StoryCorps series captures local stories of faith

By Joyce Duriga
Sunday, March 20, 2016

For two days in March a team from StoryCorps, a radio series that airs on National Public Radio, visited Chicago to gather stories from local people about specific moments when faith impacted their lives.

The team received such a positive response that they will return for two more days in May to record more stories.

“The emphasis is on what actually happened, not what people believe as a profession of faith but how what they believe really mattered to them at a certain moment in their lives,” said Paul Elie, a codirector of StoryCorps and director of the American Pilgrimage Project at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

StoryCorps is an oral history project that, since 2003, has collected and archived more than 60,000 interviews from more than 100,000 people.

All of the interviews, which span various topics, are archived at the Library of Congress in Washington.

The idea to record stories of faith came from Elie, who secured funding for the project through Georgetown University.

His first set of stories was with American religious women in 2012.

Based on the funding he has, Elie picks a few cities each year from which to collect stories. On March 10-11, they visited Chicago.

“This year I came to Chicago because I love the place and I have a fair number of connections, and know that the vitality of religious life in Chicago is really something,” Elie said.

Sixty to 70 stories of faith will be recorded in 2016. Out of those, 10 or 12 will be edited and submitted for broadcast. All will be posted on the website of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown. StoryCorps airs one story a week and records around 6,000 stories a year so there is no guarantee the stories recorded in Chicago will make it on air.

But capturing the stories is important, Elie said.

“The idea is that after five years we are going to have 350 or 400 stories that could be a picture of American religious experience,” he said.

To set up interviews, Elie and his team contact people they know in each city and ask for suggested interviewees. In each session StoryCorps has two people either interview each other or one interviews the other.

On March 11, Jesuit Father Bill Creed, founder of the Ignatian Spirituality Project, came to record a session with Martin Kelliher.

In their recording Creed read a letter Kelliher wrote to him while Kelliher was in prison. A recovering addict, Kelliher was incarcerated for about three years and the only person who visited him was Creed, a longtime friend.

Reading the letter led the men to talk about the importance of faith and being present to others.


  • storycorps
  • national public radio
  • georgetown university