A Vincentian Call at this Moment

At this moment in time, the Division of Mission and Ministry recommits to the principle of justice. For the families and communities of all those directly impacted by systemic oppression, police brutality and the plethora of mass shootings and gun violence that have cut short the lives of many, we continue to grieve, to be outraged, to pray, and to act. In living out the Vincentian question, What must be done, we recommit ourselves to never ceasing in our struggle for justice. Our work is the work of connecting contemplation and action – centering marginalized voices and ennobling the dignity of all. Our Mission and Ministry staff continues to be here to listen, to believe, to accompany, and to walk together.

As well at this moment, we share a powerful result of communally connecting prayer and action. In February of this year, DePaul’s Division of Mission and Ministry along with our Muslim student group UMMA and the local nonprofit organization IMAN hosted a Virtual Fast-a-Thon, in which people were invited to experience fasting as a spiritual practice connected to building solidarity and working for social change. Our special guest was Cariol Horne, a former Buffalo (N.Y.) police officer who had been fired from her job after intervening to stop abuse by another officer in 2006. As a result of her firing, Cariol also was prevented from collecting her pension. Cariol has never stopped struggling for justice, both in her case and in the wider cause of preventing police abuse. Her case, and her struggle received renewed attention in the wake of the George Floyd case and other prominent cases which raised questions about why police officers didn’t intervene to stop abuse by other officers. In late 2020, Cariol’s Law was passed in the city of Buffalo to obligate officers to intervene to stop abuse and protect them from retaliation after doing so as well as other systemic police reforms which can serve as a model for other jurisdictions.

During Fast-a-Thon after reflecting on her own experience of fasting for the day of the event, Cariol was asked how she was able to persevere in her struggle for justice for so long. She spoke about her children and her community. She shared how deeply it affected her when she heard of others who had given up on constructive change and lashed out in ways that were destructive to others or to their own selves. She said she wished that they had known of her own campaign and that people like her were struggling and she was moved by the solidarity of others and the attention her case was finally getting. Last week, as the sacred fasting month of Ramadan began, we received the good news that Cariol had prevailed in her court case, that she would receive formal reinstatement and back pay that would allow her to receive her pension. (For more information on Cariol’s case and Cariol’s law visit cariolslaw.com).

We are called by our Vincentian Mission to connect contemplation and action – to be in solidarity with those who are marginalized, oppressed and suffering. We recognize the limitations of our own individual experiences and perspectives and experience the great wisdom and inspiration that are gained in encounter and solidarity across social divides. We strive to take part in efforts that sustain struggles against injustice and work constructively toward nonviolent systemic change. We firmly believe that all people of goodwill joining together in such efforts is the way forward, a path that is steep and difficult at times, but filled with beautiful rewards.

 


Photo: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

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. 

 

Lawful Assembly Podcast – Episode 1: Portland, What Border are we Defending?

 

In this episode Rev. Craig B. Mousin discusses the deployment of federal officers to Portland in reaction to the ongoing protests. He discusses the problem of relying on federal immigration officers for local law enforcement and links some of Chicago’s responses to federal interference in local matters.

He references a previous podcast about DACA recipients and their families and communities. It is available here:

It-is-more-than-just-the-dreamers

For more insight into the distinction between the constitutional constraints on Customs And Border Enforcement and local law enforcement, see a blog co-authored by a former colleague at DePaul College of Law’s Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic, Linus Chan, now an Associate Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School: “Trump’s Paramilitary Unites Trained at the Border for the Assaults on Portland Moms,” by Linus Chan and Carrie L. Rosenbaum. slate.com/news-and-politics/20…d-moms-attacked.html

If you would like more information about Mayor Harold Washington’s Executive Order or Chicago’s response to the Fugitive Slave Act, see my article at:  https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2997657

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

 

What Are WE Doing for Justice?

“There is no act of charity that is not accompanied by justice…”1

A commitment to making every effort for justice must be a pillar upon which DePaul University’s mission rests. To remind us of this, visitors to the Lincoln Park student center are welcomed by a statue of Msgr. Jack Egan, a twentieth-century priest, with the question engraved below, “What are you doing for justice?” This is not a new thread woven into an ancient tapestry. It has been an essential part of our Vincentian story since the beginning. Yes, our context today differs from that of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. However, the same basic obligation remains that binds us to uphold justice, human dignity, peace, and the common good, even in the face of great challenge.

The horrific killing of George Floyd and the protests and unrest that have followed reflect the deep pain caused by a history of racism and systemic injustice in our country. We may be searching our hearts and minds to know how best to respond. Several days ago, Fr. Memo Campuzano advised Mission & Ministry staff: “It is good to stop, identify, and name the pain, anxiety, and fear. Then find the purpose in our pain and fear…then embrace that purpose and ACT.”2

Our various actions may be different. They could include protesting in the streets or simply posting on social media. Some may donate money; some may try to educate themselves and others. We may find ourselves having difficult conversations. Hopefully, we will engage in political processes. All are called to rethink what we have been doing individually and collectively, as well as what the future can and should look like.

Doubtless there are many ways to work for justice and to try to make better a broken world. Yet, whatever these ways are they must be both personal and systemic. They must, as difficult as it may seem for some, come from a place of love. And, justice must be the pursuit. To do less would be to fail our Vincentian mission.

The brutal treatment of George Floyd by a police officer, and the protests that have followed throughout the United States, are tragic and wrenching events in and of themselves. But they are also part of a long and painful history of racial injustice in our nation. What thoughts and feelings emerge within you as you pause to reflect on these events in our history? As you identify and name them, are you able to discern a deeper purpose and are you compelled to take steps toward concrete action? How can you take these steps together with others?


1) 452, To Francois du Coudray, In Toul, 17 June 1640, CCD, 2:68.

2) Internal Mission & Ministry email, 2 June 2020.

 

Reflection by:

Tom Judge, Chaplain, Division of Mission and Ministry

Division of Mission and Ministry Statement on the Dignity of Black Lives

Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder, unsplash.com

Throughout history, prophets across many faith traditions shook their fists at God and people in positions of power, angry at injustice in the world. It is with devastation, heartache, and outrage, that we in the Division of Mission and Ministry share their lament.

It is an indisputable truth that Black lives matter. The generations-long oppression of the Black community in the United States is an affront to the human dignity our Vincentian mission demands that we uphold. As a Division, we stand firm in opposition to white supremacy, anti-blackness, and the inequitable status quo.

To our Black students and colleagues, we mourn with you. The brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery,Tony McDade, and far too many others tear open deep wounds inflicted by police brutality and systemic racism; wounds that have been opened too many times before. We hear the dirges and see your stress, fear, and anxiety as COVID-19 continues to unveil the systemic racial violence in our healthcare and economic systems, disproportionately marginalizing communities of color. We see you torn between the urgency to join protests and the fear of leaving your homes. We hear you when you say that you are tired, you are aching, you are empty in the midst of a world on fire.

We also see your strength. Your power.

In times such as these, our instinct is to be out in the world, responding to the needs of our communities. We welcome our students, faculty, and staff to pray with us, to grieve together, to be together, to use our shared pain as a catalyst for change. Although we cannot be together in physical space, we stand in solidarity with you in prayer and in action. We understand with clarity and conviction that the struggle for racial justice is lifelong, and we are committed to standing with you.

The Division of Mission and Ministry deepens our commitment to:

  1. Root ourselves in faith and prayer that drive us to action
  2. Defend the inherent dignity of every human person
  3. Educate ourselves and each other regularly in theories that shed light on systemic racism and the forces of power, privilege, and oppression
  4. Prioritize this same education in our work with students
  5. Facilitate restorative justice training with our staff and student leaders
  6. Foster mutual, long-standing relationships with community partners whose work promotes the wellness of Black lives and dismantles systems of oppression
  7. Create direct service opportunities that allow students, faculty, and staff to build community, grow in awareness, engage in meaningful dialogue, and strive toward systemic change and solidarity

The Division of Mission and Ministry is here with you. We are here to mourn, to listen, to pray, and to act.

The way of solidarity is vast. It ranges from education to dialogue that centers Black voices to direct action that brings about structural change. We call the DePaul community to action. If you are unsure where to begin, we have included with this statement a non-exhaustive list of resources, community partner organizations, and avenues for systemic change.

Action Resources

As an educational institution, a Vincentian institution, dialogue during a time of crisis is essential. There is an incredible wealth of resources and expertise within our institution. Now is the time to be sharing those resources and engaging in dialogue about the underlying causes of what we are witnessing right now. This is a non-exhaustive list compiled from suggestions by DMM staff and student leaders.

Education

Suggested Media

Website

Black Lives Matter: Herstory

Films

Documentary: 13th
Documentary: Agents of Change
Historical Drama: Just Mercy
Historical Drama: The Hate U Give
Historical Drama: Fruitvale Station
Historical Drama: I Am Not Your Negro
Historical Drama Mini Series: When They See Us
Digital Mini-film Series: 26 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias, and Identity with Students, The New York Times

Podcasts

The 1619 Project: New York Times 6 part podcast
RadioCode Switch: NPR news viewed through the lens of race and identity

Suggested Reading

Non-Fiction: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Non-Fiction: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Non-Fiction: How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Non-Fiction: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Non-Fiction: Racial Justice and the Catholic Church by Fr. Bryan N. Massingale
Non-Fiction: Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
Letter/Essay: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Fiction: Kindred by Octavia Butler
Poetry: Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith
Essay: “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Recent Articles

George Floyd & Patels: A Story in Generations by Eboo Patel, Founder & President Interfaith Youth Corps
The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it by Bryan Massingale

Theological Resources

Cone, James H. The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2013.
Douglas, Kelly Brown. Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2015.
Massingale, Bryan N. Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 2010.

Action

The following organizations and nonprofits are long-standing community partners of the Division of Mission and Ministry who dedicate their work to service, racial justice, and equality. Visit their websites to learn more about their work and how you can get involved. If you are able, consider making a donation.

Mission and Ministry Community Partners

Marillac St. Vincent Family Services, Chicago: https://marillacstvincent.org
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Chicago: https://www.pbmr.org
Refugee One, Chicago: www.refugeeone.org
Kelly Hall YMCA, Chicago: https://www.ymcachicago.org/pages/kelly-hall-ymca
Resurrection Catholic Missions, Montgomery: www.rcmsouth.org
Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Cincinnati: https://www.svdpcincinnati.org/
Interfaith Youth Core: https://www.ifyc.org
St. Sabina Faith Community: https://saintsabina.org

Systemic Change

Make your voice heard in these times by writing to your political representatives. We have included the Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice step-by-step email advocacy guide at this link.

Write, sign and share petitions that resonate with your values and beliefs. You can start by visiting https://www.change.org/.

Register to vote at https://vote.gov/, and cast your ballot in local and federal elections. Get involved with your local city counsel office. If you are dissatisfied with their leadership, run for office and make the change you want to see.

Practicing Charity on the Way to Justice

“Charity is the cement that binds communities to God and persons to one another.” Vincent de Paul (CCD, 2:413)

For some, charity is construed negatively because it is equated to paternalism or perhaps a band-aid – – an approach that fails to address the root causes of systemic injustice. When viewed this way, Vincent de Paul’s notion of charity can strike us as inadequate and even problematic if applied uncritically to today’s world. Yet, to understand Vincent effectively we must re-contextualize his teaching and practice of charity in a meaningful way for our time, such as understanding it as the affective and relational dimension of social justice. Charity, or its Latin root “caritas,” translates closely to our present-day notion of love. Re-contextualizing Vincent’s charity, then, presents us with a challenge rather than a concept easily dismissed. Is justice truly possible in the absence of charity? How can we channel our generosity and compassion for others into actions that communicate love and move us towards justice?

“Debating Immigration Law in the Midst of Exile” The 2018 Sister Mary Schmidt, SC Lecture

Recognizing the pressing needs of refugees at our nation’s borders, the 2018 Sister Mary Schmidt, S.C. lecture at Seton Hill University proposes to re-examine Catholic Social Thought and the biblical narrative in seeking new responses to refugees and immigrants. After reviewing United States immigration law in the light of the biblical narrative and Catholic Social Thought, the lecture argues against deportation and private detention as a state remedy to unauthorized immigration or as a deterrent to asylum applicants. Relying upon the framework of the Seton Hill University Centennial in 2018, the lecture recalls that deportation did not arise as a significant remedy for violations of immigration law until 1918. Through understanding the biblical narrative within its context of exile, the lecture urges people of faith to work towards eliminating deportation and private detention as our mission in the century ahead.