• Giovanni Alvarado

Meet Father Terry Deffenbaugh

Welcome to Gio’s “Idols of Inspiration” where I interview various members of staff, students, mentors and professors from all over the USF campus. After having the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Lisa Walters, my next guest is sure to be another treat. This person can be seen in his office at the university chapel or walking around campus with a coffee mug and binder of papers ready to greet every passerby with a friendly hello. Any guesses as to who this might be? Hint: He knows how to mime.

If you guessed Father Terry, then you’re correct! Father Terry has a fantastic personality and is always passionate about what he teaches. He always knows how to give a good laugh or help people to reflect on the qualities of life. If you have ever taken his Intro to Theology class, you will know what I mean. Last semester, I had the honor of taking his class and enjoyed every bit of the daily discussions about our faith and life views. It’s great to see the similarities we share in what seems to be sometimes a divided society. Father Terry and his spontaneous and cheerful personality prove to us that we are all human and “God’s image to make the world a better place.”

Image courtesy of midwestaugustinians.org

Giovanni Alvarado: Describe your family, do you have any brothers or sisters?

Father Terry: I have a mother and a father that have already passed, but I do have a brother named Mark Deffenbaugh. My brother and I are 17 years apart so there was a big gap always between our ages growing up, but we get along very well to this day. I love my brother and enjoy meeting up when we can to talk.

GA: What made you want to work here and be a part of the USF community?

FT: What happened is I was involved in a lot of youth retreats, my first one being in 1973. Schools were closing and pastors were not having youth retreats any more. So, Sister Mary Elizabeth, our ministry vice president, was at the parish that the Augustinians had and she needed someone to take over the Chaplin role. “I could hire you now,” she said. She happened to get across our personnel director who got me the number and called her to get hired. It all really came down to being at the right place and the right time. It seemed to just push me in this direction and have been grateful ever since.

GA: How many years have you been serving the community here?

FT: This is my 6th year in total, but my 5th year in teaching. I really love my job and wouldn’t give it up for anything else.

GA: How have you changed from your experience working here? Did it enhance who you are?

FT: I like coming here; I love doing youth retreats and still continue to do a few when I can here. It’s nice to be coming to same place and same time because before when I was out doing many youth retreats, I would be going over 10 states and even Canada. I was on the road most of the time, so I love being here close to home. I live in a community with other fathers and enjoy the family feeling here at USF, but really enjoy teaching here more than anything.

I enjoy doing the Intro to Theology class because I feel I am helping others find their own understanding of their belief in God. I believe it’s really important that we have different religions here so that we may learn from each other more. I enjoy coming here it’s a really good school and a good fit for me. I also do daily mass here and love the big family. I look forward to who I meet walking around, everyone feels welcomed.

GA: What is your personal mission while working here?

FT: I hope that here and in ministry people understand that God has created us and has given us to the world to make it a better place. As well as, basically, that I hope I can help people find their own “mission” and how will they come to change because of it. It’s really interesting being in a university, I get to see students come in and graduate moving on to their careers and in some ways, they take a little bit of St. Francis with them.

GA: What are your hobbies, interests and talents? Anything people should know about you?

FT: I like being out in the forest walking, I really like to be out in nature and just take a nice walk. You can really see the beauty of what nature has to offer through walks. I also know how to mime as well.

GA: What’s your favorite song and movie?

FT: (laughs) You probably know what my favorite song is, especially those that have been in youth retreats with me. It’s “Piano Man” by Billy Joel of course! It’s no rumor that I play it a lot on retreats, its very true. To be honest, I don’t really like to see movies more than once. I like all kinds of movies from action to musicals, you name it, I am just not big on seeing a movie over and over again.

GA: What do you want to see change in the world?

FT: I don’t think we should be so angry all the time. It drives me crazy when people put things down on you, if you can’t say something positive of somebody, don’t say anything. That’s not what we do, we don’t need to be confronting each other all the time.

GA: What is one inspirational quote you would like to share to people reading this?

FT: “There are no problems, just opportunities to be created.” It’s the way I live my life. When things happen wrong, there is an opportunity to be created with it.

As the interview sadly came to a close, I noticed Father Terry smiling. It was really great to interview him. It was as almost a breath of fresh air came through the small window of the chapel guest office. For those that haven’t taken an Intro to Theology class, I strongly recommend trying to get it with Father Terry because he is a very open minded, inspirational person and a good man of faith. You will not regret it. Father Terry is quite the character. A character of what strong faith represents, what life is personified to be and truly an angel on earth.

Cover photo courtesy of Julie Jandeska (https://goo.gl/images/n4t2Y1)

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