or make the effort to care for others, that although we speak of sacrifice, in the end we gain much more than anything we give up. In fact, we often do not feel that whatever we sacrificed is “lost” to us at all. Those who have experienced this learn that a community created by shared sacrifice is not a burden on some but a gift to all. However, when based in an institution, the sacred potential of such community must be protected by those who have power or authority. This must be done to ensure that the community lives up to the hope and trust people are placing in it, and to make sure that none are oppressed or taken advantage of.

Does this idea of sacrifice making relationships more meaningful and communities stronger resonate with your experience? In this respect, are family or other personal relationships different from how you see the role of your workplace in your life?

Some people may have experienced personal disappointment or even abuse resulting from invitations to sacrifice. As alluded to above, the invitation to sacrifice undoubtedly involves vulnerability. How would you describe the difference between healthy, more meaningful sacrifices made for the sake of individuals, institutions, or communities from those which are unhealthy and can lead to abuse?


1) As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the days on which holidays are observed on the solar calendar shift from year to year.

2) See Guillermo Campuzano, C.M., “The Gift of DePaul’s Muslim Community,” 20 July 2021, at: DePaul University Newsline

3) See Tom Judge, “What Beautiful Opportunities…”, 27 January 2020, at: Mission Monday on mortification

4) See “This changed how I think about love,” Vox Conversations podcast, at: How I think about love

 

Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Muslim Chaplain and Assistant Director of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care, Division of Mission & Ministry

 

 

A Note from Fr. Memo Campuzano, C.M. on DePaul’s New Mission Statement

 

Sunrise over Saint Vincent’s Circle, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, on the Lincoln Park Campus. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

After 35 years, DePaul University has fully revised its mission statement. Through a 10-month participatory, historically grounded, yet forward-thinking process, direct feedback was gathered from over 600 community members. The updated concise statement is relevant and apt for the DePaul we all know, and for the DePaul of which we dream.

On March 4th, the revised DePaul University Mission Statement and its supporting document were approved unanimously by the Board of Trustees. The approval process went faster than an expected May timeframe. I believe this demonstrates that the participatory nature of the mission statement review process worked as we had hoped. It proves the value of shared governance in helping us to define a mutual understanding of who we are and how we want to live out our common mission in this historic moment.

The review process was a beautiful, concrete expression of communal discernment. While many may not realize it, our approach of inclusive reflection and community articulation of common dreams and values is very much in the spirit of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. As this process has achieved with many other institutions of the worldwide Vincentian Family, it both captured and embodied the Vincentian spirit so valued at DePaul.

Invitations to review the mission statement went out on Newsline and social media, through Colleges, departments, student groups, and administrative offices, via SGA and Faculty and Staff Councils. We listened to many voices at over 70 Dialogues. Many were impassioned and advocated for mission-related ideas that they felt were most important. I can say with confidence that great care was given to revising the statement, down to negotiating the meaning and inclusion of individual words. For instance, including “environmental” justice for students and others fiercely dedicated to sustainability. Or, discussing the wording “with special attention to” as all are served and all have agency, yet we must recognize our Vincentian legacy of reaching out especially to those most in need who are not well-served by systems. It is my belief that every word of the statement has deep meaning and that each word illustrates the common themes of DePaul’s mission that emerged clearly from the audiences we relied upon for community input.

DePaul stakeholders agreed that we are Catholic, Vincentian, and anchored in the global city of Chicago, and that our university educates the whole person in a variety of ways that uphold human dignity. Review participants insisted that DePaul commit to addressing the great societal challenges of our day as both an educational institution connected to local and global communities, and through our graduates whom we hope will be change agents for greater good as well as successful in their professions. The umbrellas of Vincentian personalism and professionalism express the culture and approach at DePaul that many feel differentiate it from other institutions. As we served an immigrant population in the late 1800s, so do we continue to educate underserved and underrepresented communities today.

Other values and core commitments that commonly emerged through the review process are summarized in the statement’s supporting document, “Distinguishing Characteristics, Core Values, and Commitments.” I am hopeful this document will be referenced by link in every online presentation of the new DePaul Mission Statement and I encourage you to read it.

The participatory review process was itself an education for the DePaul community. Before preparing for a dialogue or taking our survey, many of the participants had never read the full four-page mission statement. Many had never meaningfully discussed with colleagues or fellow students what DePaul’s mission meant to them or how they believed it must be communicated to remain relevant and compelling. A nearly universal desire became apparent for a new concise mission statement that could be fully known, embraced, and integrated into life at DePaul. This was also recommended to the university during the last Higher Learning Commission accreditation process. I hope the new statement fulfills that wish.

In many ways the statement review process—comprised of a rigorous four-phase approach of historical review, capturing mission in action through Seeds of the Mission videos, over 70 mission statement dialogues and survey responses, and the Board survey—seems completed after a year. But the work of the new mission statement has just begun.

It is time to begin sharing the statement broadly on websites, in syllabi, and on signage where it can be easily seen. Departments and areas need to reflect on their own internal mission and vision statements, and on their website and marketing language. We must integrate the language and ideas of the new DePaul Mission Statement and “Distinguishing Characteristics, Core Values, and Commitments” into our work. We must all attend to the ideals of the statement as more than just words on paper, but as a mission for which we are gathered that provides a central focus for what we do.

Thank you to all who participated in the review process. And thanks to all who will be enlivened by the new statement, making decisions in using it as a guide, holding DePaul accountable for living it, and celebrating our common Vincentian spirit. Together, We Are DePaul.

Rev. Guillermo (Memo) Campuzano, CM
Vice President of Mission and Ministry


Watch the Video on the Review of DePaul’s Mission Statement

DePaul University Mission Statement
Adopted 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 including underserved and underrepresented communities.

Read our Distinguishing Characteristics, Core Values, and Commitments…

Leaving God?

To leave God for God is not leaving God at all, that is, to leave one work of God to do another, either of greater obligation or of greater merit.1

As we know, St. Vincent de Paul was a person of great faith who found strength in prayer and the belief that an unfaltering, loving God was active in our lives. So, it may seem a little odd to hear that Vincent once told the Daughters of Charity to leave God. What could Vincent have possibly meant by this?

To understand Vincent’s words, we need to appreciate the context of his theology and how he lived his faith. Vincent de Paul possessed a deeply incarnational faith, which manifested itself in very real and practical ways. In other words, because Vincent believed that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God, the act of serving one’s neighbor was a concrete expression of serving God. Therefore, this belief undergirded Vincent’s words when he told the Daughters that even if they were engaged in meditation, prayer, or spiritual reading, they were to stop whatever they were doing if a poor person sought help from them. As Vincent explained, such an act of service was not to leave God. Instead, it was to engage in a work of God that was of greater obligation or merit than their meditation and prayers. Thus, Vincent is seen to have valued concrete acts of service more than individual acts of piety.

Over the centuries, the seeds of Vincent’s pragmatism have taken root and flourished in myriad ways through the foundation of numerous social service organizations, groups, hospitals, and educational institutions. DePaul University is one of these fruits. Today, one of the signs that Vincentian pragmatism is alive and well is through DePaul’s collective embrace of Vincentian personalism. This practice calls us to serve our students and treat one another with compassion, empathy, and a high level of professionalism. And another sign is our ability to respond nimbly to current issues, as witnessed by our ongoing response to the pandemic.

We are living in a time that continues to be fraught with many challenges and obstacles. Yet amid our tumultuous present, how might an echo from our past still be heard, inviting us in new, innovative ways to answer Vincent’s pragmatic call?


1 Conference 30, The Rules, 30 May 1647, CCD, 9:252. See: CCD Vol. 9

 

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

 

 

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

 

Writing History in the Present

“There are no people in the world more obliged to do this than we are, nor any Community that should apply itself more to the external practice of heartfelt charity.”  – 207, Charity, Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 12, 30 May 1659, CCD, 12:214.

Thus far, 2020 has been an historic year—for DePaul, for our nation and for our world. Importantly, it is a story that is still being written. Before us lies an opportunity in the weeks and months ahead to shape how this year will be remembered and described to future generations. The calendar year remaining will go a long way toward determining the net impact of this period on our human community for years to come. How will we be remembered? Will it be as a generation that rose to the challenge and became stronger and better as a result, or as one that allowed difficulties to cause further harm both in the present and for those who follow us?

After the deepened revelation of our fragile interdependence made evident during the COVID crisis, will we see our inherent connection to one another as a beautiful gift or as a dangerous threat? After the killing of George Floyd and the long legacy that predates his murderous death, will we be inspired to make concrete changes in our personal and collective lives, to actively seek to correct the systemic injustices of racism and make amends for their impact? After this tumultuous year, what will be the resulting vision and shared goals that guide our future efforts to create a flourishing society? Will examples of generosity, courage, and sacrificial love, service, and commitment become central to the storyline of 2020? Will their positive energy continue to ripple outward into the future? Will actions for a more just and inclusive society result in the transformation of policies, minds, and hearts?

The result will depend upon our doing the work of writing the history of 2020, which will be determined by our actions in the present. Indeed, as a Vincentian university community, “there are no people in the world more obliged to do this than we are, nor any community that should apply itself more…” to this work. We now have an opportunity to create and be shapers of our history, and to not just passively accept the circumstances of our life.

What is at the heart of the human community you want to live and work in, and that you want for future generations to remember? What would it mean for you to begin to work now toward that vision? How can we act today so that our university more fully lives out its unique Vincentian mission of service to society in the future? How can you begin to plant the seeds necessary for this future vision?


Mission and Ministry is Looking for your Input

VSI Calls for Proposals Related to Crises

The Vincentian Studies Institute would like to invite everyone from the DePaul community to participate in a special call to create and submit publishable materials dedicated to the unprecedented crises we have had to confront in 2020.  We are asking for your contributions in the hope that they help us to reflect on what has happened and is still happening.

Every type of production is welcomed: academic papers, short essays, poems, fiction, paintings, photographs, videos, etc. Individual or collective proposals are welcomed. Shorter works will be featured online, promoted by the Division of Mission & Ministry, and shared with the university community. Longer written works may be featured in a special collection published in the VSI’s scholarly journal Vincentian Heritage. We ask that you submit your Proposal or short summary of your intended contribution, to: nmichaud@depaul.edu Please do so before July 31, 2020. Proposals will be reviewed by the VSI board and you will be notified of their decision by August 21, 2020. Once accepted, final drafts of your contributed work must be received by January 15, 2021.

Seeds of Mission Campaign

  • What initiatives, stories, and people serve as authentic and striking examples of DePaul’s Vincentian mission for you? Please let us know by submitting your input to the: Seeds of Mission campaign
  • For a full description of the Seeds of Mission Campaign: Click here

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.