First Lunch with Vincent of fall quarter addresses diversity efforts


Photo courtesy of Newsline

Official event image for Lunch with Vincent.

On Tuesday, the Division of Mission and Ministry held their twice-quarterly Lunch with Vincent, exclusively for faculty and staff. Lunch with Vincent is the first of many “Vinny” themed events this week, ending with a commemorative mass to honor the saint. 

St. Vincent de Paul Heritage Week, or Vinny Fest, is a week-long celebration organized by DePaul’s Division of Mission and Ministry to honor the day that St. Vincent de Paul died on Sept. 27, also known as his feast day. 

The luncheon, partly as a response to DePaul’s statement on solidarity released on June 9, aimed to discuss how the Vincentian mission can further the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Fully aware that the scourge of racism and racial discrimination persists and continues to result in violations of human rights, suffering, disadvantage, violence and death,” the statement read. “We want to commit – as an institution – to combat racism by all available and appropriate means, and as a matter of the highest priority, preferably in continuous cooperation with affected communities.”

Tom Judge, a chaplain to DePaul’s College of Law and College of Computing and Digital Media, helped organize the event. Judge said that the purpose of a Vincentian community is to “accompany those who are victimized by exclusion and adversity.”

Cindy Pickett, associate provost of diversity, equity and inclusion, was one of the featured speakers at the event along with DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban. Pickett spoke about her background growing up in an interracial family, her experience working as a psychology professor at various universities and her work to address racial injustice in academia. 

Pickett said that growing up in a biracial family led her to constantly shift between cultural traditions and identities.

“I became fascinated with why certain identities become self-defining while others do not, and this became the basis of my scholarly work as a social psychologist,” Pickett told attendees at the luncheon.

In her work as a psychology professor, she became increasingly aware of how marginalized communities were disproportionately affected by the institutions in place. This led her to run for public office and become the president of her local school board. Later, she was drawn to DePaul because of its commitment to helping marginalized communities. 

“As I learned about DePaul’s Vincentian values and its mission, I was drawn to the idea of caring for others and paying special attention to those furthest from the opportunity,” Pickett said. “I was also drawn to the idea that this is not an abstract value but can and should result in concrete actions.”

After the initial speeches, attendees broke out into small groups to discuss how Vincentian values and their own experiences coincide with the fight against racial injustice. Attendees were also invited to discuss how the introduction speeches resonated with them. After meeting in their small groups, some groups discussed what they had talked about, but not all were able to because of time restraints. 

Pickett said that it is important to acknowledge that like many others, the DePaul community is behind in the fight against racial injustice. 

“As the DePaul community has conversations around race, antiracism, and racial injustice, it is important to recognize and acknowledge that we, like many, are late to the party and that the house has been on fire for decades,” Pickett said in her speech. 

The DePaulia was not allowed to attend the event. Judge, who organized it, said the reason was so faculty felt “free to share their perspectives and any concerns. 

Comments from President Esteban’s speech were not confirmed by Judge or the president’s office in time for publication.

Following publication, Esteban’s comments were sent to The DePaulia via university spokesperson Carol Hughes.

“We are fortunate to have so many written accounts of the good works and organizational leadership of St. Vincent, which serve as the inspiration for conversation and reflection among faculty and staff during the quarterly Lunch with Vincent events,
he said. “It is one of the ways we find moments in the academic year to pause and intentionally take time to discuss DePaul’s mission and how we practice that mission in our roles.”

He continued by stating the lunch’s conversations were centered around anti-racism, among other issues.

“This year, the theme for lunch conversations is DEL, anti-racism and our mission,” he said. “Engaging in conversations about structural racism at our own institution is hard, but it’s the right thing to do. I have asked administrative leaders to audit their practices and identify things that need to be changed. I hope we will tap into the guidance our Vincentian mission and spirituality provide us as we engage in these conversations.

St. Vincent de Paul Heritage Week will continue throughout the week until Sunday, Sept. 27 with a mass to honor the saint’s feast day.


Update (9/25/2020): This story has been updated to include comment from President A. Gabriel Esteban.