A protestant missionary’s journey to the Catholic Church
“Madam, can I help you?” – asked a young priest, when Barbara Heil turned around and was about to leave the church, having been over confused by the Methodist community’s songs and God’s glorification. Upon the priest’s question she stopped and said: “Let’s get over with this stuff as quick as possible! Whatever you have done to them (reflecting to the members of the community), do the very same with me!” – recalled Barbara about the only memory that remained of the moment when a sort of warmth flooded over her soul. This miraculous meeting with God has totally and radically transformed her life.
Barbara Heil was born in Kansas - as she worded - into a tenth generation heathen family. As a child she had never been taken to a church, and had not heard a single word on Jesus. She had a very difficult childhood, she was 12 years only when her mother left the family, and her military man father was quite an aggressive type. From her childhood all she remembered was of having been whipped, for which she was crying a lot. However she had a friend who always comforted her. Whenever she looked out the window of her room, she saw someone in the sky, a friend, who provided consolation and stayed with her for years.
The adopted orphan
As a teenager Barbara was a bookworm, an excellent student, attending university on a scholarship in the State of Washington. Many of her college friends were members of charismatic communities, and she heard about Jesus for the first time from them. Upon their invitation she went to the Methodist church of Woodenville, where she got to know Lord. “Lord has saved and healed my life; once I was an orphan, and by now I have been adopted.” – recalled her then adventure Barbara.
It was here and then when Barbara realized that the person watching over her from the sky all along her childhood was Jesus himself. She was so happy upon this discovery that she wanted everybody to know about this experience. She wanted to let the world know that Jesus was living among us. She told the good news to her friends, and was talking about Jesus’ love to everyone she bumped into. Wherever she turned up, like in elevators of department stores, she started to evangelize: in the presence of total strangers she initiated a talk with her girlfriend about Jesus’ love. She has named these talks “30 seconds elevator Gospel.”
Barbara has decided to give her life to God. Being a member of the Pentecostal charismatic movement she had passed an amazing missionary journey, travelled to 55 countries as an evangelist and a pastor. She is a talented and inspirational speaker, with a passion to awaken people for their life in Christ. Over these journeys, her most memorable missionary experience was related to the streets of San Diego, where she evangelized amongst AIDS infected transvestite prostitutes, and where she could witness God’s miraculous transforming power. As she worded it: “Those people have found God, and thereby themselves as well.”
The same language
Several other denominations joined their mission, mainly around the Philippines, thus step by step she kept bumping into Catholic people. Over the ecumenical encounters she got acquainted with more and more Catholics, gained a better understanding of them, while immersing herself in the pillars of their faith. She attended a Catholic Holy Mass for the first time upon the invitation of an Irish priest, moreover, on top this was her very first visit even to a Catholic church itself.
A book, written five hundred years ago by St. Teresa of Avila that she had got from a Catholic friend, deeply touched her. She read it several times, and felt that Catholics speak her language, so with the time she increasingly felt at home in their Church.
Barbara has become a fan of the Catholic literature that she humorously called “Catholic Propaganda”. Many questions she asked herself, the answers of which she was searching on the internet. Hidden from everyone, she argued under a pseudonym with theologians over Protestant Internet forums.
Once, she was commissioned by her leader in Philadelphia to represent their community at a Catholic Pentecostal Charismatic Conference. At the Closing Mass of the event, over the glorification it was Jesus himself appearing to her. When she opened her eyes the priest of Omaha was standing right in front of her, holding the Sacrament above her head. This was such a cathartic experience for Barbara that she felt a real call to the Catholic Church.
In the meantime Barbara has lost her first husband, thus decided to go on a 13 months sabbatical. On her first day off, her mother called, telling her that she had been diagnosed with lymphoma. From that moment onwards Barbara spent with her mother as much time as possible, prayed for her and kept reading Catholic books. One day, on the shore of Lake Moses in the State of Washington her mother inquired what she was reading. Then Barbara started to talk about her amazing story. “But you do know that you were baptized Catholic, don’t you?” – asked her mother, then told her surprised daughter that she had been baptised at the Saint Francis Xavier Catholic church at the age of 6 months.
God has never forgotten their covenant
“I had no idea that I had been baptised, but God never forgot the covenant he was in with me. Through the baptism He remained with me all along my way, even though I was not even aware of his name” – said Barbara, who thereafter enrolled at the St. Paul campus of Minnesota for a 2 years catechetical-pastoral seminar, where she confirmed her full communion with the Catholic Church.
Upon finishing her preparation for taking the Sacrament, on April 27, 2013 at the St. Francis Xavier Catholic church of St. Louis she had her Confirmation, thereby strengthening her alliance with God. The very same year in Rome, at Pope Francis’ First Saturday Night Vigil before Easter she took the Sacrament for the first time in her life.
Barbara’s mother has been healed from cancer, and following the long years of pause, she has returned to the Church. Barbara, after her eight years of widowhood has remarried again. Currently she and her husband, Jeff live on a farm of Iowa, together they have 8 children and 10 grandchildren.
Many years have passed in a missionary service, before Barbara has finally found her role in the Catholic Church. She has been evangelizing ever since. Furthermore, she is of the opinion that it is not only the pulpit where one can preach from, but it can be done anywhere around the world, since plenty of duties are ahead of us out there.
Barbara Heil is going to hold a faculty at the International Eucharistic Congress.