With heartache comes feelings of despair and self-doubt, but for Victoria Hearst a heartache transformed her life into one of service and a sort of mending of hearts.
Hearst, granddaughter of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, satisfies her calling to heal through her Praise Him Ministries in Ridgway and the annual NightVision two-day music festival.
After a bad breakup with a boyfriend in December 1995, Hearst took refuge in her bedroom and was flipping through the channels when she came across the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The vision or pastor on the screen struck a chord with Hearst, who prayed, “God, I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. You take the wheel.”
Well, that wheel or compass ultimately led to Ridgway, where as Hearst tells it: God told me to go to Colorado and teach an after-school jazz dance program for middle school girls.
It will be the first of many “visions” or conversations with God that Hearst consults to drive her ministry, including planting the seed for the two-day concert, a bookstore, and of all things her work as a director and choreographer of the Chapel of Hope Choir at the Delta Correctional Center.
“I was happy running the bookstore, going to church, seeing the deer and having a good time doing my own thing,” Hearst said. “Then God says ‘Ministry.’”
Next thing Hearst knows is that, “I’m in a prison, a men’s prison of all places. I tell people I’m in prison on the weekend and work release during the week,” she says with a chuckle.
The irony is that Hearst “vowed” never to set foot in a prison after her sister Patty was convicted and sentenced to prison in connection with a bank robbery after being kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. President Jimmy Carter commuted Patty’s sentence in 1979.
“Once she was out I made a vow — we all have to be careful about making vows — and my vow was I never wanted to see a prison, go near one, be in one ever again,” Victoria Hearst said. “And then I get saved and shortly after that … it’s been nine years I’ve been working with the prison ministry. That’s how I know it’s from God, because that’s not me.
“Was it hard? No, and that’s the funny thing.”
As a child, Hearst envisioned her life as an actress, singer and dancer, spending years training in the three disciplines and appearing on TV shows, including “General Hospital.” It was that break up that ultimately ended that dream, but the skills she learned as a youngster are serving her well in her ministry.
“The scene of my life was movies, TV, lifestyles of the rich and famous. You know, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, you give to charities …,” Hearst said. “That was the vision of my life, and God is going, ‘That’s nice …’ But it’s funny because I’ve been trained in acting, singing and dancing and I’m using those talents with the ministry.
“So I’m having a good time.”