Shannon Deitz is a woman in love with God and excited about her faith. But it wasn’t always that way. She was only 3 years old when the abuse began by a family member. While still a teen, her boyfriend was tragically killed in an auto accident, and she began to question a God who would claim a young man with so much life yet to be lived. At the fragile age of seventeen, she was raped and she began to distrust a God who would allow such a thing. Again, as a freshman in college, she was raped a second time, and she began to earnestly put as much distance between herself and God as she possibly could.
It has been said that the best thing about hitting bottom is that, when we do, we have no place else to go but up. Such was the case with Deitz. Growing up with such evil it is no wonder she struggled with low self-esteem. At the age of 27, having run from God as far as she could go, she found herself at the bottom of a life that was no longer tolerable. Having no place to go but up, she looked to Heaven. And there was God, surrounding her with His peace. It was the beginning of a love story that has grown more beautiful with each passing day.
Shortly after her love affair with God began in earnest, Deitz felt a distinct calling to begin teaching the teens at her local church. Not only did this give her an opportunity to share her own struggles as a teen and tell others how God changed her personal tragedy into triumph, but it also allowed her to look beyond the traditions to more deeply explore the intricacies of her faith.
Her work with teens led to a full-time youth ministry. Within the next four years, that ministry bloomed, allowing her to witness God’s amazing work in her church and her life. In 2007, her youth group was voted in the top five of EWTN’s Catholic Youth Groups in the United States, and in 2008 she was invited to speak on God’s unfailing love at the World Youth Day Festivities in Sydney, Australia. In 2011, she was again asked to speak at the WYD Festivities in Madrid, Spain.
Having spread the message of God’s amazing love to thousands of teens, she eventually felt called to broaden the sphere of those with whom she shared her personal story. Shannon wrote Exposed: Inexcusable Me…Irreplaceable Him (Believers Press 2010) as a way of offering encouragement and hope to both teens and adults suffering from physical and emotional abuse. In 2011, she stepped away from her parish ministry to have more time for speaking engagements and to start Hopeful Hearts, an advocacy non-profit organization (501 c3) giving a VOICE to survivors of abuse. The ministry exists to help others understand their worth and realize their full potential while also providing support to outreach programs that serve to educate and improve the lives of those similarly victimized. Beginning in 2012, Shannon has been called to keynote retreats and seminars for women’s groups in Mississippi, Washington and Texas.
Deitz purpose in founding Hopeful Hearts was to help give a voice to those who can’t speak out, to help and encourage survivors of abuse. “My experience in helping survivors of abuse, along with what I find to be true for myself, is no matter the age or the type of abuse you don’t feel like you have a voice. You are either shamed into being quiet or made to feel guilty so you don’t tell, or belittled enough that you begin to believe you deserve what is being done or said. You don’t matter. I think it’s time for survivors to recognize that they do matter and they are not alone. It is my goal (or desire) to be a voice for them and hopefully encourage survivors of all ages, genders and races to speak out and begin to talk about the abuse. The more we talk about it the better chance the cycle will be broken.” comments Deitz.
Discovering God’s willingness to carry our burdens on the day she hit bottom opened her heart. Now she delights in imparting that truth to others. It has become her calling, her passion and her joy and nothing pleases her more than the opportunity to share her love and excitement with everyone she meets.
Deitz is a columnist for CHOOSE-NOW Ministries and has been a ‘featured columnist’ with CatholicLane.com, Lifestyle & Charity magazine and Catholic Women’s magazine. She and her husband, Neal, live in Kingwood, Texas, where they are active in their local church and community. The couple has two sons, Ryan and Seth, who provide them with endless joy and reason to continually count their blessings.