April 1, 2020


Faith, community and living Vincentian values in the time of COVID-19

COVID-19 is fundamentally altering the way people live, and that includes how they practice their faiths. In this episode, DePaul’s new Vice President for Mission and Ministry Rev. Guillermo (Memo) Campuzano, C.M., outlines how the university community can continue connecting in faith-based ways during a time when we’re encouraged to be apart. Fr. Memo first came to DePaul as a student in 1999 after escaping from Colombia as a political refugee. He returned to DePaul for his current role just weeks before the university announced it would move nearly all courses and operations to remote delivery to help slow or stop the spread of COVID-19. In this time of social distancing, Fr. Memo says we should follow the example of St. Vincent de Paul and focus on finding creative ways to reach to people who may be marginalized members of society.



LINDA BLAKLEY: Welcome to DePaul Download. I’m your host, Linda Blakley, vice president of University Marketing and Communications.

The DePaul community takes great pride in our Catholic and Vincentian identity. Our mission calls us to maintain vigilant attention to the common good and practice and an appreciation for the sacred dignity of all people, especially the poor and marginalized.

Father Guillermo Campuzano joined DePaul in early March as its new vice president for Mission and Ministry, a role centered on fostering community. Shortly after he arrived, the university announced it would shift almost all operations, including our class instruction, to remote delivery. The measures are being taken to help slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19. He joins me in conversation today to talk about faith in the time of the coronavirus and his vision for promoting the mission at DePaul.

Father Memo, welcome back to the university.

GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: Thank you Linda. Thank you for inviting me to your program. And thank you to the DePaul community for welcoming me back to the community. I’m so happy to be here.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Father Memo, you’re new to the role as vice president for Mission and Ministry, but you’re not new to DePaul. Could you share a little bit about your path to the here and now?

GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: So this is my third time at DePaul University. I came as a student in 1999. I was working in my country in Colombia in a national project on human rights to protect the rights of victims of massacres and I suffered persecution because of my work. I had to escape from Colombia. I share the story that I escaped dressed in the habits of a nun Daughters of Charity. So as a Vincentian I was a Daughter of Charity too. I think people laugh when I say that.

So I came in 1999 to DePaul as a student, as a political refugee. I had to change my name, my nationality. And I was a happy DePaul student. In 2007, I was working in Brazil finalizing my work as director of the Archdiocesan Seminary of Aparecida SP Brazil working in priest information. I came to work at DePaul in campus ministry. I worked in the three areas of ministry at DePaul University. I was involved in Catholic Campus Ministry, at the Office of Religious Diversity and the Office of Service developing a program to build a foundation to our Vincentian service. This is my third time. I am now in this role as vice president for Mission and Ministry. I’m so happy to be here.

LINDA BLAKLEY: We’re happy you’re back. We’re living in some extraordinary times. And in times like this, people often turn to their faith for hope or comfort. Community is such an important part of the religious experience. And with some social distancing measures that have been put in place that community aspect is harder to find. What advice do you have for people?

GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: Right now we are facing one of those unique challenges in human history. We have gone, as humanity, we have gone through crises, different kinds of crises, like wars or pandemics. We have found in the past the way to go through this together. The way to go through this together has been always a communal way. For us, community is very critical. Community is critical to Vincentianism. Community is critical to Vincentian personalism.

Our personalism, our Vincentian personalism, is not selfishness or isolation or exclusion, but inclusion and involvement and connection. Right now, the biggest challenge we experience is that we have been invited to live in physical distancing but physical distancing does not mean that we are not invited to connect and to create a space of connection and community in different ways. We all need to be very, very creative to engage and to connect with others.

I am very concerned that our students, our faculty and our staff that in this time are experiencing loneliness and fear or feeling excluded. These experiences may increase, may get worse. We all need to be very careful in connecting, including, especially those who are more marginalized in our society and in our DePaul community. This is a great time for us to come together to be one, to be family, to connect in many, many different and possible ways.

LINDA BLAKLEY: DePaul is a Vincentian institution founded by the Congregation of the Mission. For listeners who may not know, what does it mean to be Vincentian?

GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: We celebrated, in 2017, 400 years of our Vincentian mission. We were founded, the Vincentian spirit, the Vincentian charisma was born in 1617 in the heart and the life of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac and all the women that joined them in the first association of charities.

Our Vincentian experience, sometimes when they say Vincentian, they think of a priest, but the Vincentian spirit is more than the priest. We are more than two million Vincentians in the world, women, lay people, consecrated women, the Daughters of Charity, the Vincentian priests and brothers, and we all come together in the Vincentian spirit trying to serve the most abandoned, the people who are experiencing more vulnerability, the ones that are left behind in our society, the ones who are excluded, the systemic victims of the violation of human rights, people who are not respected or considered, people who have been denied in their own dignity.

We are here for them. This is the Vincentian spirit. We are at DePaul University because we think that education is a great channel for equality, for inclusion, for diversity. Education is essential for us to advance the agenda of a new world and a new society.

LINDA BLAKLEY: What are some of the ways we can live our Vincentian values when we’re social distancing?

GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: Right now we all need to be very creative. On May 2, we are inviting the DePaul community to engage in the Vincentian Service Day. This is the first time in 20 years of this tradition that we are inviting people to engage remotely, virtually in service. We are amazingly creative.

I’m using, Linda, this very famous phrase of St. Vincent this week more than ever, “love is inventive to infinity.” I’ve been telling people that we need to be very creative. I am so amazed of seeing so many powerful ways in which people are engaging in solidarity and service today in the world. The examples are abundant and amazing. People are finding many ways to connect.

Today one of the members of my office is sick, and this morning somebody went to her house, she went and opened the door and she found a package with toilet paper and food and soup. It was a colleague that went driving 14 miles, brought food to this house for my colleague and her children and disappeared. She doesn’t even know, she doesn’t even know who was the person. There are so many, so many amazing ways in which we can be creative, to engage, to serve and to be Vincentian.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Your office, the Office of Mission and Ministry, does a lot to help students from all faiths feel welcome. Could you tell us about your office’s interfaith efforts and its approach to promoting inclusivity?

GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: The first thing is we have to serve our pretty diverse, interreligious community. I always say, Linda, that the gift of DePaul is in diversity, but diversity being a gift, it’s also a big challenge.

We decided more than eight years ago at DePaul University to have ministers, chaplains for different traditions. We have an imam for the Muslim community, we have somebody working with the Jewish community, and we have also people working with the different Christian traditions. What we promote among them is interreligious work, interreligious collaboration, that they come together, they create programs together, they create celebrations together, they come together, they pray together, they support each other. We promote an intellectual and a spiritual dialogue, a permanent dialogue, the dialogue of life, the intellectual dialogue. We engage in conversation to find among us what is common.

We are inviting everybody at DePaul to feel proud of his or her own identity, gender identity, religious identity, cultural identity because from that identity we can contribute to the whole. We can enrich our common experience, this global citizenship and this global sense of belonging that we all experience and we are all invited to experience.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Can you talk about what the Vincentian mission means to you personally?

GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: I can. The Vincentian community in 1984, I was a teenager, I was 17, I finished high school, I was trying to find meaning in my life, was trying to identify my call and my vocation. I read the story of Vincent de Paul and I fell in love with him and his experience. I found in him two things that were essentially my life, a man of faith and a mystic, a mystic, a real mystic. Today he is called a Mystic of Charity.

The Vincentian spirit is founded in Vincent’s experience of that, his experiences that brought him to people, the people in the margins. He saw God’s faith and God invited him to experience Him in serving others, especially people in the margins, which is what he said in the gospels. I found that could be my way, so I joined the Vincentians. I have been here for 37, 38 years.

I have done all kinds of things, direct service to the poor, engaged in systemic change projects, doing political advocacy. I was for five years, my past five years were working at the UN on behalf of the Vincentian family, these two million people around the world, including DePaul, doing political advocacy, advocating for the poor humanity, advocating for our planet. Today, we understand there are preferential options for the poor and the vulnerable and the people who are in the margins. There are also options for our planet and for life in general. I think that’s how I understand my Vincentian vocation today.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Before we close, I’d like to ask you how can students lead lives that involve political advocacy and service learning toward helping those in need on a daily basis? What would you give to them to think about in order for them to start say, today?

GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: I was a professor here at DePaul University. I taught several classes on religious studies. I would say this to the students. I always told them this: Education is not a privilege because we have been saying that education is a privilege. I’ve been telling DePaul students that education is a great responsibility and education is a right. It’s a human right. The universal access to education is a right.

If our DePaul students want to connect with the world and the world that is in pain and the people who are excluded, they have an amazing responsibility with their own education. They need to take this seriously. The seed they take in our classrooms and now the computer where they are taking online classes, remote classes, that part is not a privilege they have. It’s a great responsibility. They need to be educated so that they can help us transform this world. I would invite each one of you, the students who are listening to this program, connect with what you are listening in your classes, what you are learning in your classes. Connect this with the real world. Connect this with real people, with the people who you see on the street, the people you know that are experiencing suffering or pain.

We all have a responsibility. We have one human family. We have one common home, this planet. We are all responsible for creating these experiences the best way we can so nobody is excluded, nobody is in the margins, nobody is a victim of the violation of his or her rights for any reason. There are so many things they can do, our students, and there are, at DePaul, so many programs that are open invitations for students to engage and to serve and to help us transform the world.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Father Memo I am so very glad you said yes when we asked you to come back to DePaul. You hold the distinction of being our first podcast guest since DePaul brought almost every aspect of this university online. Normally, we record in the Radio DePaul studio, but today we’re chatting from afar. Thank you for joining me today. I’m really looking forward to welcoming you back in person.


LINDA BLAKLEY: Thank you. I’m Linda Blakley. Thank you for listening to this episode of DePaul Download presented by DePaul’s Division of University Marketing and Communications.