By Laura Durnell
Part social catch-up and networking opportunity, part recognition of service, part membership recruitment, and part relaxation, the 2016 High Tea with St. Louise managed to achieve a multitude of goals much like Saint Louise de Marillac did during her remarkable life.
The afternoon began at Cortelyou Commons with what could be argued was the most important part of this DWN event: coffee, tea, water, and tasty delectables. With daylight savings time having occurred the Sunday before, there was still enough light outside to stream through the windows during the mid-to-late afternoon high tea event and provide an added energy jolt along with the provided caffeine and chocolate.
A few minutes after my arrival, I ran into one of my friends from the English department who works as one of the directors of its graduate program. We met at one of the rear tables to catch up where we introduced ourselves to two other women in attendance, one of which was the Invocation speaker Lubna El-Gendi, the associate director of the College of Law.
Once seated, I looked at my slip of paper the greeters provided everyone upon entering. The paper instructed us to locate the tea’s “mystery guest” while we interacted with friends and made new ones.
A few minutes after my friend’s arrival, another one of my friends who works with me in the WRD department arrived. Both my friends are not involved with DWN as members or members at large, but both mentioned they were thinking about possibly applying for next year.
The event opened with Shenay Bridges, DWN’s 2015-2016 Director of Membership & Engagement and DePaul’s Assistant Dean of Community Resources, welcoming everyone to this year’s high tea. She then learned who discovered the “mystery guest.” A woman at the table to my immediate right discovered the mystery guest. It was Jennifer Mata, a tenure-track member of the faculty in the College of Education, who was also sitting at the same table.
The next speaker was El-Gendi. Being a Muslim woman, she explained the standard greeting Muslims use to greet one another before she led the diverse community with an Invocation that appealed to women of all spiritual backgrounds.
Bridges then introduced keynote speaker Jennah Dunham, Coordinator for Scholarships and Vincentian Mission Logistics in the Office of Mission and Values. In her keynote, Dunham talked about her love of Saint Louise, DePaul University, and the university’s Vincentian mission.
Perhaps the most stirring and profound part of her keynote speech was when she discussed how Saint Louise inspires and motivates her professionally as well as personally. She revealed she is leaving DePaul at the end of the year so her partner can partake in a new opportunity in another state. While sharing how Vincentian values and spirituality have guided her work with students and DePaul, she revealed she also applies Saint Louise’s lessons, spirituality, and words to her own life and was finding them poignant as she embarks on this next chapter of her life. Twice during her keynote address, she paused to give the attendees time to discuss their own lives in how they deal with challenging and new situations as well as reflecting on Saint Louise herself.
One of my friends who attended is Jewish. Without hesitation, she said she did not know anything about Saint Louise. However, my other friend attended Catholic school as a child gave us all a lesson on Saint Louise from what she learned as a child and when she travelled to France with DePaul to learn more about Saint Vincent de Paul and his mission and life. As a Catholic myself, I did not know about Saint Louise until I was accepted as a member two years ago, and my friend gave everyone at our table a lesson. Though Saint Louise was illegitimate and lived hundreds of years ago, Saint Vincent de Paul treated her as an equal more than a subservient female and an “other.”
The tea ended with some current members talking about their experience serving DWN before Jennifer Roop, DWN’s 2015-2016 Executive Vice President and incoming 2016-2017 President, talked about DWN’s membership recruitment process. The tea ended with DWN’s new membership video put together by the Membership & Engagement team.
As we left, my friends and I remarked we couldn’t believe how fast the time went. One of them said she was even more intrigued into learning more about DWN and applying.
DWN is currently accepting applications for 2016-2017 membership. The deadline to apply is April 1, 2016.
Laura Durnell is a member of DWN’s Marketing and Communication team and a part-time faculty member in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse at DePaul University. Along with first year writing, she also teaches a focal point on Anne Sexton and will teach another one in the spring entitled “Women’s Confessions.” She tutors at Wilbur Wright College in addition to her teaching at DePaul and has recently published an essay in Trivia: Voices of Feminism entitled “The Social, Cultural, and Political Necessity of Anne Sexton.”