June 3, 2010
Pilgrimage of a Soul, Part One
We asked Phileena Heuertz--codirector of the international advocacy mission Word Made Flesh and author of the newly released Likewise book Pilgrimage of a Soul--a series of questions about her experiences that led to writing her book, as well as the experience of writing itself. Here's the first question, along with her response. More to come.
(SD) You've been doing advocacy work through Word Made Flesh for more than a decade. What drew you into that work in the first place?
(PH) In a few words, it was my love of God and compassion for the vulnerable that drew me in. After meeting some of the most courageous children, women and men living and dying in poverty, my life was changed. I could do nothing else but give myself for them. I had, in essence, discovered Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor and I have never been the same since.
From a young age I've had a passion and desire to serve the most vulnerable. I've always been drawn with compassion to those in need. In 1995, at the age of twenty-two, I traveled to India, Nepal and Africa to serve for the summer with Word Made Flesh. It was my first experience outside the United States. I engaged abandoned babies living in over-crowded orphanages, children living on the streets, and men and women of all ages dying from malnutrition and preventable diseases.
I joined Word Made Flesh (WMF) in 1996 with the intention of serving in Chennai, India with the newly established WMF children's home for AIDS-affected children. However, through a series of events, my plans changed when the WMF-USA board asked my husband (Chris) and me to oversee the administrative offices in the States.
In addition to my husband, Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity in India and Jackie Pullinger from Hong Kong were probably the most influential people in my life at that time who were bearing witness to hope among the poor. They set a high standard for service and advocacy, and I attempted to learn from their example.