By Meher Din
As a Muslim student at the country’s largest Catholic University, I am often questioned about how my intersectional identities play into my experiences as a DePaul student. In fact, I remember asking myself the same questions after Fall quarter of my Freshman year. At first, I was very apprehensive to come to DePaul. I thought that as a Muslim woman of color I couldn’t embody DePaul’s Catholic and Vincentian values because they were tailored to practicing Christians. I had trouble finding people whom I perceived as similar to me and who shared the same values. Overall, I doubted whether I had made the right decision to attend this institution.
I was urged by family and friends to find something I was passionate about and find a way to put it to use at DePaul. In the end, it came to one thing: service. In my confusion and desperation, I had forgotten that one of the reasons I found DePaul so attractive was its commitment to service and building a better community for all. I immersed myself in DCSA (DePaul Community Service Association) and was immediately welcomed into a community of diverse and dedicated individuals who, I found, shared the same passion for service that I did. I was also introduced to key historical figures in Vincentian legacy like Louise de Marillac and Elizabeth Ann Seton. They confirmed me in my belief that each individual, regardless of faith or background, has the ability to contribute to social change in so many ways. They also confirmed me in the power behind being a dedicated female leader.
As I developed this newfound understanding of my purpose at DePaul, I began to use my Islamic faith as a means to become a stronger female leader. I realized that the traits that I thought set me apart from other DePaul students were actually unifying factors that assisted me in making my place at DePaul and delving deeper into the Vincentian mission. I learned that at its core, DePaul strives to help students understand their experiences in terms of their diverse identity backgrounds, not in spite of them.
Three years later, I find my Vincentian identity equally as important as my other identities. To be a Muslim-American Vincentian woman is, in a way, breaking down barriers that I had subconsciously set up for myself in my freshman year. I find inspiration from Vincentian women like Louise de Marillac and Elizabeth Ann Seton to use my marginalized identities (woman, POC, daughter of immigrants) to enhance my dedication to the mission. Now, these identities are no longer mutually exclusive but are building blocks with which I continue to identify myself as a Muslim Vincentian woman. They complement each other and have helped me learn that there is no definition for what it means to be a Muslim, a Vincentian, or a woman.
Each is a result of distinct journeys, and when to put together, they form a more confident, socially responsible, and motivated leader. I have learned so much from my journey to being a Vincentian at DePaul given my diverse background, most specifically that regardless of gender, religion, race, or ethnicity the Vincentian mission is universal, and has the ability to resonate with every human who strives for social change.