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

Summer is here!

“May you be forever a beautiful tree of life bringing forth fruits of love.”[1]

Summer is here! Officially. Finally. Though technically summer begins and ends at the same time every year as our planet circles the sun, the spirit of summer can sometime come earlier or later. What marks the beginning of summer for you personally? Is it when the chilly, fresh mornings of spring turn to hot, humid afternoons as you look for cool shelter under leafy trees (or in air conditioning)? Or is it when the days stretch longer and longer, and the sun lingers well past the time it would normally set, creating glowing evenings of fireflies and laughter with friends?

What does summer mean to you? Is it a time of rest and recovery, of slowed-down days in the shade, where your mind can wander, imagine, and create? Or is it a time of hustle and bustle? Do you try to fit in everything you wanted to do throughout the year but didn’t have the time for? Do you try to squeeze every last drop of fun and work from the long sunny days? Maybe a little of both?

Here at DePaul, what marks the beginning of summer for you professionally? For faculty, is it when the last final is submitted and graded? For students, is it when you leave campus, either going home, or to summer jobs, or graduating, going off into the world to chart your future? For staff, is it when all the dreaded financial bureaucracy is wrapped up in BlueSky, when annual reports are polished and published, when the programming for the year is concluded? Whatever the case, summer feels both like an ending and a beginning—a chapter (or book!) is concluded, and the next starts fresh with a new page.

As campus becomes quiet again without the constant buzz of students, the vast, open horizon of sun-soaked days stretches ahead. We’ve just finished a marathon of a year, filled with stress, grief, and exhaustion. Many of us have been looking forward to the relief that summer provides. Others seek time to assess and clean up unfinished business while looking ahead. That is the beauty of summer. It provides the space for closure and recovery, and that clearing brings an opportunity to sow seeds for the future. As we draft our ambitious lists of summer projects and begin to envision and implement plans for next fall, let’s lean into that spirit of summer. We can approach our work with hope, knowing that the seeds we plant during this time can grow, in Vincent’s words, into “beautiful tree[s] of life bringing forth fruits of love” to benefit the whole community.


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

[1] Letter 27, “To Saint Louise,” [believed to be July 30, 1628], CCD, 1:46. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/25/.

Living into Who We are Called to Be

Sunrise over the Lincoln Park Campus, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

“… a great good is worth being long desired.”[1]—Vincent de Paul

During my twenty-three years of working at DePaul, I have often found myself wondering what Vincent and Louise would think were they to wander on campus or take a stroll down the streets of Chicago today. Would they recognize that the seeds they planted in France more than 400 years ago have been lovingly tended and are currently flourishing in this twenty-first-century city? Would the fruits of their labor be evident in our contemporary context?

While I cannot answer such questions with any degree of certainty, I will hazard a guess. I imagine Vincent might turn to Louise and ask her to describe exactly what she was seeing and hearing as they observed the daily comings and goings on DePaul’s campus. Then, perhaps after a bit of a pause and a deep, prolonged sigh (after all, Vincent was known for his deliberative nature), Vincent might poignantly ask Louise to describe who or what was missing from the present picture and what such an absence might suggest: “What are the gaps that need to be addressed to provide quality education in the twenty-first century, Louise? How does a Vincentian university continue to make education accessible for all, particularly for those communities who are underserved and underrepresented, when the cost of education is already prohibitive for so many? What must be done, Louise, and how might we at DePaul do it?”

For her part, Louise would surely acknowledge the heaviness of her friend’s questions and, with him, refute the notion of any easy answers. However, being the intuitive person that she was, Louise might also inquire about Vincent’s feelings in finding the mission so changed yet so familiar in retaining the rich core wisdom from which it originated. Perhaps, to give context to her questions, Louise might point to the ways in which DePaul continues to support the integral development of the human person through its commitment to excellence in teaching and its preparation of graduates to be agents for positive change in our world.

To make her case, Louise could cite compelling research to support her thesis. For example, she might direct Vincent’s attention to some of the online pedagogical approaches that were developed in a nanosecond when COVID first hit, which continue to advance and inform asynchronous teaching today. Or she might ask students if she and Vincent could engage with them in a community service experience and participate in one of the impassioned reflections afterward, during which time they wrestle to make meaning of societal inequities, strive to identify root causes, and begin to ask how they might work toward systemic change. If she were feeling particularly courageous, Louise might even venture with Vincent into a faculty or staff meeting to discover how Vincentian personalism and professionalism still guide how colleagues care for each other, even when differences of opinion occur, or challenges seemingly provide only roadblocks ahead. No matter where she looked, Louise would surely find plenty of evidence of the university’s commitment to compassionately uphold the dignity of all members of its diverse, multifaith and inclusive community.

And then, of course, there are DePaul’s wonderful students and the rich cast of characters who work there and commit themselves each day to incarnate the best in us. I doubt that Louise would have to search far to find that the seeds of the mission continue to flourish. As she presented these examples to Vincent, I do tend to wonder if she might do so with a knowing look and a spiritual high five.

So, now it’s your turn. What do you think? Were Vincent and Louise to visit DePaul’s campus today, what evidence “of a great good … being long desired” might they find?

If gaps exist between who we, as a university, aspire to be and your own lived experience, what invitation do you personally hear about closing those gaps to enable us to more fully embrace who we are called to be?


Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director of Faculty/Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] Letter 1489, “To Claude Dufour, in Sedan,” April 24, 1652, CCD, 4:363. See: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vincentian_ebooks/29/.

 

The Constancy of Community

Springtime in Chicago is a tricky season. One day the weather is warm, the sun comes out, and everyone goes outside; there is a sense that we are coming out of hibernation. Then there are the days when winter seems to be keeping Chicago firmly in its grasp, warmer weather feels a long way off, and it seems like maybe we should hibernate just a little bit longer. This springtime dance happens every year, but I feel more ready than ever for sunshine and flowers in bloom and going outside without multiple layers to keep me warm.

I think I am also feeling the need for sunshine and warmth because at the beginning of this month, I had to say goodbye to one of my dogs, Finley. She had been diagnosed with a tumor at the end of March 2021 and the prognosis was dire. The vet thought she probably only had days, maybe weeks, to live. Yet she defied the odds, shocking the vet, and me, by living one year and two days past her diagnosis.

In reflecting on the last year with Finny, as I usually called her, what is most clear to me is the constancy of support I had from my family, my friends, my DePaul University colleagues, and even the staff at our vet’s office. Sharing how she was doing became an almost daily part of some conversations, and I am so grateful for the ways in which people cared enough to check in, especially as our world continues to grapple with the massive grief caused by the pandemic. The constancy of community helped me get through Finny’s time in doggie hospice, which is how I often described the last year. Without community, I know that it would have been a much more difficult journey.

As my other dog and I adjust to Finny’s absence, I am acutely aware that there is no way around grief. Grief impacts all of us. I also know from past losses that finding ways to connect with others is one of the things that helps me navigate the grieving process. At this moment in my work at DePaul, I am planning for Vincentian Service Day 2022, which is set for Saturday, May 7, and will have in-person service opportunities for the first time since 2019. Preparing for this DePaul tradition is not without its difficulties, but the planning process helps me right now because it involves connecting with community partners, mentoring students on the Service Day Team, and inviting the DePaul community to a space where we can live our Vincentian mission. It is my hope that through the relationships that we are able to build and sustain together, our DePaul community may be a constant for our community partners and their needs.

Registration for Vincentian Service Day 2022 closes on Tuesday, May 3, at 11:59 PM. For more information about participating in VSD, visit: http://serviceday.depaul.edu; or email: serviceday@depaul.edu.

Reflection by: Katie Sullivan, Program Manager, Vincentian Service and Formation, Division of Mission and Ministry

The Power of the Good

“The cause of love is esteem for the good in the thing loved.”[1]

Do you ever wonder if you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person? Before you answer this question, pause for a moment and ask yourself how others might describe you these past two years as you have weathered the impact of the global pandemic and myriad other life stressors. What would they say? This may be a more revealing exercise than merely our own self-appraisal.

If you are anything like me, at times in these past couple of years, my ability to find hope in the world has certainly been tested. It’s hard to remain hopeful in tomorrow when yet another news report bellows that a new strain of the virus is traversing borders faster than a tweet can pop into your feed. Or when we learn that global warming’s intensity is surpassing rates never before imagined as our planet is ravaged by all kinds of atmospheric pollutants. Or when senseless violence continues to lay bare unjust and broken societal systems that we ourselves have created and continue to maintain. In the face of such alarming realities, our belief in the goodness of humanity and our capacity for hope can be severely diminished. At moments such as these, what enables you to stay in touch with the best in life and continue to trust that goodness will win out, despite the foreboding shadows? What gives you the hope and compassion to believe that “right relationship” can be restored and is eternally possible?

I believe that Louise de Marillac and Vincent de Paul must have struggled with similar questions. After all, they spent most of their lives enduring tumultuous wars and endless battles. They also witnessed dire poverty and harsh human suffering. What kept them hopeful and allowed them not to give up on humanity?

For Louise and Vincent, it was their enduring faith in a loving God that enabled them to never lose sight of the good. Undeniably, their belief in such goodness was made real through their interactions with the community around them and reinforced by the power of the ministry in which they engaged, primarily with those on the margins of society. Indeed, no matter if they were ministering to the haughtiest of aristocrats or the lowliest of paupers, Louise and Vincent chose to believe in the power of goodness to prevail and the potential of hearts to be moved. Their lived reality was thus a living testament to the capacity of the human person to choose to respond with love.

  • As you contemplate how full or empty your glass is today, who or what has given you the ability to replenish your supplies when life gets hard, and the clouds seem particularly ominous?
  • In our particular context at DePaul, what gives you the sustenance to keep believing in the best of the mission when decisions may seem out of step with your aspirations?
  • Where do you find the ability to go on believing when the terrain gets tough and you lose sight of the way out of the woods?
  • What enables you to choose to love and find hope in the good of our world today?

Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Director of Faculty/Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] A.29, “(On Charity),” Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 710. Available at: https://‌‌via.‌library.‌depaul.edu/‌ldm/.

 

What’s your DePaul origin story?

Tomorrow, January 25, is Foundation Day! So … what is that? It’s a day Vincentians around the world celebrate one of the community’s key origin stories. Everyone has an origin story—not just comic book superheroes, or even saints. They are moments where the line between before and after becomes very clear. Foundational stories help frame and contextualize our lives and give us resources to understand and overcome whatever current challenges we face.

Take our own hero, Saint Vincent de Paul. Several well-known experiences formed who Vincent became—and the legacy that we still live out today. One was in a small village named Folleville in France. At the time, Vincent was a priest accompanying his incredibly wealthy benefactor Madame de Gondi on a tour of her lands (we are talking, “I have a family castle up the road” wealthy). Vincent, though of course concerned with the welfare of the poor, was not yet the driven saint that we know today. He saw joining the priesthood as the surest way of enjoying the finer things in life. His experiences at Folleville were about to change all that.

In January 1617, while staying at said family castle, Vincent received a message that a sick peasant desperately wanted to see him. When Vincent arrived, he discovered that the man was dying, and he proceeded to take his last confession. After a lengthy conversation—that seemed to be grounded in what we might call mutuality today—both men found joy in unburdening themselves to each other. This cathartic experience shook Vincent to his core, so much so that he brought “I have a castle” Madame de Gondi to the peasant’s small hut to talk with him. This transformed her as well, and a mission began that was centered on the question, “what must be done?” In retrospect, Vincent looked back on the sermon he gave about this experience on January 25, 1617, as the formation of the Congregation of the Mission—an institution through which we find our own origin and mission as a university.

Foundation Day is the story of when Saint Vincent really understood what his mission was and what questions he should be asking and answering. His formative experience with the peasant not only inspired internal reflections but drove him to action—and it has inspired the actions of many others over the past four centuries.

What is your DePaul origin story? When was the moment you really understood how you needed to live and what you needed to do … or what DePaul’s mission was all about? Which person or people helped you to really see how your work contributes to DePaul’s (or the Vincentian) mission? What experiences opened your eyes to “what must be done?” Whatever your answers, these are now a part of your foundational story.


Reflection by: Alex Perry, Program Manager for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

 

Foundation Day Celebration

Tuesday, January 25, 11:00 – 1:30pm

LPC Student Center Atrium & Loop DePaul Center, 11th Floor

Join Mission & Ministry to celebrate the 405th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Mission. Stop by for a snack and take a moment to reflect on how you carry out the Vincentian legacy at DePaul.

DePaul SOCK DRIVE

Monday, January 24th – Friday January 28th

Further celebrate Vincentian Foundation Day through action!  Join us as we partner with the Wool Gathering Project to collect socks for those who need them this winter to stay warm.  Just get a brand new pair of socks of any kind and drop them off at the bins at any of the following locations sometime this week:

11th Floor DePaul Center, Loop Campus, Near #11010

1st Floor Student Center, Near the CCM Office on the West End.

The Theatre School, Near 1st floor Elevators

What are Your Gifts?

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

When considering the continued vibrancy and sustainability of DePaul’s mission—especially in the context of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday— I like to think of the image of a potluck dinner in which each member of a family or community brings their special dish to the common table. Almost miraculously, a feast of widely varied food results, and there is always more than enough for everyone to leave satisfied. The legendary children’s story, “Stone Soup,” echoes a similar wisdom.

As we approach Thanksgiving, we are naturally encouraged to reflect on the place of gratitude in our lives. Especially during a difficult time, making space to feel and express gratitude is beneficial to our psyche, to our relationships, and to our overall feeling of well-being. We feel more wind at our backs in recognizing the many gifts we have received, especially those not of our own making that came to us through the generosity of others or through the surprising and unmerited blessings of our lives.

The flip side of gratitude for gifts received is to share them generously with others. The flow of receiving and giving freely is one of the great spiritual insights at the heart of many religious traditions, including the Catholic Christianity which formed Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac and so many of our beloved Vincentian saints of history and contemporary companions on the journey. Simply put, this insight is the ongoing invitation to receive graciously and then to share generously from what we receive.

One way to imagine the spiritual transformation of Vincent de Paul is to note that once he realized the calling to devote his energy and commitment to serve society’s poor, it became clear to him that this mission was well beyond what he was capable of doing on his own. He understood that only a community of people formed and gathered for this shared mission could accomplish such a massive undertaking. Framed in this way, the emergent mission of Vincent de Paul carries with it an important truth of the Vincentian spirit and one that he carried forth in his work and ministry for the remainder of his life. That is, the effectiveness and sustainability of this mission he envisioned was dependent on how a community could be effectively formed, motivated, and guided to contribute toward achieving it together, collaboratively. This truth becomes a helpful lens through which to interpret much of Vincent de Paul’s life and ministry and the Vincentian tradition that followed.

At DePaul, we are fond of calling ourselves “a community gathered together for the sake of the mission,” a modern translation of the name Vincent de Paul gave to the religious community he founded, the Congregation of the Mission. One of Vincent’s important insights was that this mission can be effective and sustained only when the gifts present in individuals who make up the community are shared freely and generously in its service.

As you reflect on the many gifts present in your own life during this Thanksgiving season, pause also to recognize the gifts, talents, and resources that you have to offer to others. Begin with what has been given to you in your life and has helped to shape the person you have become, but consider also what you, in turn, can generously share with others in the communities of which you are a part, including our DePaul University community. Only through such sharing will our common mission flourish.

This Thanksgiving season may an abundance of gifts flow freely both into your life and outward from you into the different communities of which you are a part!

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Division of Mission and Ministry


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

 

Inspired by Joy:  A Day with Vincent Program (Wednesday, December 15th)

“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 no one can give what he does not have.” Vincent de Paul

Fill your reservoir before the holiday break with a morning retreat grounded in our Vincentian mission and interfaith wisdom. Reconnect with what brings you joy…the greatest gift you can offer to those around you!

You can participate in two ways:

  • Join us in person: 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, including breakfast, lunch, and some fun surprises (LP Student Center 314)
  • Join us virtually:  9:30-11:00 am (Zoom)

Register now at: https://december-day-with-vincent.eventbrite.com

 

Sharing Our Trials as Well as Our Joys

“I received your letter yesterday; as always, it gave me fresh reasons for praising God. Still, it troubled me a little because, from what you tell me in your last letter, it seems to me you are suffering from something, although you did not state this clearly. Please share with me, Monsieur, your trials as well as your joys.”[1]

Moses (Peace be upon Him) is one of the most important figures in all three Abrahamic traditions,[2] and historically in American culture.[3] The Qur’an devotes more time to the life of Moses[4] than to any other person. In the Qur’anic telling, when Moses flees Egypt and the Pharaoh he arrives in Midian in a desperate situation. He hasn’t had anything to eat other than leaves, is physically drained and exhausted, and he remains deeply fearful that there are powerful forces seeking to capture and punish him. He is separated from all that was once dear and familiar. Moses comes across a large group of men watering their animals at a well, but his attention is drawn to two women who are said to be holding back theirs. Moses approaches them and asks “what is the matter?”[5] After they explain that their father is old and can’t come to the well, and that the men will not let them water their animals, Moses assists them and waters their animals himself. Moses then leaves to rest and pray to God, but this is the beginning of an unexpected blessing that will radically shift the course of his future.

Many of us have experienced, especially in times of loss, anxiety, or other suffering, the blessing of having someone listen to our story or to our feelings. In some cases they may be able to assist us in material ways. At other times, perhaps they can only accompany us in our grief or hardship. Either way, it often feels that sharing our burdens lessens them. This is what profoundly struck me in the excerpt above: “Please share with me Monsieur, your trials as well as your joys.” As Marilynne Robinson says in Gilead, “There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that.”[6] When we are able through words or actions, let those close to us know that they can share with us what is normally kept under the surface, their trials as well as their joys. This can be a powerful step towards creating real community. We strive to make DePaul more than just a workplace. We strive to create a community joined together for the sake of mission. Let us ask ourselves how we can be open to those around us, whether it be students we serve, those we supervise, or the fellow employees we encounter and work alongside.

There are many ways people respond to the brokenness of our world. One of the most memorable characters in literature is found in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. Mrs. Jellyby fills her every moment with “work” towards an idealistic project in Africa, which she thinks will do enormous social good. Yet this project never comes to fruition. All the while she is ignoring the sufferings of those close to her, including her husband and her own children. In truly listening to the trials and joys of others, that which is under the surface, we begin to discern how we can best respond to those challenges that are within our sphere of influence. We see changes that can be made and realities that can be faced together.

For Reflection: Is there someone in your life with whom you can truly share your trials as well as your joys? Are there people for whom you provide that deep listening? What are some of the reasons we may be reluctant to share with others, or open ourselves to others sharing with us? How can we overcome these barriers to deeper community?

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

See also our past Mission Monday reflection “Being Fully Present” by Emily Lahood-Olsen, based on a quotation from Saint Louise de Marillac: https://blogs.depaul.edu/dmm/2019/10/21/being-fully-present/

We remind all of you that one of the ways you are invited to share with the DePaul community, whether sharing news of weddings, births, adoptions, or bereavements in your immediate family, is through the Newsline Family Events column: https://resources.depaul.edu/newsline/contact/Pages/life-events.aspx

You are also invited to share any requests for prayer with the Division of Mission and Ministry at: https://offices.depaul.edu/mission-ministry/religious-spiritual-life/Pages/Prayer-Requests.aspx


[1] Letter 1823, To Charles Ozenne, Superior, In Warsaw, 1 January 1655, CCD, 5:255.

[2] Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As I remarked in a recent interfaith dialogue event about Moses, perhaps they could just as accurately (if not more so) be referred to as the three Mosaic faiths or traditions.

[3] Moses serves as one of the most popular superhero archetypes in popular culture and historically has been a touchstone for all Americans regardless of their political beliefs.

[4] In Arabic, Musa.

[5] Qur’an 28:22-24.

[6] Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), p. 6.