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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. 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 along this path, and in the spirit of caring for each other, I am asking our university community to commit to doing one act of charity or kindness a week for the entire fall quarter. This could be writing a letter or checking in on someone who lives alone. You could offer to pick up some groceries for your neighbor. These are small but simple ways to live out our Catholic, Vincentian mission.

I shared this idea in a recent episode of the podcast, DePaul Download. As I explained, we have roughly 22,000 students and 4,000 faculty and staff. If only half of our community commits, that means we will complete about 13,000 acts of kindness every single week. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of countless individuals.

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, with acts of kindness and mutual care.

Happy Feast Day, and Take Care, DePaul.​

​Read more about Vincent de Paul Heritage Week events.

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