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Walking in the Footsteps of St. Francis


At my Discernment Days retreat with Franciscan Mission Service back in March, Fr. Tom Washburn, OFM, told me that I may not know about St. Francis or Franciscan spirituality explicitly, but I definitely knew it implicitly.

I didn’t really know what he meant by that until now. As I have learned more about St. Francis I think I would agree with Fr. Tom; I may not have known anything about Franciscan spirituality before Formation, but I have been living it out in my actions. I guess I could say I have been walking in the footsteps of St. Francis throughout my life without even realizing it.

I, like St. Francis, come from an upper-class family who was leading a comfortable life. I was content in college, met some great friends, had a career path set for myself and everything seemed to be going well for me. Then, God suddenly turned my life completely upside down, and nothing was the same.

I, like St. Francis, found God in people living on the margins. I encountered people living on the margins at a young age in my life. My family was very involved in our community, so we would serve at a soup kitchen, visit the elderly in nursing homes, and work with refugee families on their transition to the United States. As I got older, I continued to find myself involved with people living on the margins through multiple mission trips. However, I would say I didn’t have my “real life changing” encounter until I was in college, when I had the opportunity to work with people on the margins on a more regular basis and get to know their stories.

It was then that God opened my eyes to their love and joy. I began to see past their wrinkly old clothes, state of living or run down houses, and look deep into their hearts, and see the light of Christ dwelling inside of each of them. I have been blessed with many beautiful encounters with those on the margins that has formed two-way relationships that has touched the hearts and lives of everyone involved forever.

I, like St. Francis, have tried to lead the outward life that God calls us to live, forgetting about myself, and putting the needs of others before my own. I have striven to not follow the rules of society, but rather follow my heart and this is exactly how Christ and St. Francis lived.

I, like St. Francis, am leaving my “old life” behind and following God’s calling for me. I’m leaving my comfortable life here in United States to go overseas for the next two years to serve those who live on the margins. In the true spirit of St. Francis, I am going not to serve, but to love. I hope to be an example of Christ for those I meet, but also hope to see the face of God in them. As I continue to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis and embark on this new journey with Franciscan Mission Service, I hope to continually be challenged and inspired by his story.

Erin McHugh has a strong passion for working with children and a heart for those living in poverty. After serving in South Africa last summer with Experience Mission, Erin is looking forward to building relationships and immersing herself in a new culture through Franciscan Mission Service. While her family now lives in Cincinnati, OH, Erin has roots in her hometown of Louisville, KY. Before pursuing her calling for international mission work, Erin attended Butler University for two years. There she was involved with the Butler Catholic Community and was co-chair of the service committee. Erin has been in Guatemala since January 2017.