Since 1975, Alice Pfeifer has been a Roman Catholic sister. She has a master's degree in English from Marquette University and a master's degree in Pastoral Studies from St. Joseph's College of Maine. Over the years has worked as a teacher, editor, writer, and foreign missioner.
It has been over a decade since you served in Russia. Why did you choose to write and publish "Conversations with the Elders" now?
These essays were originally published in the Ellis County Star, but Sister Mary Elise has always hoped that one day we could put them all together in a book. However, they needed some good strong editing first, and that was something I wanted to do myself. I was waiting for a period of unemployment or under-employment to tackle the job, and that time finally arrived.
What inspired you and Sister Mary Elise to conduct these interviews?
We both grew up in Volga German communities in Kansas, and we long had wondered what had happened to the people our families left behind after they came to America in the 1870s. When we got the chance to go to Russia in 1994, we met many German Russians who had been deported to labor camps during WWII. We wanted to collect as many of their stories as we could before the people of that generation died. As a matter of fact, the very first person we interviewed turned out to be a man whose birth date was the exact same as my dad's -- November 9, 1918 -- but Frederick Staab had already outlived my dad by 20 years.
The title poem for this collection considers one of the simple everyday joys denied to Anne Frank during her cramped life in the secret annex. These poems include personal observations and memories, spiritual and biblical reflections, and social commentary. All are rooted in the life of a US Catholic sister whose work has taken her to several different US states and two foreign countries.
This book contains 82 poems offering brief reflections on the Gospels, Gospel-inspired social concerns, and the author's personal life as a Roman Catholic sister. The author names the 20th-century German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a major influence on her writing for this collection. A study guide is included to aid both personal reflection and discussion in reading circles and book clubs.