Recognizing Seeds of the Mission

As the DePaul community actively considers what is fundamental to how we understand and live our shared Vincentian mission, what initiatives, stories, and people serve as authentic and striking examples of our mission to you?

The examples that come to mind as you reflect on this question might be understood as Seeds of the Mission, the title of the current Division of Mission and Ministry campaign. This campaign is an important first step in the process that will be taking place in the coming months as part of the review and potential revision of the DePaul University mission statement.

The concept of a seed suggests something that is small now, but that also has great potential for growth if tended and cared for. Seeds are a hopeful sign. Therefore, this image speaks to the importance of what we are doing now to sustain the future of our shared Vincentian mission for the generations who follow. The future vitality of our Vincentian mission will depend on our ability to identify and cultivate what is essential to our mission today, especially within the context of DePaul’s vocation as a university.

The foundational concept behind the Seeds of the Mission campaign borrows and adapts the idea of “seeds of the Word.” This phrase appears most notably in Vatican II documents and describes the relationship between the mission of the Catholic Church and peoples of various cultures and religions around the world. The concept is traced back to a famous second-century Christian philosopher and martyr named Justin, who introduced the idea of “seeds of the Word of God.”1 The Vatican II documents use this concept to encourage people of faith to “…gladly and reverently lay bare the seeds of the Word which lie hidden among their fellows.”2 According to this understanding, the seeds of the Word are present in the heart of every person, and in any human initiative, that strives toward the justice, mercy, and compassion as modeled by the life of Jesus. The underlying theology inherent in this concept promotes an approach to diverse peoples founded on human dignity, engagement, and dialogue. It emphasizes an understanding of the Church’s activity in the world that corresponds closely to the vision and praxis of the current Pope Francis, as well as to our own Vincentian charism.

At DePaul, we often speak of bringing together “a community gathered together for the sake of a common mission.” We believe this communal approach enables our students to gain personal wisdom while we work together to build a more just society that honors and affirms the dignity of all.

Considering this background rooted in the Vincentian practice of valuing and learning from experience, the Seeds of the Mission campaign invites you, the DePaul community, to share what you have seen. What you have experienced that resonates with or reflects the heart of DePaul’s mission?

Please let us know: What initiatives, stories, and people serve as authentic and striking examples of DePaul’s Vincentian mission for you?


1) First Apology of Justin Martyr, Apol. I. 44.

2) 11, Ad Gentes, Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church, Second Vatican Council, 7 December 1965.

New Scholars. New Reflections.

Over the summer, a group of our interfaith scholars headed to New York City in order to experience each other’s faith in such a way that we could move past any preconceived notions and actually grasp what the others believed. For most college age students, a trip to New York is all about the kind of shenanigans that can be accomplished and summer is about losing all responsibility and just relaxing. This summer shifted our focus because we were not letting time idly pass by. We were pushed out of our comfort zones in an effort to bring all of us closer together. We had the rest of the summer to reflect and decide if that plan worked or not. 

Each scholar was asked to reflect on:

  • What experience was inspiring?
  • What was surprising?
  •  

    What challenges were confronted?

  • What made you care?

Interfaith Scholar extraordinaire Kamieshia Graves gave us her reflection:

“New York. (insert happy sigh here) The city of wonders and great opportunities. The place to be with all its magnificent city lights illuminating the picturesque skyline. All the snazzy people with ambitions and dreams that are out of this world. Forget Home, Dorothy! There’s no place like New York!!!!!!”

Yeah… definitely not how I felt initially. May I offer a bit of my reality?

I never had the burning desire to go to NY. In fact, I was so dedicated to being a Chicagoan that I was almost positive that I would never partake in the blasphemous act of going to New York. It sounds ridiculous because it was ridiculous– don’t judge me. I think NY simply terrified me causing the lack of motivation to visit; however, I agreed to go with Interfaith Scholars 2013-2014 (woot woot!) and the adventure began.

You see, the day of travel came and butterflies are too cute to describe how I felt. I hadn’t previously met any of my team members with whom I would be riding all the way to NY. I’m a pretty easygoing person, but the thought of not being accepted into the group worried me quite a bit and I must say that first day was quite a challenge for me. It was like transferring to a new high school during senior year—I know from experience. Everyone was already comfortable and easily initiated conversations and laughed. Meanwhile, I fought to find a cool way to just jump in, which I never figured out. Instead, I randomly would ask a question, like a dork, never realizing that the focus was on the Game of Thrones, which I knew nothing about. (PS. Thanks guys for inspiring me to watch it. It is good!) Needless to say, I slept most of that ride.

Fast-forward:

We arrived and had arrangements to stay in the Bronx! I loved the Bronx immediately because it gave me a sense of comfort when I needed it most. I felt more connected with the residents of that area more so than I did with the individuals I was to live with. I felt that if I walked into a random group of New Yorkers they would listen to me, but I did not feel that way with my own team. Then all of a sudden, a bright light broke through the sky and we had a “Haaaaaaallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelu-u-u-u-jahhhh” moment and one person from my group struck up a conversation with me and then another and we just clicked, which actually surprised me! Although I believe that the foundation of Christianity with regards to behavior towards others is to be Christ-like by loving everyone despite differences, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I, a nondenominational Christian, had so much in common, including some religious beliefs, with the two young women who are both Muslim. The shared commonalities even extended to the other faith practices represented in the group. Can you imagine the look on my face when I met the Greek Orthodox priest and learned that he is just as crazy hilarious as my own pastor?! I’m sorry, but when I first heard Greek Orthodox I let my preconceived notions nurture the idea of taking a nap before going to that church. I expected it to be boring, but I happily admitted my error after learning that the St Nick is Santa. I had to send silent prayers of forgiveness to each of the faith practices many times that trip; I wouldn’t have changed it though because I learned a great deal about others as well as myself.

Though some may disagree, I would be comfortable saying that we are all working toward the same goal, but simply using different paths. I love it!

During a free day, I got to explore this a bit more when the leaders of the group gave us the challenge of initiating a conversation with a native and, if not too strenuous, centering the conversation on religion. I, along with the same two young ladies, found it rather easy to achieve this at Union Square with a bunch of random men from different faith practices. We got into this really crazy discussion (borderline debate at times) about Christianity, Atheism, and Islam with a man who identified himself as atheist. More and more people joined, and we developed this cycle of discussing religion and being silly. In the midst of all this enjoyable chaos, there was an older Islamic woman whose mere presence was awe-inspiring. This woman was selling water to make a profit. A couple of the guys bought water, and one said that he had done it because he felt sorry for her. The crazy thing is this lady was joyous and goofy. At least for the moment, she had not let life steal her love of living. I remember that she had jokingly asked one of the men why he hadn’t made a pass at one of us ladies and she laughed with us. It seems so simple, but I found it inspirational because life has dealt some crazy cards to me and I had allowed it to start having an effect on my perspective, but her presence reminded me of what I do have- laughter. (I have this crazy obnoxious laugh but I love it because it makes others laugh too.) I let the hard stuff blur my positive and optimistic outlook, but her presence.

Jumping gears to a not so religious moment that I have to share because it touched me:

I cannot remember where we were or why we were there but we were at a very small park- it was literally a fountain with benches around it- and there was this little girl who was in her own little world. She danced and danced without a care in the world, and all of us just watched her, but not in a creepy way. She eventually realized she had an audience and she stopped and returned the favor. She just looked at me… and looked… and looked until she smiled a big cheerful smile provoking me to do the same. She waved at me giddily twice before her mother looked back to check on the fuss. Her daughter ran to her and pointed at me and waved again. Our group had turned to leave, but before leaving to proceed to our next destination I turned to see her awaiting a goodbye. We waved one last time and I walked away touched by the purity of that carefree child.

I could go on and on about the IFS trip to NY, but I think I have already talked waaaaay too much. What can I say? Because of the memories I was gifted, I had a lot to say about the remarkable city of New York. As of right now, there is no place like it.

 

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife

HeavenA Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife

Near-Death experiences otherwise known as NDE’s are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people.

A highly trained neurosurgeon who had operated on thousands of brains in the course of his career, Alexander knew that what people of faith call the “soul” is really a product of brain chemistry. NDE’s, he would have been the first to explain, might feel real to the people having them, but in truth they are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then came the day when Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion (and in essence makes us human) shut down completely. For seven day Dr. Alexander lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma. Then, as his doctors weighed the possibility of stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes pooped open. Her had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is by all accounts a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in comma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

The story at first sounded like a wild and wonderful imaginings of a skilled fantasy writer. But it is not fantasy Dr. Alexander says. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. That difficulty with belief created an empty space that no professional triumph could erase.

Reading this book has continued to remind me of how great God really is. It doesn’t matter who you are or what traditions/belief you come from, God uses anyone at any moment in their lives to carry out his work.

By: Webster Vital

“Meeting Minutes” – Interfaith Scholars Out For Dinner!

Interfaith Scholars Out For Dinner at Cozy Noodles near Cubs stadium!
Interfaith Scholars Out For Dinner at Cozy Noodles near Cubs stadium!

This past week, the DePaul Interfaith Scholars traded in their typical weekly meeting for a ‘Cozy’ dinner together. We ventured to Cozy Noodles a thai restaurant in the Wrigley neighborhood – just north of the DePaul Lincoln Park campus around the corner of the red-line Addison el-stop. The dinner was an opportunity for us as scholars to simply ‘hang out’ and be in good company. A casual atmosphere sparked segmented stories of each other’s lives: bits of our daily triumphs as well as pieces of family traditions.  I learned that I should not expect to see a Jewish man waiting at the end of the aisle at his wedding, but I might more likely find him walking down the aisle with his parents.

 

I don’t think that we always realize the fun facts, heartfelt stories, or shared experiences that we exchange with one another, in the passing of laid-back conversations. What can also slip by is the unintentional ‘ouches’, assumptions, and generalizations that can easily weave their way into chit-chat.  Even the dialogical training and insight of interfaith scholars can get away from us. We can easily forget challenges that come with intentionality and consciousness. But it is talking with friends – the time we spend listening, questioning and sharing – that shape the foundation for inter-religious dialogue we seek to foster.

 

Caelin Niehoff ’14