On March 17, Cortelyou Commons was a sea of green as festive chatter filled the vaulted ceiling. While St. Patrick’s Day was on the minds of many, DePaul women gathered two days after the feast day of St. Louise de Marillac to celebrate DWN’s annual High Tea with St. Louise. Leaving behind the stress of the workday, we met women from across DePaul who wield great responsibility and provide exceptional service to our community, all while taking care of their own well-being and that of their loved ones.
In her keynote, Sister Katie Norris, D.C., Director of Catholic Campus Ministry, reminded us that, though St. Louise lived more than 300 years ago, she has many lessons for today’s professional women. Together with St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise founded the Daughters of Charity. In a contemporary organization, St. Vincent could be thought of as President and St. Louise as Chief Operating Officer. St. Louise was an instrumental woman, a leader with many competing responsibilities. Not only did she have a family who depended on her, she also had a whole community of women. Like many of us, she was a woman who had to grow into confidence in her voice and abilities, the gifts that St. Vincent saw and nurtured in her. St. Louise became comfortable straddling the two worlds in which she and St. Vincent worked: the nobility who helped fund their work and the children of peasants who became the Daughters of Charity. With the strength of her faith and the support of St. Vincent and her fellow sisters, St. Louise became a mentor to these women.
Yet, St. Louise struggled with the same challenges professional women face today: taking on too much, burnout, feelings of inadequacy, making time for self-care. Decorating each table were flower petals with quotations from St. Louise that attest to her contemporaneity, for example:
“You must ask God for the grace to stay well within the limits of your authority so that you do not go beyond it and undertake more than you need to.”
As someone who routinely takes on too much, this was a welcome lesson. St. Louise understood that women with many talents may have trouble saying “no” to work that feels personally resonant or that no one else is willing or equipped to do. Yet, when we spread ourselves too thin, each of our projects suffers. It’s important to prioritize competing responsibilities, and consider where our talents can make the most difference. Saying “no” to one project may be an invitation for someone else to let her gifts shine. In her beautiful invocation, Sister Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., Vincentian Scholar-In-Residence, encouraged us to take comfort in our sisterhood, as St. Louise did, and seek out opportunities for mutual support from other women. As we shared tea, sweets and fellowship with other women, the room momentarily mirrored this healthy vision.
Lucina Schell is a member of the DWN Service & Outreach and a Student Records Assistant at DePaul University.