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

Connecting Charity with Justice

Responses to injustice based only on charity may readily be maligned for not addressing the systemic issues that cause suffering to be perpetuated; yet, properly understood, charity should be seen as an essential part of transformative action and as the vital relational and affective dimension of justice. The word charity derives from the Latin, caritas, and can be better understood as a generous and self-giving love. It reflects an understanding of love as a sustained virtue and not as a fickle or thoughtless passion.

Frédéric Ozanam, influential lay leader and founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, understood that acts of charity enabled insight into the plight of the poor and oppressed, and facilitated more substantive and transformative social change. His beliefs resonate with those of Vincent de Paul and others within the Vincentian tradition. Ozanam emphasized personal relationships as fundamental to both affective and effective social action and transformative service. This Vincentian personalism, as we have come to know it, recognizes the unique circumstances of individual people, while concurrently working toward broader, systemic change. Ozanam’s words on the power of experience help us understand this piece of Vincentian wisdom:

The knowledge of social well-being and reform is to be learned, not from books, nor from the public platform, but in climbing the stairs to the poor’s man garret, sitting by his bedside, feeling the same cold that pierces him, sharing the secret of his lonely heart and troubled mind. When the conditions of the poor have been examined, in school, at work, in hospital, in the city, in the country… it is then and then only, that we know the elements of that formidable problem, that we begin to grasp it and may hope to solve it.[1]

As you consider social issues that must be addressed in our time, how do you maintain a personalism consistent with our Vincentian mission? That is, how can you better recognize and respond to the unique personal circumstances of those affected, while also working at the same time for systemic change that addresses the root causes of their suffering?

How might this Vincentian approach apply given the context of your work in higher education? How might DePaul University better reflect such a way of being?


1) Raymond L. Sickinger, “Frédéric Ozanam: Systemic Thinking, and Systemic Change,” Vincentian Heritage 32:1 (2014), 8. Free to download at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌vhj/‌vol32/‌iss1/4/

 

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

 

DePaul’s former Clifton-Fullerton Hall was renamed Ozanam Hall this past summer. See the Newsline Article from July 23, 2020 for more information. 

 

Changing Attitudes and Changing Structures: Walking with Frederic Ozanam

Today, most of us are familiar with the concept of systemic and structural change. In the context of 17th Century France, however, in which Saints Louise and Vincent lived, the idea of systemic change had yet to be developed. Instead, during this period, any efforts to improve the situation of those living in poverty tended to focus on solving the immediate material needs of the person in front of you. Given this context, the contributions of Vincent and Louise were notable and ground-breaking for their time in the way they went beyond addressing the immediate demands posed by poverty, to the level of organizing charitable efforts at a structural level. Not only did their labors lead to more effective and efficient forms of service delivery but they continue to shape the professions of health care and social work centuries later.

If we fast-forward two centuries to 19th Century France, a deeper appreciation of the world as a complex interrelated system was evolving. It was during this time that Frederic Ozanam, a 20-year old student studying at the Sorbonne, was one of the principle founders of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 1833.  Ozanam helped recruit students for this lay Catholic organization to serve the poor in the slums of Paris, and at the same time regenerate French society to create a more just world. Indeed, after years of revolution and at the dawn of industrialization, Ozanam’s vision was to create “a community of faith and works erasing little by little the old divisions of political parties and preparing for a not-too-distant future a new generation which would carry into science, the arts, and industry, into administration, the judiciary, the bar, the unanimous resolve to make it a moral country, and to become better themselves in order to make others happier.”[1]

Thus, during this period, even though the terms systemic change and systemic thinking were not yet in common parlance, Ozanam’s ideas were infused with the seeds of such concepts. Indeed, for this Vincentian family member, if solutions for poverty were to be found, both individual lives and societal forces had to be transformed.

Today the Society of St. Vincent de Paul continues on a global scale. It is currently comprised of more than 800,000 members in 153 countries. While the Society has grown and changed over the years, its mission has not: to serve those on the margins, and shape a more just and compassionate world.

In 2006, Reverend Gregory Gay, C.M., then Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, founded a Commission to promote systemic change as a way to end poverty, building upon the strong Vincentian foundation dating back to the time of Vincent and Louise. He called all members of the Vincentian Family to engage in strategies to help end poverty through systemic change as an essential dimension of living out Vincentian virtues and values in today’s context.

In light of this call and reading the signs of the times in our world today, how might you be hearing a similar call in your professional work at DePaul or in your personal life to improve the larger systems that impact the lives of those who are poor or marginalized?  Given the problems that confront our society, what inspiration might the example of Frederic Ozanam offer as we seek to construct a more just world?

Note:   DePaul University’s former Clifton-Fullerton Hall was recently renamed Ozanam Hall.  See the Newsline Article from July 23, 2020 for more information. 


[1] Dirvin, Joseph I., CM.  Frédéric Ozanam: A Life in Letters. Society of St. Vincent DePaul, Council of the United States. 1986.  “Letter to Henri Pessoneaux,” 13 March 1840. p. 178

 

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

 

Episode 2: New Opportunity to Oppose Proposed Regulations Precluding Asylum Eligibility

 

This episode is an interview with Rev. Craig B. Mousin founder and former Executive Director of the Midwest Immigrant Rights Center and an Adjunct Faculty member at DePaul University’s College of Law and The Grace School of Applied Diplomacy. He talks about responding to the federal government’s proposed regulations that would make asylum seekers ineligible for asylum and related remedies based on purported public health considerations.   We encourage you to file your own comments opposing part or all of the proposed procedures and asking the government to withdraw the entire proposed rule.  To assist you in obtaining a link to the proposed procedures or in filing your comment, you may incorporate your remarks into one of the templates provided by the following:

The National Immigrant Justice Center’s template.

If you are concerned about unaccompanied minors or children refugee issues, you can use the Young Center’s template.

Both websites provide additional information on how the proposed regulations restrict access to the courts and prevent bona fide applicants from presenting their cases for asylum.  To be accepted by the government, please make sure your comments are filed on or before 11:59 p.m. EDT, Monday, August 10 2020.

For additional information on the pretext of the public health need for these proposals, see:  https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/new-asylum-ban-recycled-pretext-proposed-rule-would-illegally-unjustly-bar-many-asylum

 

Please share this podcast and links with members of your community or faith organizations, family members and friends.  Encourage them to file comments to help ensure that our nation continues to offer shelter for refugees in need.  Thank you for your consideration of this request.

 

Meekness and Gentleness in Today’s World

Vincent de Paul’s idea of meekness is explored in an article by Robert Maloney, C.M, former superior of the Congregation of the Mission.1 He suggests that meekness for Vincent could best be translated today as gentleness. Meekness and gentleness seem like odd things to be discussing in the current political climate. Societal advances made during the civil rights era and after were largely forged using methods we certainly would not characterize as meek.

However, meekness and gentleness are ideas that Vincent used when talking about treating others with dignity and respect. He said to the Daughters of Charity, “[The] chief concern will be to serve…with compassion, gentleness, cordiality, respect, and devotion.”2 To serve others with respect and to recognize their human dignity is paramount in our times. Human dignity is not just a Catholic tenet. As a secular humanist, for example, I also believe treating everyone with human dignity is a precept.

Meekness or gentleness confers an openness to listen. To hear and recognize the struggle of others is a necessary precursor to work toward a solution. But that openness needs to be sincere. Listening without compassion and the willingness to work for real change is not enough. A lack of concrete action reflects the cycle we are trying to break right now—the empty nodding by government officials, the inaction that dooms us to return to the same old policies of systemic racism and systemic privilege.

I would caution you not to interpret Vincent’s conception of meekness and gentleness as weakness. Vincent never extolled the virtue of being meek to power. Gentleness in Vincent’s mind was to be accompanied by firmness. Such firmness is necessary so that the voices of people who have lost theirs can be heard. Given where we are today, it seems a good time to revisit Vincent’s idea of meekness or gentleness. His words advise that we respect all people for their inherent dignity, listen to those that have been marginalized, and stand side-by-side working in solidarity with them in their struggle for equality.

How can I be gentler and thus more open to recognizing other people’s struggles? How might I work in solidarity with others in their struggles?

————————————

  1. https://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1659&context=vincentiana
  2. Conference 85, Service of the Sick and Care of One’s Own Health, Common Rules, 11 November 1657, CCD, 10:267.