Courage and Love for Community

We live in a time of challenges and change. The future is always unknown, but it seems clear that the future of higher education will have to be different in some ways from the present. We live in a time of dramatic polarization, when almost every event is viewed in completely contradictory ways. Navigating such times successfully requires many virtues, and among them are courage and love of community.

Several years ago, I went to an event with Rev. Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners, and currently the Chair in Faith and Justice and the founding Director of the Georgetown University Center on Faith and Justice. He was speaking about one of his books, and I remember what he said when he was asked a really good question, one with which many of us probably often struggle. After hearing Wallis’s impassioned call to be active in the struggle against racism and for social justice, a questioner asked whether people of faith can lead a movement for social change when religious institutions have their own internal problems of injustice, and fewer people are identifying with organized religious movements. Wallis replied to this “What people on the street are drawn to is courage. If people of faith show courage, people will follow them.”

Courage is indeed something that is powerful and inspiring. It can often be enigmatic as well. Sometimes courage is associated with destructive acts of violence, but often such actions are in fact acts of cowardice. Change always requires courage. This is true whether we are talking about individual growth or social transformation. To be an international student traveling to a new land away from family and friends and seeking a college degree in a language that is not your native tongue requires enormous courage. To be a first-generation college student balancing work and study in a world in which you are sometimes not sure you belong requires magnificent courage. If one looks at the writings of many of those we honor as the greatest of social justice thinkers and orators, from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr., to Malcolm X, we find that many of them were obsessed with courage. They knew that it was attractive, and they knew that it was necessary.

Recently (February 7) we celebrated the Feast Day of Blessed Rosalie Rendu, the great nineteenth-century Daughter of Charity. Sister Rosalie is often associated with courage because she lived during a time of great turmoil in France, of violent political revolutions and repeated cholera pandemics. She lived at a time when anticlericalism often ran rampant. Amid this, Sister Rosalie stuck to a principle of serving all in need of help and assistance, no matter their politics.[1] She observed a firm commitment to a preferential option for the poor but didn’t hesitate to embrace the rich or powerful when they could help in the service of those poor. Her courage and her commitment to what she believed won her respect and even love from many sides, something which is rare in polarized times.

We are nearing the anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, the remarkable African American religious leader and human rights advocate.[2] Although Malcolm X later became a celebrated cultural and political figure and even received a commemorative United States postal stamp, during his life he was highly marginalized and often vilified. He was also someone who evolved and was open to change and growth. This requires as much if not more courage than simply speaking against one’s enemies, because it sometimes means speaking an uncomfortable word of truth to one’s friends and allies, or even sometimes to oneself. Malcolm X was able to maintain the love and credibility of the masses because they knew he was true to his principles and true to his love for them. As Ossie Davis said in his eulogy, he was “our own black shining prince!—who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”[3]

The love of community is built through mutual care for each other. This is what inspires love and loyalty. The guiding reminder of Sister Rosalie’s advice to the Daughters of Charity was that they “must be like a milestone on a street corner where all those who pass by can rest and lay down their heavy burdens.”[4] When you are confident that someone loves you and then that person shows courage and commitment to principle, you will follow them. Courage is creative, it wins over hearts, it inspires hope. Love and courage feed each other and become contagious in community. Connection to the transcendent and connection to the immanent combine to form the leaders who are needed in times like ours.

We invite all of the DePaul community to join the Division of Mission and Ministry and UMMA, the United Muslims Moving Ahead for our Annual Fast-a-Thon, “Love of Community” which will be held February 14, 2023. Program starts at 5:00 p.m. We invite people to try fasting that day as one way of building connection to the transcendent, but whether you can fast or not, please join us for a meal together at sunset, around 5:30 pm. Registration is through DeHub.

Reflection Questions:

  • What connections do you have which give you courage?
  • What issues or situations do you feel call out for or require your courage?
  • What are ways we can build the type of community that makes us courageous in facing challenges and disagreement?

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

[1] Louise Sullivan, DC, Sister Rosalie Rendu, A Daughter of Charity on Fire with Love for the Poor (Chicago: Vincentian Studies Institute, 2006), 155. Available online: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_‌ebooks/‌5/.

[2] Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City on February 21, 1965.

[3] Ossie Davis, “Eulogy for Malcom X,” Faith Temple Church of God In Christ, New York City, February 27, 1965, radio broadcast,

[4] Sister Rosalie attributed this maxim to her godfather, the Sulpician superior general Father Jacques Andre Emery.

We, The Fortunate Ones

As we move from celebrating the Feast of Sr. Rosalie Rendu, D.C. (February 7th), we turn our attention to the life and example of Saint Josephine Bakhita, F.D.C.C. (February 8th), a Sudanese woman, freed slave, Canossian Daughter of Charity, patron saint of human trafficking survivors, and someone we might consider a member of our extended Vincentian Family.[1]

Born in 1869 to the Dagiu ́people of Darfur in western Sudan, she was raised among a family of cattle and sheep herders until she was kidnapped (several years after her older sister suffered the same fate) by trans-Saharan slave-traders who mockingly named her Bakhita (meaning “fortunate or lucky one”). Over the course of her adolescence and early adulthood, Bakhita was sold to several enslavers, who treated her with varying degrees of cruelty and kindness, until she finally found a community of support among the religious of Italy. They assisted her in securing emancipation and supported her journey of religious formation. Bakhita spent the remainder of her life living in community among the people of Schio, Italy, serving as a cook and a doorkeeper at the convent.

Few of us in the United States know firsthand the horrors and degradation of slavery; however, we know its terrible legacies of structural, systemic racism, dehumanizing poverty, and environmental degradation. Much like Bakhita, we can at times feel powerless in the face of such forces, which seem immense and beyond our individual control. Although Bakhita had limited control over the what of her life, we can look to her as an example of courage, fortitude, and hope in shaping the how of our lives; that is, the infinitely creative ways in which we can respond to the Vincentian question, “What must be done?”

As you move through today, consider how you can respond to the personal, institutional, and societal injustices that we encounter in our daily life, work, and study. How can you, like Saint Josephine Bakhita, respond to the call for social and environmental justice in your life?

We invite you to contribute your brief response by sharing a thought, a quote, an image, or a combination of these to our communal reflection at our Bakhita Mission Monday Jamboard as a sign and symbol of hope and solidarity within our community.

Reflection by: Rubén Álvarez Silva, M.Ed. (He, Him, His), Associate Director for Just DePaul, Division of Mission and Ministry

Photo credit: Marcin Mazur at Creative Commons License:

[1] The following sources were used in writing this post: M. Shawn Copeland, “A Woman of Courage, Fortitude and Hope” in Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: The Art of Janet McKenzie, ed. Susan Perry (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009) available at; and “St. Josephine Bakhita,” Catholic Online (website), accessed February 3, 2022,

Service, Faith, Love: Building Community in Times of Division

Whether studying historical trends or contemporary issues there are recurring tensions in the lives of religious and spiritual people that become apparent. Those who study such concerns can experience this in their own lives as well. One such tension is often identified with a “conservative” versus “liberal” or “traditionalist” versus “modernist” worldview. This is a tension between emphasizing individual beliefs and spiritual practices as opposed to service to others or social change. Such binaries can contribute to academic study or understanding, and people may find themselves drawn clearly towards one side of the spectrum, especially in times of high polarization. However, life experience often reveals the need for a balance to our approach, as what may seem relevant during one stage of life may seem completely irrelevant during another.

When Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac founded the Daughters of Charity in seventeenth-century France, the dominant view was that an ideal environment for a young woman’s spiritual flourishing was the cloistered life of a convent sheltered from the negative influences of mainstream public life. The vision for the Daughters was a different one, however. Vincent and Louise believed that direct service to the most vulnerable and marginalized in society, the sick and the poor, was an ideal way to encounter God. Yet, this vision was in no way one that abandoned or denigrated spiritual practices or religious devotion.

February 7 marks the feast day of one of the most famous Daughters of Charity, Blessed Rosalie Rendu. Rendu (1786-1856) lived during one of the most volatile times in French history—a post-Revolutionary period marked by violent conflict and the oppression of different ideologies and social groups, privileged and poor, religious and secular. Her life was a model of commitment to serving those in need during such times of upheaval. She was known to emphasize the importance of one’s attitude towards others as much as the practical aid being offered. In addition, she was known for her religious devotion and for finding that strength in her work. A contemporary quoted her as saying, “Never do I make my meditation so well as I do on the street.”1

Today we face challenges similar to those faced by Vincentian figures like Rosalie Rendu. What is the relationship between communal service and our individual spiritual lives? How do we respond to systemic injustice, to human suffering and need, to societal polarization, conflict and even violence? How do we stay connected to God in the face of such difficult realities? What is our relationship with God and with those on the margins?

The Vincentian Mission is a living legacy. Its key historical figures provide us with inspiration and values that guide our way. In determining how to answer the challenges of today and tomorrow our knowledge of Vincentian history asks compelling questions of us, as much as it may provide us answers.

1 Louise Sullivan, D.C., Sister Rosalie Rendu: A Daughter of Charity on Fire with Love for the Poor (Chicago: Vincentian Studies Institute, 2006), p. 115. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌‌vincentian_ebooks/5/ Sometimes quoted as “Never have I prayed so well as in the streets.” See Armand de Melun, Vie de la sœur Rosalie, 218.

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

The Division of Mission and Ministry and UMMA, the Muslim student group at DePaul, invite the entire DePaul community to join us in our annual Fast a Thon on February 11. All those willing and able are encouraged to experience fasting as a form of worship. We will gather at sunset to reflect upon the experience and upon a number of compelling questions.

To register for the Fast a Thon, go to:

In addition to speakers focusing on the practice of fasting in different faith traditions, we will hear from DePaul alum, MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow, 2018 Opus Prize Winner, and internationally celebrated activist Rami Nashashibi. He will discuss the challenges of today, his new musical project focused on social justice activism and healing, “This Love Thing,” and practical activism around the issue of police violence.

Find out more about “This Love Thing” at: For more about Rami Nashashibi’s work as executive director of the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), see: https://‌www.‌imancentral.‌org/.

Photo from This Love Thing project:

Celebrating the Vincentian Legacy of Frédéric Ozanam

Each year on September 9th, the worldwide Vincentian family celebrates the Feast Day of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853), the nineteenth-century French, lay Catholic leader, widely considered the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The Society is now an international confederation present in 150 countries with over 800,000 members in 47,000 Conferences and 1.5 million volunteers and collaborators. It serves the needs of over 30 million people all over the world.

Ozanam was a French literary scholar, lawyer, journalist, and equal rights advocate in Paris. He was recognized as a skilled writer, orator, thinker, social activist, and model of faith oriented toward outward action. Following the practices of Saint Vincent de Paul and inspired by his faith, Ozanam served the poor and destitute of Paris. He especially saw the power of bringing students together to study Vincentian principles and engage with those who were marginalized and poor.

While a student of law and literature in Paris, he founded the Society in 1833 with a group of friends who gathered regularly to grow in their faith and visit the poor. With the help of the older Emmanuel Bailly, who brought his own experience of socially engaged Catholicism, they provided vouchers for bread and wood to those in need. Inspired by the gospel message of love, they provided instruction and gave of their time and presence to serve the disadvantaged.

Later, as a professor at the prestigious Sorbonne, Ozanam became a renowned scholar and intellectual. He dedicated his life to understanding what Catholicism offered civilization. Committed to the principles of democracy and social justice, he became a journalist at L’Ère Nouvelle (The New Era), advocating for social reform and a governmental regime of liberty, equality, and fraternity that included the less fortunate. Frédéric was also devoted to his wife, Amélie, and their daughter Marie, whom he loved dearly. His integration of his professional life with his personal and spiritual life, along with his simple yet open style of engagement offers us a model of servant leadership today. Frédéric Ozanam was beatified by Pope John Paul II during World Youth Day in 1997.


In the summer of 2020, DePaul University renamed one of its residence halls in his honor.

To learn more about Frédéric’s legacy and his contributions to understanding our shared Vincentian mission, explore some of the following Vincentian Heritage resources:

Blog Reflections:


Articles featured in the Vincentian Heritage Journal: