Inspiration for Sincere Dialogue in Difficult Times

Martin Luther King, Jr., meets with President Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Public Domain

“We live at a time when the world is full of violence, oppression and conflict.” “We live in a time of deep division in our own country.” Perhaps both these statements are true of many times, maybe even all times, but they are certainly true of this one. The communication technologies of our period also can serve to make these realities seem closer to us or harder for many of us to escape, even if we’d like to.

One of the reasons we honor and celebrate certain special individuals is because we hope that in their lives, we can find wisdom and inspiration for our own times. In the span of a few weeks at the beginning of the year, we mark the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the celebration of Foundation Day (the commemoration of the start of the Vincentian Mission), and the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. So much could be said about each of these days and the men and the movements they commemorate. Today, let’s consider what they might suggest to us about relationship and dialogue in difficult times.

In reading the highly acclaimed new biography of Dr. King by Jonathan Eig (who happens to live near DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus), I was struck by King’s relationship with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson reached out to King three days after the assassination of President Kennedy seeking his assistance.[1] Johnson was a highly skilled political operator and said he was committed to civil rights but he knew he needed the help of King, who was then at the height of his mainstream popularity and success. They remained in close contact although neither publicized their dialogue, and both were wary of the other. (In fact, both knew that elements of the federal government were spying on King and seeking to destroy him.) King wept after watching Johnson’s powerful address to Congress after the civil rights movement was met with violence in Selma (and after Johnson had met in the White House with Alabama’s segregationist governor George Wallace).[2] The address called Congress and the nation to pass the Voting Rights Act. Despite what they were able to accomplish in this arena, as Johnson continued to escalate the Vietnam War, King would not remain silent, despite the advice of many who considered themselves his allies in the movement.[3]

In his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” King stressed the importance of dialogue and negotiations (along with research to identify injustices and to engage in self-purification). Yet King rejected the idea that direct action was in opposition to dialogue and negotiations. King argued that while destructive violence must always be opposed, the constructive tension created by nonviolent direct action was often necessary to force those in power to engage in dialogue and negotiations with the marginalized. King said that while he initially disliked being the label of extremist, he now embraced the need for “creative extremists” for love, truth, and justice.[4]

While the time and place of Vincent was not one of direct action or of democracy, I would argue that Vincent and the organizations he founded relied not only on service, but also on creative calls through words and actions for those in power to accept their responsibility for those on the margins. The call for the powerful in France to live up to the Christian example and not ignore those in poverty stood in stark contrast to the injustices of French society. When Vincent was transformed from a smart young man who was motivated to make a better life for himself to one utterly committed to serving God and those living in poverty, he did not cut off relationships with the elite and powerful in society. Instead, he continued to cultivate them with the aim of using those relationships to fulfill his mission.

I have also been reading a compelling recent book on Abraham Lincoln by NPR’s Steve Inskeep.[5] While Lincoln, like King, is remembered for his powerful oratory, this book focuses on Lincoln’s relationships and dialogues. Each chapter focuses on a different account of encounters between Lincoln and another person who came from a different background than him and with whom he had a significant disagreement. What stands out in each encounter is Lincoln’s willingness to engage with those with whom he disagreed. The results of the dialogue were rarely about one convincing the other, but Lincoln used the dialogues to understand others better. He was a quintessential politician and believer in democracy, and he could use his understanding of the others’ interests to define priorities and create coalitions to accomplish his most important goals. Although as a politician Lincoln would often choose to remain strategically silent as part of this process, Inskeep’s book takes its title from something Lincoln wrote in a letter to his close friend Joshua Speed. Speed came from a slaveholding family and Lincoln “chided [him] for admitting the “abstract wrong” of slavery but failing to act accordingly.”[6] Still, Lincoln remained in relationship with Speed, signing off the letter with “your friend forever.”[7]

We all have different roles to play in life and in the university. Just as the roles and perspectives of a prophetic preacher leading a movement for social change, a politician in an era of civil war, and a saintly founder of a religious order in an absolute monarchy may differ greatly, we may see our own roles differently based on our positions, personalities, or other commitments. I see in each of these examples a call to remain in dialogue and relationship with others, even those with whom I may have profound differences or disagreements. I have seen a call to sincerity in that dialogue which means a willingness to express difficult truths and to listen to them. Finally, I appreciate the role that constructive, creative tension can play in individual and communal transformation when we are willing to channel that tension into dialogue and negotiation.

I am inspired by the people and spaces in the university that help form students to engage in these types of difficult, sincere ongoing dialogues. Among those with which I am most familiar are the Interfaith Scholars program and the Grace School of Applied Diplomacy, but I know there are many others. What are the ways in which you think DePaul engages these questions best and what are ways in which we might be able to do better?


REFLECTION BY: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Muslim Chaplain and Assistant Director, Office of Religious Diversity, Division of Mission and Ministry.

[1] Jonathan Eig, King: A Life (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023), 351.

[2] Ibid., 435.

[3] Ibid., 514–30.

[4] See Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” August 1963, https://www.csuchico.edu/iege/_assets/documents/susi-letter-from-birmingham-jail.pdf.

[5] Steve Inskeep, Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America (New York: Penguin Press, 2023).

[6] Ibid., xiv-xv.

[7] Ibid., xv.

St. Vincent’s Extraordinary Pragmatism

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul from whom we derive our name, vision, mission, and identity.

St. Vincent was a visionary. He understood the realities of his time and saw new possibilities for his world within the massive socio-economic and religious chaos of 17th century French society. As he searched for meaning and direction in his own life, he found purpose and direction that always guided his vision and extraordinary pragmatism.

The practical ways of St. Vincent de Paul focused entirely on societal and church transformation by establishing communities dedicated to serving and healing those most in need. The work of St. Vincent de Paul, of some 400 years ago, focused on a new, transformed society, and this should resonate with us today, as we try to respond to our current and chaotic times.

Designing DePaul, our opportunity to shape our own society, allows us to be in touch with the inner soul of DePaul University. During this time of institutional conversation, we acknowledge the values in which we are founded and our collective dreams. We commit to being an educational institution that contributes to social mobility, breaking the cycle of poverty, designing for equity, responding to the challenges of artificial intelligence and technological development, caring for and protecting our planet, and educating leaders capable of generating a societal model where hate and violence have no place.

As you carry out your work, research, and studies this year, please consider the following four elements, which summarize the essence of St. Vincent de Paul as we embrace his heritage today:

  • Focus on a mission-centered horizon. This necessitates understanding your unique contributions to DePaul, firmly grasping the realities of the current situation and institutional needs, and yet also dreaming of what could be and leveraging ethical imagination to move beyond the world we know to what it could become.
  • Create people-centered approaches to all you do as we drive forward the initiatives within Designing DePaul. The wellbeing, the joy, and the fulfillment of individuals in a healthy environment will organically lead to a vibrant organization and better outcomes for those we serve.
  • Amplify a sense of co-responsibility, solidarity, and collaboration at all levels as the goals of St. Vincent de Paul. Our individual work and studies are all a part of an institutional fabric. They are interconnected in explicit and implicit ways because we all serve the same purpose, the same common good, and the same mission.
  • Develop strategies that are implementation-oriented, that respond effectively to real issues based on lived experience, and that systemically address solutions following the model of St. Vincent and the very spirit of our students. At DePaul our students demand that we not only ask the Vincentian question of “what must be done?” but that we also develop our response by understanding the current situation and data-based needs, by adopting a willingness to innovate and break out of old ways of thinking, and by changing our assumptions as we get new information.

And as we say, “Happy Feast Day,” let us also embrace the spirit of St. Vincent in everything we do, and also say to each other, “DePaul – be pragmatic, in a Vincentian way.”

Robert L. Manuel
President

Fr. Guillermo (Memo) Campuzano, C.M.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry

Vincent de Paul Heritage Week 2023

Vincent was a trailblazer, a true change agent of his day. He was a man who saw hope and possibility despite the challenges of his time. He felt a keen dissatisfaction in the gap between the way the world should be and the way the world was. Throughout his 79 years, Vincent sought to close that divide, asking “what must be done” and acting on the answers he found. Four hundred years later, DePaul University continues to carry forward his legacy by educating the next generation of trailblazers. 

During Vincentian Heritage Week the Division of Mission and Ministry will host the key events below.

 

Sunday Night Mass & BBQ

Sunday, September 24
Mass | 5:00pm | St. Vincent DePaul Parish
BBQ | 6:00pm | St. Vincent DePaul Parish Lawn

Join Catholic Campus Ministry and St. Vincent de Paul Parish for a (free) BBQ on the Parish Lawn (on Webster Ave.) to celebrate the Feast Day, directly following 5pm mass. Whether you go to Mass weekly, occasionally, or have never been to a Catholic Mass, you are welcome here! Come celebrate!

Walk ins are welcome, you may RSVP if you would like here.

 

Loop Mini Vinny Fest

Tuesday, September 26 | 2:00-4:00pm | DePaul Center Concourse

Join Office of Student Involvement and Mission and Ministry for Loop Mini Vinny Fest! Celebrate our namesake’s Feast Day and DePaul University with fun, games, photos, caricatures and more!  This is a DePaul tradition you don’t want to miss!

RSVP here

 

Loop Feast Day Mass & Morning Refreshments

Wednesday, September 27
Mass | 8:30am | Miraculous Medal Chapel (Lewis Center)
Refreshments | 9:30am | 1001 Lewis Center

For those wishing to attend mass celebrating St. Vincent de Paul’s Feast Day, mass will be held in the Miraculous Medal Chapel (Lewis Center – First Floor) with light refreshments after mass. All are welcome!

 

Lincoln Park Feast Day Mass & Lunch

Wednesday, September 27
Mass |12:00pm | St. Louise de Marillac Chapel
Lunch | 12:45pm | CCM Student Center Suite 104

Celebrate our namesake’s Feast Day with a celebratory mass at 12:00pm in the St. Louise de Marillac Chapel. Join us afterwards for lunch across the hall in Catholic Campus Ministry (Student Center – Suite 104). Everyone is welcome!

Walk ins are welcome, you may RSVP if you would like here.

 

St. Vincent DePaul Heritage Week Luncheon

Wednesday, September 27 | 12 – 1:30 pm | Loop DePaul Center, The DePaul Club

Join the DePaul community at our annual St. Vincent de Paul Heritage Luncheon as we look at the timely issue of migration. How is migration presenting urgent needs in our city, how is and can DePaul University respond to these needs and what does our Vincentian mission call us to do? Presenting will be leaders from the DePaul community including Fr. Memo Campuzano, CM, Vice President of Mission and Ministry as well as Sioban Albiol and Shailja Sharma, directors of the DePaul Migration Collaborative. We will also hear from those working directly with new arrivals and from someone who has recently migrated to Chicago to learn about their firsthand experience.

This luncheon will take place at The DePaul Club on the 11th floor of The DePaul Center at the Loop Campus beginning at Noon. We will also be hosting the conversation via Zoom, for those who cannot be with us in person. We hope you will join us!

RSVP here

 

St. Vincent DePaul Prayer Breakfast

Friday, September 29 | 9:00am – 11:00 am | Student Center 120 A & B

Come celebrate our shared Vincentian heritage with delicious food and great community at our annual St. Vincent de Paul Prayer Breakfast! This year, we will welcome as our keynote speaker, Dr. Sulin Ba, the Dean of the Driehaus College of Business who will share how she integrates the mission into her professional and personal life. This will be a great chance to meet Dr. Ba and join together in community, gathered together for the sake of a mission. All are welcome! 

RSVP here

 

Vinny Fest

Friday, September 29 | 2:00pm – 4:00pm | Lincoln Park Quad & St. Vincent’s Circle

Join us for Vinny Fest 2023, a DePaul tradition to honor and celebrate St. Vincent de Paul’s legacy with fun, games, photos with Vincent, free food, and more! Vinny Fest features student organizations, offices, and departments as they host engaging activities to celebrate our mission in action as a DePaul community. Follow @mmatmdepaul to stay up to date.

Our Mission Needs a Community

What a blessing to be a member of a Community because each individual shares in the good that is done by all!”[1]

I have been thinking a lot lately about communitywhat it means, what it looks like, and why it is so essential to us as human beings and as a university, especially in our current context. Looking back on past Mission Monday reflections, it is clearly not the first time I have felt this to be important to identify as an essential focus for an organization like ours that seeks to embody the Vincentian name.

Yet, there are many reasons for the need to re-emphasize the importance of community at this time:

  • the ongoing changes we are moving through as a university community, including the loss of many longtime friends and colleagues;
  • the marked increase in colleagues working from home since the pandemic;
  • the concurrent loss of regular face-to-face interactions in common spaces;
  • the larger cultural divisions and inequities in our society that only linger if not addressed directly;
  • the growing tendency among many to connect with each other and to learn only or primarily via computer or smartphone; and
  • recent public reporting on the rise and deleterious impact of loneliness in U.S. society.

Each of these changes—and there are clearly others—has recently had drastic effects on workplace norms and workplace culture within the patterns of our lives and relationships at DePaul.

Perhaps this draw to focus again on the importance of community also simply reflects my own experience and ongoing hunger for human connection, to feel a sense of belonging, and to participate in something more beyond the daily tasks of my individual work.

Regardless of the source of my musings, I am certain I am not alone. The experience of being part of a community is important for the well-being of humanity and for the flourishing of our workplaces, including and especially our university. Furthermore, here at DePaul, many rightly appreciate the experience of community as being “very Vincentian.”

In fact, how we sustain and continue to build a vibrant communal life is one of the vital, open questions facing us today. Over my eighteen years at DePaul, I believe the intentional work and effort of building community, and the need for it, has never been more important and more at risk. As we look ahead to the summer and the coming academic year, it is essential that we continue to weave and re-weave with great intention and care the fabric of our communal life if our Vincentian mission is to be effective and sustained over time.

I am fond of imagining Vincent de Paul in Folleville, France, in 1617 and what must have been going through his mind at that time. Based on his own retrospective reflections, that particular year and place seemed to represent an important moment in his life, a moment when, with the help of Madame de Gondi, Vincent arrived at a clearer vision of his own calling and the mission that God had entrusted to him.

The year 1617 was the final feather falling on the scales that tipped the orientation of Vincent’s life in a markedly different way. The upwardly mobile and aspirational priest, often rubbing elbows with the rich and powerful, began to focus his energies more and more toward a mission of service to and with society’s poor and marginalized for the remainder of his life. What he realized at that same time is that the mission God had entrusted to him was much bigger than he alone could fulfill. He needed others. In fact, Vincent’s effectiveness grew largely through the work of inspiring and organizing others to work in common to fulfill a shared mission. From the beginning, the Vincentian mission has been a collaborative and communal enterprise.

Simple in its genius, Vincent’s efforts anticipated current day organizational management insights by 400 years. The contemporary organizational and business writer and consultant Christine Porath, for example, has written extensively on how community is the key to companies moving from merely surviving to thriving together.[2] Simply put, her research suggests that when people experience a strong sense of community and belonging at work, they are more engaged, effective, healthy, and creative. This, in turn, leads to positive business outcomes. Many other organizational and business leaders have come to similar conclusions. It turns out that how we relate to each other as a community in the workplace, in fact, matters a great deal.

At DePaul, we speak often of being “a community gathered together for the sake of the mission.” We recognize and must remember that we need each other to thrive. Faculty, staff, administration, students, board members, alumni and donors work together effectively for a shared mission. Furthermore, as Vincent de Paul suggests, we each benefit from the good done by all. At our best, when we are flourishing as a community, we help, encourage, care for, collaborate with, and inspire one another. There is an energizing and vibrant unity that comes in our diversity—the unity of a shared mission to which each person contributes a part. This occurs only through ongoing intentionality and thoughtful daily interactions and efforts to build and sustain healthy and vibrant relationships with one another.

As we move into the summer months, through the many changes we are facing together, and into the new academic year this fall—this is your charge: How will you contribute to sustaining and building a vibrant and healthy sense of community together with your DePaul colleagues?

Submit your own recommendations as a response to this blog post or follow our Mission and Ministry LinkedIn group, which we will begin to use more often in the future as a place to share reflections on the workplace in light of anticipated changes with DePaul Newsline in the summer and the coming year. Perhaps by the time a new academic year begins, we can initiate some new efforts to weave or re-weave the fabric of our communal life and work intentionally toward thriving as “a community gathered together for the sake of the mission,” just as Vincent de Paul first envisioned.


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

[1] Conference 1, “Explanation of the Regulations,” July 31, 1634, CCD, 9:2. Available at https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌‌‌vincentian_ebooks/34/.

[2] See: Christine Porath, Mastering Community: The Surprising Ways Coming Together Moves us from Surviving to Thriving (New York: Balance Books, 2022); and C.M. Pearson and C.L. Porath, The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It (New York: Portfolio, 2009).

Gratitude, Self-Acceptance, and the Unapologetic Cringe of Tumblr

“Every day of life more and more increases my gratitude to Him for having made me what I am.”[1]
– Elizabeth Ann Seton

What do cringe, gratitude, and Vincentian service have to do with one another? And how can we apply it to our own vibrant community here at DePaul? Let’s find out.

First, let’s dive into this first quote from Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the American Sisters of Charity, modeled after the Daughters of Charity: “Every day of life more and more increases my gratitude to Him for having made me what I am.” We can read this statement in any number of ways: gratitude for simply being alive, appreciation for her privilege and station, thankfulness for gifting her with certain talents and capabilities, or even endowing her with a particular personality and passion. Perhaps the most Vincentian thing to do would be to take an “all of the above” approach: an appreciation of the whole person, of all that she is, and can be. This might sound a little conceited (thanks for making me so incredible!), but I think it points more towards an inspiring model of self-acceptance. Seton, who is pointedly aware of her own shortcomings, still accepts herself as she is—oddities, weaknesses, talents, and all—and is grateful to be herself.

Which brings us to the concept of cringe and unapologetic self-acceptance. As bit of backstory, the social media landscape has been … going through a bit of transformational collapse. We need not go into every sordid detail, but the memes have been hilarious even as the demise of Twitter has been bittersweet (with a heavy dose of Schadenfreude). Many are looking for a new social media home with no real viable candidates. It’s into this gulf that Tumblr, which never really went away, has emerged its cringy head.

The blog site, home to niche fandoms and a quirky sensibility, has found a resurgence. If Twitter is (was?) the land of hot political takes by ‘professional’ journalists and pseudo-intellectuals, Tumblr is currently where users are, en masse, deciding to make up a fake 1970’s Martin Scorsese movie that they have all pretended to see (which again, doesn’t exist), and then arguing about it. They’ve even created a fake trailer. It’s a weird place. But at its best it’s a place where people are unapologetically themselves and embody a kind of self-acceptance modeled in that Seton quote. There’s power in that: a community that not only recognizes but celebrates each other’s delightful individuality and quirks. It’s also very Vincentian: a recognition and celebration of each person’s sacred dignity.

But why bring up Tumblr, cringe, and unapologetic weirdness in a post about gratitude? How does this have any bearing on our own DePaul community and mission? There are many different things that might make us cringe, but usually they say more about ourselves (and our lack of self-acceptance) than the object of our embarrassment. By accepting ourselves—most especially the cringiest aspects of ourselves—and being grateful for the way we are and can be as whole people, we can accept others and flourish as a community. Vincent de Paul was no stranger to this: his lifelong partner in service, Louise de Marillac, found him utterly repugnant upon first meeting him! But they were able to work their way through these differences and we are still living out their mission today, four hundred years later.

This brings us to a final quote from Louise de Marillac herself: “I hope that your gratitude will place you in the disposition necessary to receive the graces you need to serve your sick poor in a spirit of gentleness and great compassion.”[2] Ultimately, our gratitude and self-acceptance should be directed outwards, in compassion, and in pursuit of the mission. Let’s celebrate our community’s own idiosyncrasies and be grateful for the wonderful diversity of personalities and passions.


Reflection by: Alex Perry, Division of Mission & Ministry

[1] 7.98, Draft to Mrs. William Raborg, [June 1817], Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings, 2:488, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/11/.

[2] L.383, To My Very Dear Sister Anne Hardemont, November 13 (1653), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 434, at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/.

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.

Vincent de Paul: An Essential Memory

This week we are celebrating the best of our spiritual heritage: the life of Saint Vincent de Paul.

I discovered St. Vincent when I joined the Congregation of the Mission at 18 years of age on February 5, 1984. I was looking for community and a communal experience. I rapidly felt in love with him, his life, his commitment, his humanism, and his endless creativity. Over the past 38 years I have come to understand that Vincent is an important part of an infinite constellation of guardians, prophets, and witnesses. He is part of a constant, sacred memory of the God of a thousand names and expressions in a vast array of religions, cultures, and spiritualities.

Vincent de Paul is a very human prophet and teacher capable of provoking a yearning within us for God, the God of the poor and the most abandoned. This memory and our yearning take concrete form as something bigger than our own egos. We recognize it as something essential for a peaceful and sustainable coexistence in this, our common home. Vincent’s life and his work were inspired by the memory of God, a memory and yearning for compassion, mercy, solidarity, transformation, and love and justice. The memory of God in Vincent’s life is a strength that forces us to go to the margins, to welcome the stranger, to console the afflicted, to free the oppressed, and to “leave no one behind.”[1]

Today Vincent de Paul is a living memory, and our yearning must therefore include working for racial equity and to overcome structural racism and systems of white supremacy. For us, we must recognize the historical reality of the unfortunate connections some members of the Congregation of the Mission had to slavery in the nineteenth century. And we must articulate the connections that enslavement and the legacy of institutional racism have to our present. The yearning of God must be a yearning for truth and transformation.

I am certain that Vincent himself experienced a memory and yearning for God early in life. “He left his home diocese, Dax, and moved to the capital around 1607, where he began to make contacts among the ecclesiastical and even social elite. Being surrounded with refugees, the poor, and the marginalized, his attention gradually shifted away from his personal advancement toward service given to his needy sisters and brothers.”[2] The poor provoked in Vincent an essential memory of who he was called to be. They became both unique human beings endowed with sacred dignity and a living memory of the revelation of God. Every single day they called him to service, to compassion, to solidarity, and to transformation. In Vincent’s heart relationships with those who were poor led to a constant yearning for God, for the best of our human experience. They transformed his very existence.

Vincent was a humble man. He never aspired or claimed to be a “little god” or tried to control everything and everyone. He lived with a yearning and sense of God’s presence throughout his life, especially when doubts or conflict surrounded him. He felt this essential yearning and connection to God in his daily work, in the loving coexistence of his community, and in the day-to-day struggles to sustain all the projects he created to help victims of war, peasants, men in prisons, the destitute, the sick, and abandoned children. More than believing in God, Vincent de Paul knew God, served God, and committed his life to God as present to him in all those most abandoned by society. It was in the poor that he knew God, loved God, and felt the living God. His commitment to the excluded, the ones on the margins, the most abandoned, became one of those essential and perennial memories in his developing a deeper form of humanity.

Therefore, our Vincentian theological-spiritual approach is not of a pious type. Instead, it attempts to make a leap from religious devotion to ethical dedication in favor of social and environmental justice for the defense of vulnerable and threatened life. Vincent de Paul gave religion an ethical horizon. He taught us that the recognition and care for the dignity of the other, especially the ones on the margins of society, is essential to really experience God, to know God, and to serve God.

In this celebration of the feast of Saint Vincent my Vincentian heart feels a yearning for God, a yearning for compassion and solidarity, for equity and inclusion, and for respect, recognition, and care.

Happy feast of Saint Vincent to our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Over this week, let us experience together a yearning for those essential things that bring us joy and inner peace.


Reflection by: Fr. Memo Campuzano, C.M., Vice-President for Mission and Ministry

[1] Cf. Luke 4:16-21.

[2] John E. Rybolt, C.M., Ph.D., “Vincent de Paul and Hospitality,” Vincentian Heritage 33:1 (2016), at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.edu/vhj/vol33/iss1/5/.

 

 

Vincent, a new Portrait of a Person in History

Thinking of notable people in history—past or present—as human beings who lived normal daily lives is sometimes difficult. But doing so helps contextualize our perceptions of them and can often make their actions, ideas, and lives all the more exemplary. For example, during grad school when I was reading particularly dense texts from French or German philosophers, I would sometimes muse over the fact that, despite all their abstract thought, they had to eat lunch at some point. Even the most cerebral, abstract thinkers were embodied beings that probably stubbed their toes, had their favorite foods, were late to work, enjoyed friendships, learned about the news, suffered allergies, needed a drink, endured frustrations, and lived life like the rest of us. There’s a beauty in that, which is both humbling and elevating. Even the small things matter in making the mosaic of a person.

Vincent de Paul was no different; he, and we who follow him, recognize our individual embodiment and the dignity of each person’s life (together, these two forms of recognition are known as personalism). While he was highly educated and incredibly intelligent, his passion and mission were not in abstract theology and philosophy. His mission was to be part of the world, attending not just to his fellows’ spiritual needs, but to their practical needs as well. Like the Daughters of Charity, who uplifted the dignity of those experiencing poverty, Vincent was focused on each person’s lived experience. Vincent saw life not as an abstract riddle to be deciphered, but as something to be experienced with joy, sorrow, compassion, and wonder. He saw people not as objects to be analyzed, but as human beings to be encountered with a sacred dignity of their own.

Even knowing all of this, it can still be challenging to think about Vincent, the person, without turning him into a concept or a legendary figure to ponder. It doesn’t help that many of our images of him are quite sanitized, often with him holding three orphans in each hand (even though we’re not entirely sure he ever directly cared for babies). Though stunningly beautiful, old oil paintings and white stone sculptures tend toward idealization as well. So how can we separate the history from the myth? How can we better see Vincent as a human being who ate meals, sweated, and walked the Parisian streets? Brazilian researchers might have an answer.

Since 2015, José Luís Lira and Cícero Costa Moraes’s team of ten researchers, including experts in medicine, dentistry, and technology, have been working on a digital facial reconstruction project to see what Vincent de Paul may have actually looked like. This spring they completed the project, which included extensive skull scans, as well as anthropological and structural analysis. You can find the results of their work below. The digital rendering is startling and can take a while to get used to, especially when compared to other depictions of Vincent. The rendering will not speak to all, and it can be argued that it’s just one more kind of media representation. But I do think that it offers a different way of seeing Vincent, not just as a revered saint but as a human being, and perhaps as he saw himself.

Reflection Questions:

  • Does the digital rendering change your idea of Vincent? In what way?
  • Is it easier to show compassion to the idea of a person, rather than to the reality of one?
  • In our daily professional lives at DePaul, how can we keep Vincent’s mission of recognizing personal dignity and being aware of the whole person alive and thriving?

You can find an English-language article about the reconstruction here: https://famvin.org/en/2022/03/07/reconstruction-of-the-face-of-saint-vincent-de-paul/

The project document in its original Portuguese can be found here:

http://ortogonline.com/doc/pt_br/OrtogOnLineMag/4/VicenteDePaulo.html

Reflection by: Alex Perry, Program Manager, Division of Mission and Ministry

 

Vincentian Heritage Week is Coming!

We are looking forward to celebrating with the entire DePaul community on Friday, September 30, with our annual Vincentian Heritage Prayer Breakfast. This year, we welcome new DePaul University President Dr. Robert L. Manuel, who will speak about his vision of the Vincentian spirit and its impact in these complex, uncertain times.

It should be a great chance to meet the new president and start DePaul’s 125th year in community, gathered together for the sake of a mission. All are welcome!

Register here: https://vhw-breakfast-2022.eventbrite.com

If you’d like to engage more with our Vincentian heritage, please save the date for Vincentian Heritage Week, focused around Vincent’s feast day on September 27. We will be hosting breakfasts, lunches, Vinny Fests (in the Loop and Lincoln Park), and more! More information can be found here.

 

Purposeful Self-Care

We must be full reservoirs in order to let our water spill out without becoming empty, and we must possess the spirit with which we want them to be animated, for [we cannot] give what [we do] not have.[i]

There are times at DePaul when we think working in a “Vincentian” way means remaining tirelessly active, without regard to our own needs or what is actually effective. However, this is decidedly not what Vincent de Paul taught. In addition to the quote above, Vincent wrote to Louise de Marillac circa 1632, “It seems to me that you are killing yourself from the little care you take of yourself.”[ii] Their correspondence often included encouragement in both directions for tending to their mutual health and well-being.

We have learned much over the past couple of years about the importance of self-care and of remaining healthy. The pandemic has forced us to reconsider and reflect on work-life balance norms and habits as well as what it means to work effectively.

There are many ways in which hyper-activity can be harmful to us individually and as a university community. Sound decision-making and the fostering of innovation are far more difficult when we are tired or feeling burned out. We are also much less likely to cultivate the quality relationships that make for a supportive environment and that reflect hospitality and care for others, both of which are so essential to the “Vincentian personalism” we value. We may lose touch with the deeper sense of meaning and purpose that motivates our work. Furthermore, workaholism and the absence of self-care can accentuate an ego-driven pride within us about working longer and harder than everyone around us—and this serves no one in the end. When we are always busy, what we are modeling to others, particularly the students we seek to educate and serve?

In contrast to such a worker-bee mentality, Vincent’s image of the reservoir may serve us well. Sustained and quality work during busy times often requires us to “dig deep,” and therefore it is essential that we maintain healthy reserves to draw from. Our relationships are vital sources of energy and support when we face vexing problems, and therefore cultivating friendships and collegial networks is a life habit that makes our work more effective and sustainable. We might also imagine the life-giving reservoir replenished by remaining connected to a shared sense of mission or purpose through regular moments of reflection.

As we come to the end of the summer months, the intensity of our work and task lists are no doubt beginning to build up again as we approach the new academic year. Might we transition into the fall with a plan to integrate self-care, relationships, and ongoing reflection? Perhaps we might even work together with others to shape our collective organizational culture in a way that models these things, thus benefitting all in our community, including the students we serve.

One thing will remain certain: any mission worth working toward is not a solo act. We will achieve it only by regularly renewing ourselves through rest, reflection, and friendship—and with some intentionality these things can certainly extend well beyond the summer weeks!

  • What is a regular habit of rest or reflection that can enrich your ability to be creative and to remain energized in the workplace?
  • How might you integrate the cultivation of relationships more intentionally in and through your work?
  • What might you do—even for a few minutes a day—to remain rooted in and nourished by a deeper sense of the mission and purpose that sustains your work?

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

[i] Letter 1623, “To a Seminary Director,” n.d., CCD, 4:570. Available online at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/29/.

[ii] Letter 95, “To Saint Louise,” n.d. [c.1632], CCD, 1:145. Available online at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/25/.

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