Telling Our Stories

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

I remember as a young child of elementary school age wanting to write stories.  I even requested one of those writer’s kits to have my writing evaluated for publication.  I’m sure the publishing house that received my request must have known I was a young child and so they responded kindly, assuring me at my tender age that I had some writing talent.

We all have a story. Stories are an important part of our lives. Wherever we are and wherever we go, we tell and hear stories from sunrise to sunset. Stories emerge from the moment we wake up and recall our dreams to the stories we share with each other throughout the day.  Stories can be told in words, images, laughter, tears, dance, music, art, film, theater, and so many other forms. Each form evokes or conveys emotions that tell us about the human journey and connect us to each other. Stories can be uplifting and inspiring or thought-provoking or heart-breaking. All stories are important and deserve to be told and heard.

From the earliest of times, we know that stories were carved on cave walls to entertain, to inform, and to convey the culture, history, and values held by prehistoric societies. Stories are part of our oral and written traditions, where archives and museums exist to preserve humanity’s stories.  How stories are communicated may have changed over the years, from cave art and paintings to emoji’s and texting in our modern times.  But, it is clear that we have a longstanding, instinctive need to tell our stories and this holds true for the living and the dying.

One of my fondest memories as a hospice volunteer was the honor of assisting a dying man record his stories for his young children. He wanted his young children to know about his parents, his childhood, and his marriage to their mother—as seen and told by him.  He wanted to share his values, what was important to him, and his special memories with his children. Sharing this time with him was both heartbreaking and endearing. In telling his stories, he was finding meaning in his life and reconciling with the loss of not being around as his children grew up.  His life’s stories would give his children a connection to him even after he was gone. What a beautiful gift he was giving to his children!

Biographies and autobiographies are my favorite stories because they take us along a journey, where life unfolds often through poignant revelations and sacred recollections of where a person has been. Two starkly different stories, Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl captivated my attention as a young child and teenager.  Helen Keller’s story as a deaf-blind person and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, gave me hope and confidence in achieving success as a hearing-impaired person. (One person’s story can be a lifeline for another person.) Anne Frank’s journal of her family’s time in hiding during the Holocaust and her experiences as a Jewish teenager taught me not only about the inhumane atrocities that occurred in Nazi Germany but also about the resiliency of the human spirit to forge on even in the midst of dire circumstances.  Courage and fortitude are just some of the characteristics that these woman’s stories tell.

Whether a story is about hope or despair, or survival or loss, we can find meaning in the telling and listening of our stories.  Whether the telling of a story is about the past, the present, or future dreams, there is a liberating, affirming, and healing component to a story’s message.  Stories can empower us or disarm us, paving the way to new possibilities or awakenings.

When the Vocations team hosts retreats, discernment groups, and outreach programs, women participants always want to hear the vocation and ministry stories of our Sisters. The Sister’s stories help them to reflect on where they are, what their gifts are for ministry, and to envision what religious life is about.

Part of the application process for becoming a candidate within this community even includes writing an autobiography, where a woman can share her life’s story and spiritual journey as she reflects on God’s imprint on her life.

Are you ready to tell your story? To use your story to lift up others? To offer stories of healing and hope to others?  Want to know more about our story as Dominican Sisters of Peace?  We’d love to hear your story.  Contact a Vocation Minister today.

Posted in God Calling??

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