All Stories Are Teachers!

Blog Published: December 29, 2021
By Elisabeth Deffner
colorful magazine covers

I’m not sure there could have been a better time than Advent to come on board to A Nun’s Life.

It’s the start of the liturgical year—what a fitting season to start a new adventure! It’s a time of anticipation, and I am certainly eager to dive in as Program Director. And it’s a time of preparation, which is exactly what I’ve been doing: planning and brainstorming for an exciting year of blogs, podcasts, and more.

I’m so grateful to be here, and so looking forward to immersing myself in all things A Nun’s Life!

Elisabeth DeffnerI’d like to introduce myself to you, but as a longtime writer and editor, I’m more accustomed to telling other people’s stories for publication, than to sharing my own. So I’ll compromise: I’ll share with you three of the stories I’ve written that have impacted my own life—showing me the truth about joy, the importance of openness, and the surprising nature of sainthood.

First, a hard-hitting story the like of which I’d never heard, or written, before.

Nearly 10 years ago, I spoke with a woman who had been sold to a man who imprisoned her in his home, where he used her and abused her for more than five years. When her captor was later killed by a neighbor, this young woman was wrongfully committed of the crime, and spent more than 20 years in prison.

Her story was difficult to listen to—but it was even more difficult to try to understand her positive outlook. Instead of dwelling on the hell she’d endured, she spoke joyfully of living in freedom. Instead of mourning the years she had lost, she celebrated each new day.

Speaking with her was an incredible lesson in how to live life.

I got another lesson when I interviewed a teenage boy who was a budding filmmaker—and a quadriplegic. For this assignment, a magazine flew me out to his home where I could meet with him and his family, face to face, and talk about his films, his ambitions, and how his physical limitations impacted them.

It was difficult for me to ask bald-faced questions about how he handled his camera when he had such limited movement in his arms and hands, but his openness and grace helped me find my footing. My whole life, I had inched my way around difficult topics, but this young man helped me see that open conversation is so much more productive… and, often, easier.

More recently, I interviewed a successful businessman who truly lives out his Catholic faith. He and his wife raised eight children, he gives generously to organizations and causes that help others, and he frequently refers to the example provided him by a woman he became friends with: St. Theresa of Calcutta.

It was beautiful to hear him reminisce about visiting with her and her sisters, something he did multiple times. It reminded me that sainthood is not a distant, perfect thing, frozen in time. On the contrary: we are surrounded by saints we may not recognize, but whose virtues are easy to see (although perhaps challenging to emulate).    

My entire career has been built on sharing people’s stories with readers and listeners. Coming to A Nun’s Life, I am excited to work with sisters all around the world to tell their stories, to share their experiences, and to inspire listeners. I look forward to journeying with you!

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