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/.

Blue Demons and Butterflies

When you see a butterfly fluttering its wings, what comes to mind? For some, possibly the complete metamorphosis from eggs to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult; others might imagine grace and beauty. In the richness of its diverse expressions, nature provides many images of transition and change like the dynamic life of a butterfly. For example, the genus Morpho butterfly includes 29 species and 150 sub-species. Living harmoniously, the size, color, and wingspan of each manifests its unique beauty amid natural diversity. The life and behavior of butterflies teach many lessons if we take time to observe them. Ponder the possibilities.

The royal blue color and dazzling iridescent wings of Morpho butterflies reminds me of the Blue Demons of DePaul University wherein true blue signifies respect, loyalty, and search for truth. As nature is enriched by its diverse expressions, diversity enriches our academic community. When embraced and celebrated, diversity inspires transformation, which butterflies symbolize.

The fleeting, flickering presence of butterflies reveals not only delicate designs but also fragility. Their ongoing fight for survival challenges us to sustain their existence in our world. Created to flourish, human life is also fragile. Human and natural diversity challenges us to live, work, and play together harmoniously—to care for one another, to tend our common home, and to nurture the earth community. Personalism makes that possible.

As a diverse, multi-faith, and inclusive community Vincentian personalism enables us to uphold the dignity of everyone. Respect for each person is foundational. Vincent de Paul taught, “Respect is an expression of the esteem you have for the person you respect…Respect has its source in the understanding because it comes from the knowledge of a person’s worth.”1

We honor one another as Blue Demons and show our Vincentian spirit when we wear DePaul blue on Thursdays or at events. Like the Morpho butterfly with its royal blue robe and fluttering wings, Blue Demons wear blue with pride as their DePaul robe of distinction. Vincent de Paul encouraged his collaborators to “Strive always to have the robe of charity” because that signified love of God and love of neighbor.2 Actions, attitudes, and attentiveness to others express our Vincentian values—the spirit of DePaul.

  1. Just as a caterpillar undergoes change and transformation before spreading its wings as a butterfly, what new attitudes, or behaviors must I develop to appreciate and respect others who do not believe or look like me?
  2. In what ways can I participate in cultural transformation for greater equity and justice for the DePaul community? For the global city of Chicago? For the neighborhood where I live?

1 Conference 96, Cordiality, Respect, and Exclusive Friendships, 2 June 1658, CCD, 10:394. Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/coste_en/

2 Conference 93, Mutual Charity and the Duty for Reconciliation, 4 March 1658, CCD, 10:379.


Reflection by:    Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., Vincentian Scholar-in-Residence, Mission & Ministry

Living the Golden Rule: An Interfaith Exploration

Entering the United Nations Secretariat Building in New York, one is greeted by a large Norman Rockwell mosaic depicting people of many ages, nationalities, religions, and cultures along with the words, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Rockwell’s piece is entitled, “Golden Rule,” and serves as a reminder that communities throughout the world articulate the importance of the Golden Rule in their teachings and practices. 

At DePaul, a centerpiece in the Lincoln Park Interfaith Sacred Space (located in the Student Center) is a wall filled with many world religious renditions of the Golden Rule. This wall not only highlights a universal connection between interfaith communities but also reminds us of the importance of mutual respect and caring.  

Throughout this quarter, DePaul’s Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care team will be highlighting a Golden Rule from a different faith or spiritual tradition each week. We will not only have an opportunity to recognize the universal wisdom in these golden nuggets, but we will also enter into an interfaith experience together.

As we begin our interfaith exploration of the Golden Rule, our Vincentian values encourage us to focus on the interfaith rules in a new way. As Vincentians we recognize and honor the dignity of all people, which means we do not impose ourselves upon others.  As Vincentians, we consider the rule that Rockwell so beautifully portrayed, pondering how we might do unto others as THEY would have us do unto them. 

Join us on a journey of engaging with the Golden Rule from many faith perspectives throughout the spring quarter! Follow along on our RDPC social channels (@depaulrdpc) for weekly posts on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. 


Peace and blessings, 

Rev. Dr. Diane Dardón
Director of the Office of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care (RDPC) 

Having Faith in Light of Life’s Mysteries

Our world is full of mysteries. Some can be explained by science or reasoned through logic, but some remain ineffable. For Vincent de Paul, a Catholic priest, God was one of those mysteries that remained beyond our grasp. From his Christian perspective, he once noted, “the more directly we look at the sun, the less we see it; likewise, the more we try to reason about the truths of our religion, the less we know by faith.”1 For Vincent, having faith without an answer for God’s mysteries was an important part of his religious beliefs.

In our twenty-first-century United States, the mysteries of the world are drastically different from those of Vincent’s seventeenth-century France. Advances in science, medicine, and technology have helped “explain away” many of the mysteries from 400 years ago. And yet, as much as we know today, there are still many mysteries we do not understand, and still others that emerge every day.

In the end, we are left with the truth that there are aspects of our lives which require us to have faith: faith in our community, faith in a higher power, faith in an unknown, or faith in something larger than ourselves that cannot be fully grasped.

Think of something that remains a mystery in your life. How do you rely on faith to understand or live with this mystery?

1 Conference 23, Maxims of Saint Vincent, CCD, 12:386.

Reflection by: Michael Van Dorpe, Program Manager for Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry


Take a leap of faith. Apply to be a Mission Ambassador. Click here for more information: Mission Ambassadors Program

Fighting for Civil Rights in a Fragile Democracy: The Vincentian Spirit and the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963


I am convinced that the very foundation of the Vincentian Spirit began with, and still demands, a specific approach to understanding reality. It is rooted in the experience of all those on the margins of society deprived of their essential rights to food, education, health care, clothing, and housing, as well as all victims of systemic injustice due to their race, sex, sexual orientation, social class or religion. In this sense, I believe that civil rights and democracy are Vincentian themes, and that in these two “signs of the times” we find a concrete Vincentian call for DePaul as an educational institution.

This week we celebrate the memory and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are also witnessing a national transition of governmental power in the United States that has exposed the fragility of democracy. Governmental stability is necessary for the well-being of people living in poverty or on the margins, as social conflict, pandemics, and natural disasters always disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. Vincent de Paul said that the most vulnerable are “our portion” in life, or our responsibility, our place, our call, and our ultimate vocation. (1)

I believe that the struggle to fully construct our democracy framed Dr. King’s call. He fought for civil rights based on the social contract of democracy—a system that demands we commit to preserve and expand the common good by recognizing and respecting the civil rights of all people as equal. Dr. King fought for the civil rights of Black people and communities in defense of, and to fulfill, the democratic dream that all are recognized and respected as equal in both rights and responsibilities. In the U.S., civil rights are to this day an unsettled issue, as the full incorporation of Black and Brown people into the life of the country is clearly unresolved.

Over the past four years we have seen that democracy is a dynamic—sometimes historic—human-made, socio-political system that is always changing. It therefore never seems to be fully functional. The democratic system demands constant monitoring and oversight to prevent the gradual erosion of its quality. In recent years, as democracy has become a domestic concern for the American people, the U.S. has shifted its priority from defending democracy abroad to scrutinizing itself. Our time of being recognized as the global defender and model of democracy seems to have been lost, and our current crisis is creating questions worldwide. Clearly, strengthening our democratic processes will not only benefit U.S. institutions and citizens, but also the international community.

When leaving the White House, President Barack Obama reminded us “citizenship is the most important position in a democracy.”(2) In the twenty-first century, committed citizens of the world continue to be confronted with the challenges of democracy—whether building it from the ground up, restoring it, preserving it in fragile or failed states, or improving the quality of it in so-called strong democracies like the U.S.

In our society the democratic principles that guarantee peace and prosperity are merged throughout the social, economic, and legal fabric. These principles can be found everywhere in the Constitution, and in the essential democratic underpinnings of human rights, fundamental freedoms, equal rights regardless of gender, freedom of speech, as well as in the elimination of differences of treatment on the basis of race, sex, language, social class, physical condition, sexual orientation, or religion. Dr. King clearly understood that non-racial discrimination is one of these essential principles, without which democracy is simply an unfulfilled dream.

We believe, as Dr. King did, that a fully-fledged democracy, with its legal and ethical basis, is a means to achieve peace, security, economic and social progress, sustainable development, and respect for the human rights of all. I am frightened when I read that more and more young people around the world think there are other means to achieve these goals. They see the failure of the political patriarchal model, the failure and corruption of politicians and political parties, and the severe dismantling of the foundations of our democratic process. For me, it is difficult to comprehend that the civil rights fight Dr. King faced over half-a-century ago, which happened in the context of U.S. democracy, reflects the current outcry for racial justice, and the current context of our democracy. What, then, does this say of our democracy?

DePaul University is a Vincentian institution dedicated to education. We are inspired and sustained by the Vincentian Spirit. The signs of the times are demanding we recognize what has been called “education for democracy” by the United Nations: “a broad concept which can help to inculcate democratic values and principles in a society, encouraging citizens to be informed of their rights and the existing laws and policies designed to protect them, as well as training individuals to become democratic leaders in their societies.”(3) Education for democracy involves an active effort to encourage the full participation of citizens in the different democratic processes. This kind of education demands we attend to the peaceful and non-violent coexistence of diverse societies, including access, equity, social justice, individual and institutional ethical behavior, checks and balances of power as well as individual rights and responsibilities.

Education is also critical in empowering citizens to hold accountable those politicians and political parties that hold positions of power, as well as the institutions designed to create laws and policies that safeguard the rights of all.

Founded in the Vincentian Spirit, DePaul needs to be committed, through its educational practice, to strengthen democratic citizenship and promote effective popular participation. As we celebrate Dr. King and hope for a peaceful and non-violent transition of national power, we must continue our fight for the civil rights of all. The peaceful transition of power is one of the essential principles of global democracy.

We must also not forget that in the U.S. the essential democratic right to vote is yet another unresolved issue. It is evident that Black, Brown, and Indigenous people’s access to free and equal voting opportunities are curtailed through mechanisms such as unjust purging of registered voter lists, lack of access to polling places, and long lines at those polling places that are still operational. We need to resolve this issue, among many others, to restore and protect the meaning of democracy in our nation.

The role of the Black community in the preservation of our democracy cannot be ignored. In recent elections the Black community, again, voted in huge numbers and, in many cases, under unfair conditions. They stood up once more to claim their rights, and in so doing, they helped all Americans regain a vision of the real meaning of democracy. As I remember and honor the life of Dr. King, I want to honor and praise the role of the Black community nationwide, which continues to fight for justice and democracy on so many fronts, and often at high personal cost. It is neither fair nor sustainable to expect Black Americans to continue to bear such a disproportionate burden in the fight for civil rights and upholding democracy.

All citizens are called to defend the principles of our democracy: equality, respect, responsibility, agency, and opportunity for all. But now, in this moment in history, I thank Black leaders like Dr. King for their legacy, the very many activist leaders working for justice today, and all Black Americans who continue the fight to uphold democracy. I thank you for your sacrifices, your contributions, and your critical victories. You are living evidence of the struggle to protect and the resilience to uphold our democracy.

1) Conference 180, Observance of the Rules, 17 May 1658, CCD, 12:4.

2) President Barack Obama, Farewell Address, 10 January 2017. See: https://‌obama‌whitehouse.‌archives.gov/‌farewell

3) Guidance Note of the Secretary-General on Democracy, United Nations, 2005. See: Guidance Note on Democracy

Other Bibliography

Campuzano, Guillermo, C.M., Personal Notes, 2018 United Nations meeting on Democracy.

“Conferencias de San Vicente de Paul,” Editorial CEME, XII:4.

King, Dr. Martin Luther, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963). See: https://‌www.‌theatlantic.‌com/‌magazine/‌archive/2018/02/‌letter-from-a-birmingham-jail/552461/


Reflection By: Guillermo Campuzano, C.M., Vice President Division of Mission & Ministry

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

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


Seeing with Vincentian Eyes

You will attain this happiness if you practice faithfully humility, gentleness, and charity toward the poor…1

Vincent de Paul remembered the moment captured in the featured illustration as pivotal for him in transforming his sense of mission and vocation. The sacred dignity of this poor, dying peasant became evident to him. With Madame de Gondi’s help, Vincent came to realize there were many people like this who lacked vital spiritual and physical care, and that existing systems within both the Church and society routinely neglected their needs.

Over time, Vincent de Paul grew to be consistent in living the mission he professed. He encouraged his companions to look at reality through the perspective of those enduring poverty, those who suffered basic needs, or those who were routinely left out by the status quo of church, state, and society at the time. He would ask his community, in essence: What do these people need and how do our actions and decisions impact them? How can our resources be used to better serve them? Vincent further recognized the importance of forming leaders who shared his vision and were committed to this sense of mission. He envisioned a community of solidarity that surrounded and supported people in need, and in so doing, enabled all to flourish.

Compassion and care for those struggling with the effects of material and systemic poverty is essential to a Vincentian perspective. Their realities make a claim on us, inviting us to take action. They call us to make changes individually and collectively to address their immediate needs, as well as to confront the root causes of their suffering. This is what we are challenged to do when asking ourselves what has come to be known as the Vincentian question: “What must be done?”

The COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath have required us to make difficult decisions about what we value, as well as the vision we will pursue, both individually and collectively. Vincent’s example invites us to center the perspective of those in poverty, or of those suffering or in pain, and to care for them. Currently, this includes those facing the horrible effects of COVID-19, those who have died, those who have lost loved ones, or those struggling because of unemployment. Vincent’s vision ensures that all people experience a sense of human community and that they are given both the opportunities and resources necessary to flourish. For Vincent, safeguarding hope for those left behind or forgotten by society, especially those in dire conditions, was a necessary part of working for the good of all humanity.

How might “seeing with Vincentian eyes” shape our vision for how to respond to the current crisis? For the education we offer? For the way we go about business as a university? What does it invite you to consider in your work as a colleague, or in your role as a neighbor, citizen, or family member?

1 2787, To Sister Françoise Ménage, In Nantes, 12 February 1659, CCD, 7:471.

Reflection by:

Mark Laboe
Associate Vice President
Faculty and Staff Engagement
Division of Mission and Ministry

The Story of the White Tablecloth

Sometimes the smallest things can make a very big difference….

Many have shared the “Story of the White Tablecloth” around our DePaul community to emphasize the reverent dignity and care Vincent de Paul expected to be modeled by his followers in their service of others.

In the Foundation documents and the Rules established for the Confraternity in Châtillon in 1617, and later in Montmirail, Vincent de Paul explained how to minister to the sick poor and to treat those they would serve, greeting them “cheerfully and kindly,” “with gentleness, humility, and true charity,” and with a “consoling word.” He noted the importance of taking great care to offer a blessing, and asked that they carefully arrange a napkin, plate, and spoon before serving food. Vincent’s attention to such gestures clearly communicates the importance he placed on the dignity of those being served, as well as on the relational dimension to the service being performed. The fact that Vincent would include such details is remarkable, revealing how essential it was in his mind that we treat others with the greatest of respect and dignity.

What are the small details and gestures that you include in your daily activities at work, or in your home, that elevates the dignity of others?

Vincentian historian, Fr. John Rybolt, C.M., tells the full story in this video, describing the spirit with which Vincent wanted his followers to care for the poor: Story of the White Tablecloth

Reflection by:

Amanda Thompson, Director of Catholic Campus Ministry, Division of Mission and Ministry

  1. Charity of Women (Châtillon-Les-Dombes), 1617, CCD 13b, pp. 12-13.
  2. Charity of Women (Montmirail – II), CCD 13b, p. 40.