Dr. Pfau, who had converted to Roman Catholicism and become a nun, discovered her calling to help lepers coincidentally.
In 1960, she was waylaid in Pakistan by a passport foul-up en route to a posting in India by her Roman Catholic order, the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary. By chance, she visited a leper colony in Karachi, where she met one of the thousands of Pakistani patients afflicted with the disease.
“He must have been my age — I was at this time not yet 30 — and he crawled on hands and feet into this dispensary, acting as if this was quite normal,” she told the BBC in 2010, “as if someone has to crawl there through that slime and dirt on hands and feet, like a dog.”
The encounter stunned her.
“I could not believe that humans could live in such conditions,” she told the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune in 2014. “That one visit, the sights I saw during it, made me make a key life decision.”