2024 Foundation Day: The Shared Coin

On January 25 in celebration of Foundation Day, a new edition of The Shared Coin was released.  This tradition is an invitation for all DePaul students, faculty and staff to celebrate individuals living DePaul’s Vincentian mission by sharing a coin with them. Along with the coin, givers are encouraged to personalize this experience by using the back of the card given out with each coin to write a message to the individual they are acknowledging.

This is a special way to tell someone else, “I see you! I see DePaul’s mission and the Vincentian spirit within you.  That light is radiating out to me. Thank you.  I think it is important that I acknowledge you.” It’s an opportunity for everyone in the community to pause, look around, and recognize the many gifts at DePaul.  

The Shared Coin is modeled after Vincent’s metaphor of the scarred coin, which represented the individuals he served, their inherent dignity, and the investment he made in honoring and uplifting that dignity. 

The 2024 edition of the Shared Coin uplifts a quote by St. Louise de Marillac to celebrate the 400th anniversary of her lumiere experience. On June 4, 1623, Louise de Marillac, filled with doubts and anxiety about her life, entered the Church of Saint Nicholas-des-Champs in Paris. As a young wife with a child and a sick husband, she prayed for her future. Something extraordinary happened there. She experienced a moment of light that changed her life and filled her with a trust that there was a plan for her life. She was freed from her anxiety and doubts and received inner peace. Louise’s “lumiere” experience is an invitation for all of us to root ourselves in trust and to hold on to the light within and around us.

Everyone within the DePaul community is encouraged to integrate this tradition across campus, whether through weekly meetings, gatherings or one-on-one settings. Recipients often feel grateful for the recognition of their good work and their commitment to DePaul’s mission. 

Coin recipients may elect to keep it or may choose to pass it on when they see someone else living the mission in a meaningful way. Any DePaul student, faculty or staff member can go to one of our distribution locations and pick up coins to share with a person or several people they witness living DePaul’s mission. Coins are available on a first come, first-served basis. They are available in limited quantities and once depleted, they will not be available until the following year.  You may pick up coins at the following locations: 

Lincoln Park Location
Division of Mission and Ministry
Student Center, Suite 311
10-4 PM, Monday through Friday 

Loop Location
DePaul Center 125, Loop Life Office
10AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Division of Mission and Ministry - by request
14 E. Jackson, Suite 800  

For more information on this tradition, visit go.depaul.edu/sharedcoin

“Encourage one another and may your mutual good example speak louder than any words can.” St. Louise de Marillac

Underneath our feet, the trees are talking

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

This is going to be a post about trees, with just a bit of science and fungi. But trust me, it’s not simply because it’s autumn now and the leaves are changing. It’s all about our Vincentian mission in the end.

Trees have long been a powerful symbol and have captured our imaginations in art, religion, popular culture, and myth. I’m sure most of us have a treasured, meaningful memory that features a tree. Personally, I spent half my childhood in the summer and fall scrambling up, down, and around treetops. After I didn’t have to rake them, I came to enjoy the slow process of the leaves as they seemed to warm up with vibrant colors until finally falling. Every year now I wish for a long fall.

There’s the old phrase: never meet your heroes. What’s wonderful is that trees never disappoint. Turns out, the more we learn about our ancient arboreal friends, the more they have to teach us. There’s a reason that wisdom is associated with trees. We all know that trees literally help all of life breathe. They help moderate the climate and detoxify our global ecosystem, turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. It’s estimated that one large tree provides enough oxygen for up to four people! Without them, we would not be here. But did you know that trees talk with one another? Not just metaphorically, or poetically, like in the way their leaves rustle through the wind, but in a very organic, physical way? Did you also know that, far from the myth of trees competing for either sun (up in the canopies) or for water (deep in their root structure), that forests of trees live in a kind of collective harmony, looking out for one another?

The work of Suzanne Simard, a Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia, has been revolutionizing the way that we look at trees and forests. Professor Simard has been studying plant intelligence and networked communications since 1997. Her ground-breaking scientific work, previously scorned, is now leading the field’s understanding of forest ecology, and has coined the term “the wood-wide web.” It turns out, trees don’t—and never were meant to—stand alone. Beneath our feet is a sprawling, busy, dynamic network of roots and fungi that form what are called mycorrhizal networks. Mycelium are tiny threads of a fungal network that wrap into and around tree roots, linking them into a vast community. Through this network of fungus and roots, trees are able to send not only water and nutrients to each other, but also signals warning about disease, drought, or insects.

You can listen to a TED Talk from Professor Simard herself here, and learn directly from her much better than I could hope to explain.[2] The big takeaway for me though, as Professor Simard summarizes so eloquently in her book Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, is this: “Plants are attuned to one another’s strengths and weaknesses, elegantly giving and taking to attain exquisite balance. There is grace in complexity, in actions cohering, in sum totals.”[3]

How beautifully rich and awe inspiring is that? Beneath our feet, tree roots are connected via a fungal network and constantly communicating, a buzzing exchange of signals. Trees are looking out for one another, and for the health of the whole forest. They do not hoard water, nutrients, and minerals, but freely share them with whatever sapling or mighty oak needs them the most. Scientifically, trees live in community with one another.

Now, what does this have to do with our Vincentian community and mission? Everything. The image and metaphor of the tree has long been associated with our Vincentian family. Just look at DePaul’s own symbol: the Tree of Wisdom. We often talk about our Vincentian roots and origins, and the many branches that have grown from that same trunk. In his letter for this year’s Feast Day, Father Tomaž Mavrič, C.M., President of the Executive Committee of the Vincentian Family, noted the tree’s long symbolic history with the Vincentians.[4]

Our new scientific understanding of mycorrhizal networks only further enriches the metaphor. We do not stand alone, either as individuals, or as departments, colleges, universities, or any other group. We thrive when we do not hoard this or that or get stuck in our own silos, but freely collaborate in community, whether it is in the exchange of ideas, or in compassionate care. Let’s learn from the trees and, as Vincent said, bring “forth fruits of love.”

Note: A big thank you to Kiley Chernicky, a Graduate Student from our own Biology MS Program here at DePaul, for alerting me to the work of Professor Suzanne Simard!

Reflection Questions:

  • What’s your favorite memory of a tree?
  • How might you deepen your collaboration with another department or area of the university to the benefit of all?
  • What’s one “outside-the-box” department you aren’t already connected with, that you think might bear fruitful collaboration? Unlikely, creative pairings can often produce unexpected, wonderful benefits.

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

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

[2] TED Talk, Suzanne Simard found at https://www.npr.org/2017/01/13/509350471/how-do-trees-collaborate

[3] Simard, Suzanne; Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. (Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2022).

[4] Tomaž Mavrič, C.M., “Letter from Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, C.M., on the Occasion of the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul 2022,” Famvin blog, September 19, 2022, Letter from Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, C.M., on the Occasion of the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul.


Vincentian Heritage Tour

We are now accepting applications for the August 2023 Vincentian Heritage Tour. Join your fellow colleagues and walk in Vincent’s footsteps around Paris and France. Learn more about our Vincentian roots and become inspired to bring those experiences and lessons back with you to DePaul.

Learn more here: August 2023 Vincentian Heritage Tour

Happy Valentine’s Day, DePaul!

Every February 14th, no matter where I am, my mind travels back to my childhood and the Saint Valentine’s Day celebrations we had in grade school. The ritual was always the same. At the end of the school day, on cue, my classmates and I would excitedly remove our workbooks from our desktops and replace them with simple homemade cardboard “mailboxes,” typically decorated with red paper hearts, little white lace doilies, or maybe an image of Cupid and his arrow. Then, we would all walk around the classroom, delivering a personalized valentine to each of our classmates, slipping them through the openings cut in the boxes. When this job was finished, we would return to our desks to munch on cookies and cupcakes, read the valentines, and chatter about their goofy phrases and innocent declarations.

Even though my mailbox was never quite as impressive as others were, and one year I suffered profound embarrassment when I forgot my entire batch of Valentines at home, I still have sweet memories of those days. The gestures of friendship … the intentional kindnesses … the sense of camaraderie. They helped nurture relationships and good cheer that served our little school community well.

Many years later, these childhood memories stir in me a surprisingly palpable connection to our Vincentian heritage, specifically to Vincent and Louise’s great love for the virtue of charity. Vincent said charity should animate the heart and be “the cement which binds Communities to God and persons to one another.”[1]

Vincent and Louise knew that communities with lofty aspirations like their own would only succeed if their members demonstrated the same feelings of respect and compassion to each other as they demonstrated to those they served. For Vincent and Louise, this was charity. As Vincent said, charity “demands that we strive to sow peace where it does not exist”[2] and “do to each individual the good that we would reasonably want [them] to do to us.”[3] Not unlike those long-ago Valentine’s Day celebrations, Vincentian charity calls on us to make simple “expressions of our affection” toward our community members, “offering cordially to be of service” or to do “something pleasing for one another.”[4]

If, as a modern Vincentian community, we can tap into this heritage of charity and its wellspring of compassion and respect toward one another, our mission will be well served. What might this look like during these times of COVID fatigue, leadership change, financial stress, and the other trials that confront our students, staff, and faculty every day? We are all invited to answer that question to the best of our abilities. I would begin by encouraging deep listening to each other with open hearts and minds. We should make demonstrations of sincere appreciation for the good being done during trying times. We should show willingness to challenge and be challenged, but with civility and in a spirt of friendship. Finally, we should be mindful of the dignity of all and the commitment we share to providing our students and the university community with the best, most heartfelt experience possible. This is what Vincentian charity might look like at DePaul today.

To be sure, life is more complicated on this Valentine’s Day than it was all those years ago when I celebrated with my classmates over cards and cookies. However, the call to charity—whatever this may look like—remains as clear and as vital as ever. With this in mind, Happy Valentine’s Day, DePaul! May we all give and receive charity on this and every other day.

Invitation for Reflection:

How do you define or understand charity, particularly in the spirit of Saints Vincent and Louise? What might be ways that you feel called to demonstrate this virtue here at DePaul or elsewhere?

Reflection by: Tom Judge, Assistant Director and Chaplain, Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] Letter 651, “To Jean Guerin, Superior, in Annecy,” March 10, 1643, CCD 2:413. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/27/.

[2] Letter 2054, “To Pierre de Beaumont, Superior, in Richelieu,” April 23, 1656, CCD 5:602. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/30/.

[3] Conference 207, “Charity (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 12),” May 30, 1659, CCD 12:216. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/36/.

[4] Ibid., 12:223. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/36/.