Celebrating the Spirit of St. Louise at DWN’s 12th Annual High Tea

 By Nadia Alfadel Coloma

On March 28, DePaul women faculty and staff gathered for fellowship, networking and service at DWN’s 12th annual High Tea with St. Louise. This yearly celebration marks two occasions: Women’s History Month and St. Louise’s feast day, both of which occur in March.

So who was St. Louise anyway? Why does DWN hold this event each year to commemorate her?

One terrific metaphor I heard once from someone explaining the significance of St. Louise, in her relation to St. Vincent, is that if St. Vincent were the president of our university, then St. Louise would be the provost.

St Louise de MarillacFrom 17th century France, St. Louise was St. Vincent’s most trusted and key collaborator. She dedicated her life to the service of others, serving the poor alongside St. Vincent and educating women to help those most in need. St. Louise was also a wife (then widow), a mother (to a son with special needs), a nurse, social worker, teacher and community organizer. She founded the Daughter’s of Charity, a community of religious women that still exists today.

St. Louise’s spirit of service and action inspires us to take our beliefs,  ideas, passions, dreams, our vision for a better world—and put them into action. And it is because of her inspiring legacy that DWN honors her each year, not with one event, but with two: the other being our annual Women of Spirit and Action Awards.

17458234_10212052718136305_3478190085345872810_nBut this year’s High Tea with St. Louise was different. In addition to providing a space and opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea and treats with fellow DPU women, our 2017 High Tea included a service activity.

All this talk about St. Louise inspiring us to action, well, what better way to honor her than to put our inspiration to action and do service in her name?

The event kicked off with keynote speaker Barbara Sims, a DePaul SNL graduate student who talked about her experiences facing poverty, her struggles as a first-generation college student and single mother, and her climb to a six-figure corporate job that, while it filled her pockets, didn’t satisfy her soul.

“Knowledge is power,” she shared, reading a quote from Kofi Annan that inspired her. “Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress in every society and every family.”

Barbara ended up leaving her six-figure job to pursue her passion for singing. In fact, she sang a song just before beginning her address, mesmerizing everyone with the delightful surprise of her voice that echoed through the lofty ceilings of Cortelyou Commons. (Not every keynote speaker spontaneously breaks into song…) You can watch the 40-second clip of her singing here.

Barbara spent a few years traveling around the country singing, but she still felt a restlessness in her soul. She had a calling toward education, and so decided to go back to school, enrolling at DePaul to pursue a PhD that focuses on culturally relevant education in the neo liberal era.

“I wanted to be in some service,” she said. “Our African American students are either underemployed or unemployed. They’re not walking away from school prepared or inspired.”

sarahscircleAfter Barbara’s keynote, the local nonprofit that we would be serving that day was introduced. Sarah’s Circle, located in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, serves women who are homeless or in need of a safe space. Last year the organization served roughly 793 women in the community.

But there was one more special guest before the service portion of the event: the Depaul (yes, lowercase p) USA’s Dax Program, which helps our students facing homelessness by matching them with host families and giving them resources and support so they can complete their education at DePaul.

20170328_161128“There are at least 50 students at DePaul who are homeless, or housing insecure, as we prefer to say, during any given quarter,” shared Sister Judy Warmbold, the Dax program coordinator. “The problem is… we don’t know who these students are. The best thing you can do to help is know that this program exists, help spread the word and help identify students who you suspect might need this program.”

“There are at least 50 students at DePaul who are homeless during any given quarter. The problem is… we don’t know who they are.” – Sister Judy Warmbold, Dax program coordinator

I had heard about the Dax Program a couple of years ago, but admittedly, it had slipped from my mind since then—which made me feel awful, considering that one of the main points Sister Judy stressed to everyone was to simply be aware. Be aware of the program and be aware of the students you work with or teach on campus, as students facing homelessness are often too ashamed to come forward. You can read more about Dax in Newsline.

After a brief Q&A between the attendees and guest speakers, the energized frenzy of the service activity finally began.

At each round table, DPU women assembled sandwiches and packed them into bagged lunches for the women who benefit from Sarah’s Circle. Each table had loaves of bread, slices of deli meat and cheese, clementines and bags of chips. Also dispersed around the tables were index cards on which we could write a personal message to the woman who would receive the bagged lunch.

It was wonderful to be in the company of so many DePaul women who gave the gift of their presence that day to help women that they would never meet. Hands were reaching across tables, people were calling out “Is there more cheese?” and “Does anyone have an extra bag?” The connection and solidarity I felt with those around me was such a rejuvenating way to end my work day.

By the end, the 50 women who participated made 100 sandwiches for 100 bagged lunches. The representatives from Sarah’s Circle expressed their gratitude and amazement at how fast and efficiently we put the lunches together. Many looked up from the tables as if thinking, “Aren’t there anymore sandwiches to make?”

The spirit of St. Louise truly shone through the windows of Cortelyou Commons that afternoon.

I’m so glad that the DePaul Women’s Network offers these opportunities to come together, learn and give back to the larger community. It makes me proud to be a part of the Network. I hope we made St. Louise proud with this event that bears her name. I have a feeling we did.

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Visit our Facebook page to view more photos from the event!

Nadia Alfadel Coloma is the director of marketing and communications for the DePaul Women’s Network, and a communications and workforce specialist in Enrollment Management and Marketing at DePaul University.

An Afternoon Treat: High Tea with St. Louise

By Laura Durnell

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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.

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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.

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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.”

 

Leaning on Our Sisters: The Annual High Tea with St. Louise

High Tea 2015By Lucina Schell

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.

10th Annual Women of Spirit & Action Awards: Finding Balance and Community

By Lauren Kriz

On November 6, the DePaul Women’s Network celebrated its 10th Annual Women of Spirit and Action Awards with the support of staff and faculty from across the university. Despite the fact that I have worked at DePaul for more than five years, this was my first time attending the event, and I was pleased by the number of people in the audience, both men and women, who had gathered to honor an impressive list of DePaul women for their service to the university.

The atmosphere in the room was inviting and celebratory, making the event an exciting highlight at the start of DWN’s year. Jen Fox, the president of DWN, began the event by asking the audience to join her in honoring the “modern-day Louises in our midst—the women faculty, staff and students who help move this great university’s mission forward” and who are leaders across campus.

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Before the keynote speaker took the stage, Fox also spoke about the 2014-15 DWN theme, “Women’s Ways of Wellness,” and how DWN will offer a number of programs meant to help DePaul women find balance in six different aspects of wellness: emotional, physical, vocational, spiritual, community and social. To kick off this year’s theme and to honor St. Louise and the DePaul recipients of this year’s awards, DWN picked a special speaker: Dr. Vie Thorgren, the founder and director of the Center for Spirituality at Work, where they aim to “unite diverse people for spirituality and social justice.” Dr. Thorgren came to DePaul from Denver to speak from a Vincentian perspective about holistic wellness, how it applies to our lives at DePaul and how belonging to a community can help us on our path to wellness.

Dr. Thorgren began by talking about the center and how it invites professionals to act as mentors for women who are re-entering the workforce from prison. These professional mentors are trained by women from the prison, who are also members of the board, a format that is uniquely Vincentian in that everyone participates in every aspect of the organization.

Dr. Thorgren then gave a brief biography of St. Louise and how it now seems clear that for Louise’s entire life she had a “yearning for belonging.” After many years of searching, she eventually found that she belonged to God and thus to her brothers and sisters, an idea that was instrumental to her founding of the Daughters of Charity, who provide outreach to all communities, whether rich or poor. Dr. Thorgren spoke about how St. Louise can give us perspective on wellness today related to the idea of belonging. She said that having a sense of belonging can lead to health and lacking a sense of belonging can lead to unease; finding our own sense of belonging is important for establishing balance in our lives. Belonging keeps us centered and gives us life. We begin using “we” when we interact with the communities around us—instead of only focusing on “I”—and that new focus is enriching and empowering and healthy. She spoke about how belonging “makes claims on us.” People in the communities to which we belong know that we have each become “one of the primary resources of [our] brothers and sisters,” and this knowledge lays the foundation of trust and security necessary to maintain a strong community of support.

Dr. Thorgren gave us four areas that she thought were important as we begin to develop our communities.

  1. Each of us needs two types of relationships in our lives. The first is supportive and is with people who have always nurtured and cared for us. The second is a relationship we must develop with “sandpaper people” or people who do not always like us or think like us, but are the people that help us grow.
  2. There is a difference between “do-goodism” and real service, which is about how the act of someone giving service and someone receiving service should be mutually transforming and leave us energized, instead of burnt out like many do-gooders.
  3. There is great importance in having “fallow time” or down time, when we must help ourselves remember the difference between being productive and being fruitful.
  4. We should take problems and really see them and then receive them as gifts. Though we may not always feel like we have the tools to cope with the problems that are presented to us, if we stop and recognize those problems, we may find that though the tools are not always what we expected, we can find them in ourselves. Here she gave us the example of someone she knows from the center, who took skills she had learned in her criminal past and turned them into marketable skills, working hard in her job until she was trusted enough to be put in charge of her office for an entire month.

Dr. Thorgren challenged many of us to think not only about developing our sense of belonging and community, which we have learned is important to our wellness, but also to be aware of the ways in which we go about developing that sense. The perspective of community and belonging that Dr. Thorgren provided in her keynote, along with the knowledge she gave of St. Louise, was a perfect way for DWN to kick off our year and assist DePaul’s women on their ways to wellness.

After Dr. Thorgren spoke, the group celebrated 105 DePaul women for their roles as modern-day Louises. I left my first Women of Spirit and Action Awards with a newfound respect for St. Vincent’s right-hand woman, and also for the many women working beside me, who continue to emulate and develop the community that St. Vincent and St. Louise began hundreds of years ago.

Lauren Kriz is a member of the DWN Marketing & Communications team and the Operations Coordinator in the Office of Student Records at DePaul University.

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Volunteer with DWN for Vincentian Service Day

Jackie Posek
Jackie Posek, DWN’s Service & Outreach Team

By Jackie Posek

As I’m sure we all know by now, St. Louise de Marillac was a huge advocate and propagator of service to those living in poverty and on the margins of society. In her time, she worked for some of the least cared-for populations in Paris and rural France: widows, orphans, abandoned children. Even the women she reached to become Daughters of Charity were often poor country girls with few prospects for education or fulfillment. She was the embodiment of servant leadership, engaging with the poor not as lowly, faceless folks whom she could save, but rather as beautiful, dignified human beings who allowed her the privilege of serving them. For St. Louise, to engage with those living in poverty was a huge blessing, because it was in that service that she was able to encounter the face of God in the world.

Fast-forward 350+ years to the present day, and we who want to follow in the footsteps of St Louise have an amazing opportunity to embody her spirit of service and love for the poor by participating in Vincentian Service Day on Saturday, May 3. More than 1,200 DePaulians will gather and go out to various service sites all over Chicago to engage in a morning of service and relationship with the poor and marginalized. But VSD isn’t just about doing work in poor neighborhoods; it’s about being Vincentian in our community, reaching out to those whom we would ordinarily not encounter and receiving the gift of getting to know them. Vincentian service is first and foremost about personal relationships, coming together with those who surround us every day whom we ordinarily might not see, and seeing the face of God in them in a very special way. And we get this chance to do it together as proud, fierce, Vincentian women of the 21st century!

Signing up for VSD is super easy. Just send an email to me, Jackie Posek, by April 4, letting me know that you’re interested. I’ll take care of registering us as a team through the Vincentian Community Service Office and will let you know all the necessary details. The event starts at 9 a.m. on May 3, with an opening ceremony gathering all the volunteers together and sending us forth in service. We’ll do service in the morning at a particular site as a group, and then come back to DePaul in the early afternoon for a picnic gathering for all volunteers.

This is a great chance to do meaningful service with your friends and colleagues from DePaul. Please consider joining the DWN team for Vincentian Service Day. You will be really glad you did!

Jackie Posek is a member of DWN’s Service & Outreach team and is Assistant Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at DePaul University.

National Catholic Sisters Week Highlights Women’s Leadership

For Women’s History Month this March, DWN invited a variety guest authors to share their insights. Read on to see why #DePaulWomenRock!

Patricia Bombard, BVM
Patricia Bombard, BVM

By Patricia Bombard, BVM

March is my favorite month of the year. There are so many life-giving things to celebrate during March, including Women’s History Month. This year there is an added event: National Catholic Sisters Week, which will debut March 8-14. Last August, St. Catherine University in Minnesota received a $3.3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation “to launch an initiative to heighten public awareness of the lives and contributions of Catholic sisters.”

According to organizers at St. Catherine’s, the new initiative will center on the contributions of Catholic sisters in five areas:

  1. Education
  2. Health care
  3. Social change
  4. The Church and spiritual life
  5. Women’s leadership

Here at DePaul, it is the leadership story of Louise de Marillac, co-founder with St. Vincent de Paul of the Daughters of Charity, which especially inspires us. Though she was born out of wedlock, and never knew her mother, Louise had a loving relationship with her father, Louis de Marillac, who saw to her education and care. Later, as a young widow and single parent, Louise met Vincent, who became her spiritual advisor.

Strongly motivated by her faith, and encouraged by Vincent, Louise eventually gathered a small community of women dedicated to serving the poor by visiting them in their own homes. Perhaps inspired by her own vulnerable background, Louise later led the women in expanding their charitable works to the care of abandoned children. They began by removing 12 children from a government-run facility into their own home. Within five years, the women were caring for as many as 1,200 infants.

Still not finished, the women eventually conducted soup kitchens at three sites in Paris, serving as many as 7,000 meals a day. They also worked to improve the living conditions for prisoners and opened schools to teach occupational skills to poor girls. They also established homes for the elderly, who earned a little money for personal goods through the sale of craft items.

Louise directed all of these activities through a collaborative leadership style that integrated contemplation and action and made extensive use of what we might call today “social networking.”

Louise once wrote to her sisters in community regarding the importance of integrating one’s inner sense of virtue with one’s outer life of serving others: “Oh, my dear Sisters, it is not enough to be Daughters of Charity in name, and it is not enough to be in the service of the poor sick, you must possess the true and solid virtues which you know are essential if you are to accomplish well the work in which you are so happy to be employed. Otherwise, Sisters, your work would be practically useless.”

Sr. Margaret John Kelly, D.C., in writing about Louise’s leadership, describes Louise as a proponent of “gentle power,” which she understood as power tempered by gentleness. Yet at the same time, Kelly says, Louise was a “total realist about her sisters and matched their training to their talents.”

Richard McCullen, C.M., writes that Louise “had a facility of collaborating easily with others.” Vincent himself described her as always expressing “humility, charity, meekness and patience” while at the same time exhibiting “a firmness in all her government” and “sound judgment.”

With Vincent’s help, Louise organized the women as the Daughters of Charity, a community of sisters that eventually spread worldwide. During her lifetime, Louise often wrote to the women stationed away from Paris. Sr. Lucy Archer writes of Louise’s concern for the women expressed in her letters: “Nearly every letter contains news of relatives, enquiries about this one, messages to another…these letters show what thoroughly homely relations existed between Louise and her spiritual daughters.”

Today, there are 18,000 members of the Daughters of Charity serving in 94 countries.

St. Catherine University offers a list of ideas for how other colleges and universities can participate in National Catholic Sisters Week.

If you have yet to see it, I highly recommend viewing “Band of Sisters,” a film by Mary Fishman that premiered in Chicago in 2012. It tells the story of Catholic sisters and their movement into new works of social justice after Vatican II and features many sisters from the Chicago area. In addition, you can pick up a copy of “Sewing Hope,” the extraordinary story of Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe, who received an honorary degree from DePaul’s School for New Learning last December in recognition of her work with young girls brutalized by Ugandan rebels.

It’s March—spring is coming. Get inspired by these women, then go out and spread some seeds of new life!

Patricia Bombard, BVM, is the director of DePaul University’s Vincent on Leadership: The Hay Project, which focuses on research, education and training inspired by the leadership legacy of St. Vincent de Paul. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Public Service.

When Opportunity Knocks, What Do You Do?

DWN President Joy Boggs
Joy Boggs, DWN President 2013-14

By Joy Boggs

One of my favorite quotes belongs to Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” As we begin celebrating Women’s History Month, I am thankful for the women and the men who came before us. I am thankful that they had the vision to recognize opportunity, the courage to seize opportunity with both hands and the fortitude to work with opportunity even in tough times.

I am especially proud of DWN’s founding mothers who turned a problem into an opportunity and an opportunity into a value adding experience for the women of DePaul. In the coming weeks I want you to watch this space. I asked our women colleagues from across the university to contribute their thoughts on the value of being in and participating with a women’s network. I think you will be surprised at what they have to say on the matter.

Check in with us often this March. On the 6th we kick off our Women of Culture Series—a DWN first—and I’m looking forward to the discussions. March 8 is International Women’s Day and it’s also the start of National Catholic Sisters Week. Pat M. Bombard, BVM, Director of Vincent on Leadership: The Hay Project, will be stopping by to share her thoughts on Catholic women’s leadership. I think you will find Pat’s comments a great primer for March 20, when the Network invites DePaul’s resident scholar, Sister Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., to deliver a special guest talk on St. Louise de Marillac’s life and work over tea and treats.

I also asked members of our Network and our Advisory Council to share their experiences of being part of a women’s network. There are some powerful posts coming your way, and I hope they leave you inspired to deepen your connection to DWN. Speaking of deepening your connection, spring is when we make our annual call for members. Have you ever considered formally joining DWN? Well, opportunity is knocking—what are you going to do?

Joy Boggs is President of DePaul Women’s Network for 2013-14 and is Business Manager for the Office of the General Counsel at DePaul University.