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From the President: Healing our social fabric with mutual care

Reflecting on a path forward this St. Vincent de Paul Feast Day


Heritage week

St. Vincent de Paul lived in chaotic and troubled times. Plague, war and the dehumanization of the poor were the way of life. For him, caring for others began with recognizing the human dignity of each and every person.

In a letter written toward the end of his life, St. Vincent said, “Treat every individual with gentleness and respect, always using kind words and requests and never harsh or offensive expressions. Nothing is more capable of winning hearts than this humble, gentle way of acting."[1]

St. Vincent saw strength in gentleness. In these current times of a pandemic, political unrest and systemic racial injustice, this idea may feel counterintuitive. Gentleness, however, means we are open to listen, and listening without judgment is paramount to recognizing the dignity of all people, particularly victims of injustice and the impoverished.   

As we celebrate St. Vincent's life and legacy this Feast Day, Sept. 27, I ask the DePaul community to reflect on how we can listen to and care for each other.

Caring for one another, particularly those most in need, was the only way St. Vincent found to heal the social fabric in his time. I believe mutual care also provides a path forward for us today in our own DePaul community. The concept of mutual care is based on the recognition of another's humanity, not only those we know or people with whom we feel comfortable. Mutual care recognizes people as whole human beings—people with agency.

As a first step forward on this path, I invite faculty and staff to join me in reading, “How to be an Antiracist" by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. This book, which explores racism and how antiracism can transform society, will be the first selection in the 2020-21 President's Book Club. Faculty and staff who register to participate in the book club will be mailed a copy of “How to be an Antiracist," and will receive weekly reflections throughout the fall quarter. On Friday, Nov. 13, we will gather as a community for a morning program, led by Academic Affairs, followed by afternoon dialogue circles, led by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity. More information about the book club and registration details are available here​. The book club is one of many activities this year that will be dedicated to social justice and addressing the effects of systemic racism within our community.

Echoing the words of St. Vincent, we must commit to caring for each other with gentleness, respect and kind words. Healing our social fabric can begin at home within our DePaul community, if we listen with open minds and open hearts.

Happy Feast Day, and thank you for all that you do for DePaul. 

Read more about Vincent de Paul Heritage Week events.

[1] Vincent de Paul (Volume: 8 | Page#: 202) To Nicolas Étienne, 22 November, 1659