Shannon Deitz is a woman in love with God, excited about her faith, and secure in her purpose, but it wasn’t always this way. She was only three 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 17, she was raped and continued to distrust a God who would allow such things. Again, as a freshman in college, she was raped a second time and 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, 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. With no place to turn, she found God, surrounding her with his peace. It was the beginning of a love story that continues to unfold day by day.
Shortly after her romance 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, 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 blossomed, 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 influence through 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 Ministry, an advocacy non-profit organization (501c3) 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. Hopeful Hearts Ministry strives to help those who have suffered abuse not just survive but thrive. Beginning in 2012, Shannon has been called to keynote retreats and seminars for women’s groups in Mississippi, Washington and Texas.
Deitz’s purpose in founding Hopeful Hearts was to help give a voice to those who are afraid to speak out. “My experience in helping survivors of abuse is no matter the age or the type of abuse, you don’t feel like you have a voice. You are either shamed into silence, made to feel guilty, 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 desire to be a voice for them and hopefully encourage survivors regardless of age, gender, or race to begin the conversation about abuse. The more we talk about it, the better chance the cycle will be broken,” says Deitz.
In 2013, Hopeful Hearts Ministry launched the I Have a Voice YouTube video series, revealing 5 emotionally-charged personal stories of abuse survivors. The I Have a Voice project consists of intensely moving interrelated videos, all with a collective purpose to help victims overcome their past and be empowered to move forward.
Deitz was honored with the Family Time Women of Achievement Award for Women’s Advocate in 2014. Her monthly column, “Shannon Deitz: On Hope,” is particularly geared towards parents of teens. She has also contributed articles to CatholicLane.com, Lifestyle & Charity magazine and Catholic Women magazine. She and her husband, Neal, live in Kingwood, Texas, where they are active in their local church and community. Together, they present a refreshingly honest (and sometimes humorous) marriage seminar entitled “The 3 C’s of Marriage: Covenant, Commitment and Compromise.” The couple has two sons, Ryan and Seth, who provide them with endless joy and reason to continually count their blessings.