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/.

 

Vincentian Heritage Special Issue: 2020 and Beyond: DePaul University’s Community Responds to Crises

Our Biannual Journal is Free and Ready for Download

The year 2020 began an unprecedented era as we faced three intermingled crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the scourge of systemic racism brought further to light by the murder of George Floyd, and a presidential campaign that highly divided our country. These were frightening, strange times, full of sound and fury yet juxtaposed by a silent, deserted campus. How did these crises change us? How did they impact our work and our relationships? How did we respond as a Vincentian higher learning community? And, given what we’ve experienced, how do we now move forward?

To answer these questions the DePaul University Vincentian Studies Institute called out to our university community for materials responding to 2020. As a result, we are pleased to announce the publication of our newest peer-reviewed e-book edition of Vincentian Heritage, “2020 and Beyond: DePaul University’s Community Responds to Crises.” This special issue managed by Prof. Matthieu Brejon de Lavergnée, the Dennis Holtschneider Chair of Vincentian Studies at DePaul University, features an opening from A. Gabriel Esteban, PhD, DePaul University’s president, a theological reflection from Guillermo Campuzano, C.M., vice president of the Division of Mission and Ministry, and a wide variety of contributions from prominent faculty, staff, and university affiliates. From articles, to photos, to poetry, to collections of student artwork, each of these fourteen works is devoted to our Vincentian response to the crises that enveloped us in 2020, and that indeed continues to this day.

We offer this volume of Vincentian Heritage to our DePaul community in hopes that it helps us to better understand the myriad ways all of us have worked to face the challenges of this unprecedented time.

To download the complete book for iPad or PC, please click here.

Individual .pdfs for each article are also available for download here.

 

Featured in this edition:

  • “Introduction. 2020: DePaul University’s Community Responds to Crises,” Matthieu Brejon de Lavergnée, Ph.D.
  • “The Guiding Principles of Leading and Living Through a Pandemic,” A. Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D.
  • “A Vincentian Reading of the Pandemic: Hope Beyond All Reasonable Expectation,” Guillermo Campuzano, C.M.
  • “Creativity Can’t Be Canceled: DePaul Students Express Their Pandemic Experience Through Art,” Lin Batsheva Kahn
  • “Critical Perspectives on Our Current Moment: An Experiment in Teaching for 2020,” Jane Eva Baxter, Ph.D., Sarah Brown, Jenicel Carmona, Val Carnes, Zoe Espinosa, Randall Honold, Ph.D., Cary Robbins, George Slad, Margaret Storey, Ph.D.
  • “Online Community Engagement Enhances Service Learning,” Dan Baron, Kaliah Liggons, MPA, David Pintor, Jonathan Handrup, LSW, and Rubén Álvarez Silva, M.Ed
  • “The Graces of 2020: Catholic Campus Ministry Students Seek Out Blessings Amid a Tumultuous Year,” Amanda Thompson, MDiv, & Dan Paul Borlik, C.M., DMin
  • “‘Learning Not to Despair of Our Own Age’: The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in This Time of Pandemic,” Timothy P. Williams
  • “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Homelessness: Depaul International Responds,” J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., Ph.D.
  • “Mass Incarceration, COVID-19, and Race as Exposure to Early Death,” Traci Schlesinger, Ph.D.
  • “Pandemic, Poverty, and Power: Biosocial Ethics of Global Solidarity for Health,” Stan Chu Ilo, Ph.D.
  • “C-Void,” Amaris Casiano-Zoko
  • Opening Images Essay, Olga Rozenbaum, Stefania Cosentino

Can We Choose Enthusiasm?

I recently realized that I need to move past my habitual cynicism if I am to contribute to positive and creative solutions in overcoming challenges—in my personal life, in my work life, and as a citizen of our city and world. I am learning that in a society in which emotions increasingly seem to drive behavior, exercising thoughtful agency and intentionality in how we live and respond, regardless of how we feel, can be a great spiritual challenge.

For example, can we choose to be enthusiastic and do so authentically, even when our emotions or life circumstances might weigh us down? And, if so, will it even make a positive difference? To a certain extent the answer is yes, in that our emotional state can often change simply with a shift in perspective. Life habits, like exercise, meditation, or friendship, can also do much to cultivate enthusiasm and gratitude for what is present and possible before us. Our communities also play a vital role in helping us to cultivate and sustain an enthusiastic hope and vision. Moreover, rather than cynicism, in terms of its generative impact enthusiasm certainly tends to be more inspiring and effective in persuading others toward positive action.

Dictionaries suggest enthusiasm involves enjoyment, interest, and an energy or zest for life. Our current day understanding of enthusiasm shares something in common with what Vincent de Paul, in his day, named “zeal.” Vincent said, “if love is a sun, zeal is its ray.”[1] He seemed to see zeal as closely tied to courage and to an abiding trust in Providence, but also as something that one could acquire through lived experience and grace. Vincent once described zeal as the “soul of virtues.”[2] Zeal, for Vincent, was more than mere sentiment; it seemed to involve channeling our own conscious will and giving ourselves over to a purpose beyond ourselves. For him, this larger purpose was what he called “the spirit of the Mission.”[3]

How might we remain enthusiastic or cultivate the virtue of zeal in the face of today’s challenges, both personal and societal? As we witness the most recent destruction in Haiti, the horrific situation in Afghanistan, the pernicious gun violence in our city, the continued havoc caused by the pandemic and natural disasters like hurricanes, or the intractable systemic problems of racism, poverty, and war… and on and on… pain, sadness, and anger are perfectly understandable feelings to be experiencing. How do we get from there to enthusiasm or zeal, and why even bother?

One important reason to move towards enthusiasm is because change, whether at the personal, interpersonal, institutional, or societal level, requires it. If we are to move through and past painful emotions and work towards that which can transform, uplift, and create a new reality, we need the energy and vitality of enthusiasm. We need a certain hope and zest for life and for all that is still possible. At DePaul, as a Vincentian university, we must find a way to inspire one another to embody this “zeal.” It is our mission to prepare our graduates to become “agents of transformation throughout their lives” and to address “the great questions of our day, promoting peaceful, just, and equitable solutions to social and environmental challenges.”[4] We should consider enthusiasm, or zeal, an essential Vincentian virtue for our times.

  • What are the habits that help you to cultivate enthusiasm or a zeal for life?
  • How might you help to foster an enthusiasm for the “spirit of the Mission” in your own area of work, or in your circles of influence at DePaul

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

[1] Conference 211, The Five Characteristic Virtues (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 14), 22 August 1659, CCD, 12:250. See: https://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/36/

[2] Letter 460, To Pierre Escart, in Annecy, 25 July 1640, Ibid., 2:84. See: https://‌via.library.‌depaul.edu/‌vincentian_‌ebooks/27/

[3] Conference 211, Op. Cit., 12:251.

[4] See: DePaul University Mission Statement

DePaul, we have great work ahead!

The statues in Saint Vincent’s Circle are decorated with protective face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, April 30, 2020, on the Lincoln Park Campus. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

Almost exactly one year ago, I left Chicago for Iowa. I was planning to be gone for just a few days and never guessed my stay there would last a full 12 months. Feelings of isolation and despondency, familiar to many during this pandemic, had been growing in me since the spring of 2020. More and more, life was restricted to my cozy, lonely one-bedroom apartment. But, at my mother’s home in Iowa there was space, and I could work. I felt cared for, grounded, safe, and welcomed. Looking back, I knew then as I do today how fortunate I was to have that lifeline.

Now, one calendar year later, I have returned to Chicago and to my same cozy apartment. I am grateful for the support I received, humbled by the events the world has been through, and cautiously optimistic about the new school year. I have also re-learned something powerful: human beings need to feel safe, grounded, and cared for to flourish. We need community and we need to feel welcomed in the spaces that are our homes and workplaces.

I believe this life lesson is one that Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac knew well. In her voluminous correspondence we see that Louise was constantly encouraging her community members to live and work together in “great union and cordiality.”[1] In an updated version of the original Constitutions written by Vincent for the Congregation of the Mission, Vincentians are called to live and work in communities “animated by love…supporting one another especially in difficulties.”[2] Finally, DePaul University’s own Mission Statement reminds us that “Guided by an ethic of Vincentian personalism and professionalism, DePaul compassionately upholds the dignity of all members of its diverse, multi-faith, and inclusive community.”[3]

What, then, should this key component of Vincentian spirit look like at DePaul during this most pressing moment in time? Together how can we help to make all members of our community—students, staff, and faculty—feel safe, grounded, and cared for so that we are all able to flourish? A few thoughts come to mind.

People’s health and well-being must continue to be our top priority. In all our endeavors we need to be flexible and responsive to this commitment. Vincent de Paul once said “love is inventive to infinity,”[4] and the challenge to be lovingly creative in what we do is more necessary than ever. Also, we must work together in a spirit of collaboration and mutual support. This requires very deliberate listening, effective communication, and receptiveness to new ideas, especially by those in positions of authority over others. It must be practiced by teachers and students, supervisors and supervisees, leadership and community members. Finally, everyone—especially our students, but including our staff and faculty—must feel truly welcomed and secure, while provided with the necessary support and resources to flourish at DePaul.

The task ahead will not be easy; it is one thing to say these things but another to bring them to life. However, I reaffirm my faith in the talent and integrity of the DePaul community, and believe that our university mission and values will help us navigate whatever challenges lay in front of us. I am hopeful and prayerful that the great work we have committed to do will bring out the best in what we all give.

Questions for Reflection:

In your role at DePaul, how might you listen more intentionally, act more caringly, and lead more creatively to contribute to an environment where all may flourish?

What do you need in your life right now so that you may flourish?


[1] Spiritual Testament, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 835. At: https://via.library.depaul.edu/ldm/

[2] Constitutions and Statutes of the Congregation of the Mission (1984, English trans. 1989), 17. At: https://via.library.depaul.edu/cm_construles/23/

[3] See: DePaul University Mission Statement 2021

[4] Conference 102, Exhortation to a Dying Brother, 1645, CCD, 11:131.

 

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

Seeds of the Mission: 14 East Magazine

The Power of Story 

In the Vincentian family, the practice of learning and sharing people’s stories is sacredVincent, Louise, and all the legacy figures who came after them made a conscious effort to see those whom society made invisible. They started a quiet revolution by taking the time to see them and uplift their dignity. They centered the voices of those who were silenced by unjust systems and rooted their ministry in the simple question, “What do you need?”  

To make a person feel seen and valued is to make a person feel human. By working with those we serve rather than working for them, we uphold human dignity and build mutual relationships. Vincent and Louise collaborated with those they served to give them the tools to fulfill their human potential. 

The stories in our community matter, especially the voices that are ignored. It’s also important to continue to listen to and learn the stories of our Vincentian family members. Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM reflects in a keynote address to the Vincentian Family: 

…when we read Elizabeth Ann’s life, or Louise’ correspondence, or the wisdom of Frederic Ozanam, it’s important to see them as flesh-and-blood real human beings.  Not some idealized figures in an idealized history.  Vincent and his contemporaries had to figure it out on their own.  They didn’t have a model to copy.  Those who came after Vincent had to figure it out on their own too, because the world changed and they had to figure out how to serve the poor in their times and countries.   

We study the past not to copy, but to take heart from it, and to bring the values and purposes forward into a new time and place.  We too have to figure it out for this time and place, but we are now part of the story.  That’s what Vincent understood.  He was continuing the love of Christ for the poor, and wanted us to do the same.  We are continuing the Lord’s and Vincent’s service.  We are part of the story now.  Someday, they’ll study what we did in our time.  We’ll be part of this history. 

14 East Magazine contributes to the history at DePaul in a powerful way. During Spring 2019, when DePaul quickly went remote due to COVID-19 pandemic, 14 East Magazine staff saw a need to create an accessible way for students to stay up-to-date on the most important news. They created a new weekly newsletter about how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting the DePaul community and how students, faculty and staff are coping with university changes. Through the DePaul COVID-10 Updates newsletter, these DePaul students continue to put into practice the power of using gifts and talents to contribute to a community and respond to ever changing needs. To sign up for the newsletter go to https://depaulcovid19updates.substack.com/  

Seeds of the Mission: Ruben Parra

Because we are Catholic…All are welcome!  

At DePaul, we understand Catholicism to be an invitation to foster a universal human family. It is because of our Catholicism, not despite it, that we value interfaith dialogue and spiritual exploration. Throughout DePaul’s history, our Catholic, Vincentian identity also led us to admit immigrant populations, women, and students of color before many other universities across the country.  

From the very beginning, Vincent made it clear that love for the “most abandoned” was the central focus of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity. In a conference in January 1657 Vincent preached on the importance of the love for poor:  

God loves the poor, consequently, He loves those who love the poor; for when we truly love someone, we have an affection for his friends and for his servants. Now, the Little Company of the Mission strives to devote itself ardently to serve persons who are poor, the well-beloved of God; in this way, we have good reason to hope that, for love of them, God will love us. Come then, my dear confreres, let’s devote ourselves with renewed love to serve persons who are poor, and even to seek out those who are the poorest and most abandoned

Our Vincentian tradition places unheard stories at the center of the narrative. It calls us to hear the needs of those who have been made poor and marginalized and to respond with compassion, solidarity, and justice. Daughters of Charity today speak about “need not creed” guiding their response. The ministries of the Daughters of Charity around the world serve the most vulnerable without judgement or exclusion. The Vincentian tradition highlights communities’ assets and strengths so that those who are poor may be agents of their own transformation.  

Vincentians not only welcome but also seek out those who are invisible and forgotten. Because we are Vincentian, because we are Catholic, all are welcome. 


  1. 64. Love for the Poor, January 1657, CCD 11:349

 

The Streets as a Cloister: History of the Daughters of Charity

The Vincentian Studies Institute is extremely pleased to promote the publication of our colleague and fellow board member’s new work. Dr. Brejon de Lavergnée is a Professor of History and ​the Dennis H. Holtschneider Chair of Vincentian Studies at DePaul University.

“The Daughters of Charity are today the largest community of Catholic women, with 15,000 sisters in about 100 countries. They devote their lives to serving the poorest in hospitals, schools, and care centers for homeless or migrants, as well as working to promote social justice. Until now, however, the history of the Daughters of Charity has been almost wholly neglected. The opening of their central archives, combined with access to many public and private archives, has finally allowed this to be remedied.

This volume, the fruit of several years’ work, covers the history of the Company from its foundation by Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac as a confraternity of young women to the suppression of the order during the French Revolution. The study, at the juncture of women’s history and religious history, shows how much the Daughters of Charity contributed to the emergence of a new and ambiguous status in post-Tridentine society: neither cloistered nuns nor married women, but “seculars.” The Company has certainly offered a framework that enabled many resolute women to lead lives out of the ordinary, taking young peasant women to the royal court, intrepid hearts to Poland, and, more generally, generous souls to the “martyrdom of charity” among the poor and the ill.”

ISBN Number: 978-1-56548-027-8. 668 pages. Available at Amazon.com or directly from the publisher: The Streets as a Cloister

To read an interview with Dr. Brejon de Lavergnée about his new book and the Daughters of Charity, please see Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse

Vincentian Heritage Journal Vol. 35, No. 2

The DePaul University Vincentian Studies Institute is pleased to announce the publication of our newest peer-reviewed e-book edition of Vincentian Heritage (Volume 35, Number 2).

Of note, this edition includes a significant new translation, never before published, of Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet’s testimony on the virtuous life of Vincent de Paul. The document, at one time thought lost, follows after those prepared for the canonization process and offers insight from a man who knew the saint during his life. The book also advances our new design and features the following articles:

  • “Pa, Ma, and Fa: Private Lives of Nineteenth-Century American Vincentians,” by John E. Rybolt, C.M., Ph.D.
  • “Bishop John Timon, C.M., Sisters of Charity Hospital, and the Cholera Epidemic of 1849,” by Dennis Castillo, Ph.D.
  • “Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Vision of Ecological Community. Based on Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings, Volume Two,” by Sung-Hae Kim, S.C.
  • “BOSSUET: Testimony Concerning the Life and the Eminent Virtues of Monsieur Vincent de Paul (1702),” Translation and additional annotation by Edward R. Udovic, C.M., Ph.D.

To download the complete book for iPad or PC, please click here.

Individual .pdfs for each article are also available for download here.

Celebrating the Vincentian Legacy of Frédéric Ozanam

Each year on September 9th, the worldwide Vincentian family celebrates the Feast Day of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853), the nineteenth-century French, lay Catholic leader, widely considered the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The Society is now an international confederation present in 150 countries with over 800,000 members in 47,000 Conferences and 1.5 million volunteers and collaborators. It serves the needs of over 30 million people all over the world.

Ozanam was a French literary scholar, lawyer, journalist, and equal rights advocate in Paris. He was recognized as a skilled writer, orator, thinker, social activist, and model of faith oriented toward outward action. Following the practices of Saint Vincent de Paul and inspired by his faith, Ozanam served the poor and destitute of Paris. He especially saw the power of bringing students together to study Vincentian principles and engage with those who were marginalized and poor.

While a student of law and literature in Paris, he founded the Society in 1833 with a group of friends who gathered regularly to grow in their faith and visit the poor. With the help of the older Emmanuel Bailly, who brought his own experience of socially engaged Catholicism, they provided vouchers for bread and wood to those in need. Inspired by the gospel message of love, they provided instruction and gave of their time and presence to serve the disadvantaged.

Later, as a professor at the prestigious Sorbonne, Ozanam became a renowned scholar and intellectual. He dedicated his life to understanding what Catholicism offered civilization. Committed to the principles of democracy and social justice, he became a journalist at L’Ère Nouvelle (The New Era), advocating for social reform and a governmental regime of liberty, equality, and fraternity that included the less fortunate. Frédéric was also devoted to his wife, Amélie, and their daughter Marie, whom he loved dearly. His integration of his professional life with his personal and spiritual life, along with his simple yet open style of engagement offers us a model of servant leadership today. Frédéric Ozanam was beatified by Pope John Paul II during World Youth Day in 1997.

 

In the summer of 2020, DePaul University renamed one of its residence halls in his honor.

To learn more about Frédéric’s legacy and his contributions to understanding our shared Vincentian mission, explore some of the following Vincentian Heritage resources:

Blog Reflections:

Podcasts:

Articles featured in the Vincentian Heritage Journal:

 

 

The Daughters in Tanzania: Working Toward Systemic Change

“The Sisters are women who stand up for women’s and girls’ rights.” – Mary, 15-year-old graduate of the December Rescue Camp, Tanzania, East Africa.1

Last week we invited you to reflect on how charity should be an essential part of transformative action and the vital relational and affective dimension of justice. This week we’ll explore this theme through the example of an initiative of the Daughters of Charity in Tanzania focused on eradicating the practice of female genital mutilation. The Daughters’ unique approach combines ministering to those impacted by this practice, intently listening to their stories, and purposefully integrating their work with signs of the times to advance systemic change.

The Association for the Termination of Female Genital Mutilation (ATFGM) is an organization founded by The Daughters of Charity in Tanzania in 2008. It was created at the request of the local bishop, parents, and girls in the community seeking protection from this practice. The ATFGM runs a “December Rescue Camp” which affords a safe space for girls seeking to escape the practice. And, while such protection meets an immediate critical need, the focus of the camp is equally devoted to education and awareness. During the last decade, more than 2,500 girls have attended.

The Daughters also understand that in moving towards eradicating female genital mutilation, they must take into consideration multidimensional realities such as tradition, social stigma, and the economic implication for practitioners. Thus, beyond ministering directly to the girls, the Daughters work with parents, elders, schools, communities, and practitioners. They also target boys who will become future husbands and fathers. Additionally, they help former practitioners attend a government college to learn entrepreneurship skills, and eventually find work when they have graduated.

The work of the Daughters in Tanzania reminds us once again that the Vincentian approach to justice necessitates addressing immediate need while working toward broader systemic change.

As we think of the work of these Vincentian family members, what resonates with you about their approach? What challenges you? What can we learn from their approach that may inspire our work at DePaul today?


1) Meghan J. Clark, “Charity, Justice, and Development in Practice: A Case Study of the Daughters of Charity in East Africa,” Journal of Moral Theology 9:2 (2020), 11; at: https://jmt.scholasticahq.com/article/‌13334-charity-justice-and-development-in-practice-a-case-study-of-the-daughters-of-charity-in-east-africa

 

Reflection by: Siobhan O’Donoghue, Faculty and Staff Engagement Director, Mission & Ministry