Vincentian Service Day pushes on despite COVID-19


Photo courtesy of Vince O'Brill

Vincentian Service Day was held over Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic.

DePaul’s tradition of its annual Vincentian Service Day took place on Saturday — but this year, it looked a little different. 

Due to the state’s stay-at-home order, participants couldn’t physically visit community partners and nonprofits for a day of volunteer work like they were used to.

On Saturday, around 800 registered students, faculty, staff and alumni partook in the celebration by embodying St. Vincent DePaul’s famous quote: “Love is inventive to infinity.”

Vincentian Service Day (VSD) is organized by the Division of Mission and Ministry. Tam Ta, junior and lead coordinator for the event, said she and her eight-person team have been planning since late January.

“A lot of changes were made in a short amount of time… but we all agreed that VSD was something we still wanted to happen,” Ta said. “It was due to the wonderful and invested faculty, as well as the flexible VSD team that this transition to remote services was smoother than anticipated.”

To cater to everyone’s interests and capacity, Ta and her team thought of three different service opportunities: correspondence, donation and skill sharing. 

Senior Claire Black decided to serve in the correspondence category by writing letters for seniors living in Paul House and Healthcare Center located in the North Side. 

“I decided to write letters because our senior citizens are some of the most isolated during this time and deserve any extra love and light that we can bring into their lives,” Black said. “Everyone deserves to know they are cared about, and this was a great way to share that idea with a tangible action.”

Black said that this is her fourth year of participating in VSD and she thought the experience was innovative.  

“[It is] important to do what we can to support different communities,” Black said.

Freshman Sahar Din also wrote letters for two seniors. To add an extra touch, she even painted small pictures. 

“My first VSD experience was really fulfilling,” Din said. “Being at home and in quarantine, I’ve struggled with ways to help people right now because I can’t physically support anyone, so this was an amazing opportunity to do a small act of  kindness that will hopefully make someone else’s quarantine experience a little brighter.”

As she started writing letters and creating art, she was quickly joined by her family.

“It really goes to show how community service can bring groups of people together,” Din said. 

To celebrate the 22nd Vincentian Service Day, sophomore Cameron LeFlore donated to the student emergency and assistance fund

LeFlore’s contribution will help students experiencing challenges like food and housing insecurity due to COVID-19.

“The experience was efficient,” LeFlore said. “I thought this approach for VSD was a testament to the strong values for service that the DePaul community has.”

LeFlore also commends the Division of Mission and Ministry for their hard work in organizing and coming up with alternatives.

In true Vincentian fashion, the organizers and participants truly found innovative ways to answer the question of what must be done. 

Black thinks VSD is more important than it has ever been.

“Through VSD, DePaul communities stay connected and centered on the Vincentian mission,” Black said. “It allows us to unite and stand in solidarity with different populations even during an unprecedented time like this pandemic.” 

Since it’s her graduating year, this was Black’s last VSD.

However, students like Din and LeFlore wish to continue her footsteps and participate annually.

While waiting for next year’s VSD, Din suggests showing support to folks on the margins by listening to their needs and stories, so we can serve them well. This simple yet meaningful act is an easy way to incorporate our mission in our day-to-day lives. 

Although original plans were canceled and major decisions had to be made in such short notice, Ta remains appreciative of the overall turnout.

“I’m very grateful that VSD can apply Vincentian values to at least some of the contemporary concerns of our community,” Ta said. “We hope that VSD served as an opportunity for these people to continue helping their communities remotely.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly identify the Division of Mission and Ministry. A previous version of this story called the division University Ministry.