In her work with new students, a dedicated DePaul staff person I happen to know well often draws upon her own experience as a DePaul freshman and her courageous struggle to find community and a sense of belonging. As a first-generation college student, she was particularly excited to be in college and eager to get involved. However, due to a three-hour roundtrip commute on public transit and her introverted nature, becoming engaged proved harder than originally anticipated. Indeed, her attempts to join student organizations and make new friends were usually thwarted by the fact that, as she said, “I was never in a space long enough with people to really get to know them.” As a result, as a freshman, she often felt relegated to the margins. Many painful memories of eating alone in the cafeteria or studying long hours by herself in the library drove home a palpable sense of isolation and loneliness.
Such feelings of invisibility and alienation continued to grow during her first year at DePaul. Indeed, by the beginning of her sophomore year this young woman was considering transferring to another college. She decided to give DePaul one last quarter. It was during this pivotal time that she encountered a DePaul staff person who welcomed her in such a way that she felt as though someone was truly seeing her for the first time. As she vividly recalls, “It was during the involvement fair when I was trying to make my way around a display table that a staff person kind of corralled me, and even before telling me about the program she was representing, asked me “What’s your name? How is the quarter going? What year are you? What are you studying?”
What may appear to be such simple questions today communicated a profound truth in that moment: “You matter. Your life and reality matters and we are glad you are here.” The sense that a DePaul staff person truly wanted to know who she was and cared about her stayed with this young student for years. Indeed, she ended up remaining at DePaul and finding a peer community in which she thrived, and in which she eventually became a senior leader. Today, serving in the role of a DePaul staff professional, she continues to model a praxis of radical hospitality to all who have the privilege of interacting with her.
“That feeling of being recognized made me realize this is exactly where I need to be—that I wanted to be part of a community that believed in recognizing the dignity of every single person.”
Vincentian wisdom calls us to create a sense of belonging, welcome, and inclusivity. A pillar to building such a community is by embracing a spirit of radical hospitality. In the words of Saint Louise de Marillac:
As for your conduct towards [others} never take the attitude of just getting the task done. You must show them affection; serving them from the heart; enquiring of them what they might need; speaking to them gently and compassionately; procuring necessary help for them without being too bothersome or too eager.
- At what point did you feel that you truly belonged at DePaul?
- What conditions were integral to you feeling you belonged and finding community?
- How are we called to create a culture of radical hospitality and inclusion where all may feel welcome?
Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director of Faculty/Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry
The Art of Hospitality: A Day with Vincent Retreat
You are warmly invited to join colleagues on the afternoon of December 15th (12:15-4:15 pm) for a Day with Vincent exploring the “Art of Hospitality” together at the Art Institute of Chicago. The program will involve lunch, meaningful reflection and dialogue with DePaul faculty/staff colleagues, a guided visit to the Art Institute, and a lot of fun and good cheer!