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No Turning Back

From runaway teen to Marian Priest: Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, has inspired thousands of people around the world to trust in our Lord's mercy. His radical conversion story is now sh... Read more

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From run-away teen to Marian priest, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, has inspired thousands to trust in our Lord's mercy. The following is part one of a two-part series excerpting from his new book, No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy (Marian Press).

I'm sure I startled a lot of people during my conversion period — especially all of my friends. Not surprisingly, my drug and drinking buddies didn't know what to make of the new me. Predictably, not to mention immediately, they began drifting away. One by one, they stopped calling. The reaction of these so-called friends was a real eye-opener. I came to the realization that if you took away the drugs and alcohol that brought us together, I had no relationship whatsoever with these people I called my friends.

But my former friends weren't the only ones who saw my behavior as radical. In the midst of my ongoing spiritual cleansing, I took virtually everything to the maximum. In those first days after my conversion, I spent each and every day in church praying all day long. I would go before the tabernacle and literally lie prostrate on the floor in front of Jesus. People would look down and assume that I had passed out, overcome by the intensity of my prayerful experience.

My radical ways even extended to my diet. I would fast or eat nothing but bread and water for three or four days at a time in an effort to go deeper. After I learned about the Stations of the Cross, I started praying them relentlessly — five or six times instead of just once. No one had told me you were only supposed to do it one time a day.

While some people believed I was going overboard, the Filipino ladies I had encountered on my very first visit to Our Lady of Victory appreciated my commitment and encouraged me. We soon became close friends. They would often remark, "It's so nice to see a young man who believes like you do." Throughout all of this, Fr. Callahan insisted on monitoring me for fear that I was a little too intense.

What my friends, Fr. Callahan, and these ladies didn't know was that I was spending a lot of time at Our Lady of Victory praying about how I could best serve God. I would kneel in church for hours asking what He expected from me. During this period, when I was attempting to discern God's calling for my life, one of these Filipino women approached me. She suggested that I pursue the priesthood. I was somewhat taken aback. I wasn't even Catholic yet, and this woman saw the priesthood in my future?

Shortly afterwards, she gave me several books. One was about the priesthood, while another contained postcards pre-addressed to a diverse array of religious communities. One could use the postcards to solicit information from the communities. I bought a roll of stamps and mailed in almost every postcard in the book. Sure enough, a handful wrote back to me.

In fact, the vocation director for one of these communities actually called me at home. It was a surreal conversation. I told him I was 20 years old and that I was very excited about the faith — that I loved Jesus and Mary and wanted to serve the Lord. Upon hearing this, he started to get very excited. I could almost hear him on the other end of the line thinking to himself, "Boy, this guy sounds like a really good candidate. He's the son of a military officer, a world traveler, and spends a lot of time in church."

"Tell me more," he urged. I went on to tell him how I had been homeless, in jail, in two rehab programs, and that I had done just about every illicit drug imaginable. And in the interest of full disclosure, I added, "Oh, and I'm not Catholic yet."

At that point, he cut me off and said, "I will pray for you, my son." Then he hung up on me. Was this payback for the time when I had hung up on a priest? I was extremely discouraged and confused by his reaction. On the one hand, my Filipino friends kept insisting I was destined to be a priest. Yet this vocation director's response suggested it might not be possible, not with a sordid past like mine.

So, after receiving many like responses, I got confused. I didn't know where to turn. My mother saw all the mail I was receiving and would periodically ask how things were going. But I sensed she was hesitant to add her input. Maybe she felt I was in God's hands now. Or maybe she was still in shock over the fact that I was interested in the priesthood and religious life. The idea that I was going to take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience and live in a community must have been startling.

Meanwhile, I didn't have a lot of patience in regards to finding a direction. I was so zealous that I would have been happy going door-to-door with my backpack, crucifix, Bible, and rosary, telling people about Jesus and Mary.

Ultimately, I turned to Mary for guidance. I asked Our Lady, "Please guide me in this because I don't know what to do. I am so in love with you because you have shown me Jesus, but I can't serve Him without you. It has to be everything through you to sustain me and keep me on the right track. So I will reply to those communities that have your name in their title."

Naturally, there were quite a number of religious orders with Mary in their title. And after I responded to all of them, I received additional information from literally dozens of different communities.

I was still confused, so again I prayed to Our Lady, asking, "Guide me to the community you want me to visit and look into."

Trying to narrow down the possibilities, I told Mary I would proceed by only continuing correspondence with every community that used her name twice in its own name.

As I was culling my list, I came upon one community called the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. "Wow, this one referred to Mary three times," I thought. "This must be the one I am expected to focus on." Mary had not only answered my prayer, but she had, in effect, upped it one.

It wasn't long before I called the Marians and immediately had a good feeling about them. I spoke with the Vocation Director, Fr. Larry Dunn, MIC. Warm and friendly, he was open to visiting me at my parents' home in Norfolk, Virginia. Father Dunn had been in the Navy when he was younger and was excited that I lived on a naval base and that my father was a military officer.

When we discussed my recent conversion, his response was much more upbeat than the previous priests I had spoken with. "God is doing amazing things through Mary these days," he said. "Let's see what happens."

A few weeks later, Fr. Dunn spent the day visiting me and my family. My mom fixed a big Italian dinner, and everything she did and said made me look good. Beaming the entire time Fr. Dunn was in our presence, Mom was happy but also clearly relieved about the direction I was headed.

Afterwards, Fr. Dunn invited me to spend a weekend with the Marians in Washington, D.C. It would be the next step in the process of figuring out if we were a good fit for each other. When I boarded the Greyhound bus to Washington, D.C., I had no idea what to expect, but I was hopeful.

When I arrived at the Marian House, everything felt so right. It was peaceful and so filled with Mary's presence that I felt at home. The Marians are also the official promoters of the authentic Divine Mercy message and devotion. That, too, felt like a good fit for me. If anyone had experienced God's forgiveness, it was me. I had a front row seat. I considered myself a poster child for Divine Mercy.

To read part two of this series, click here.

For more information about Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, please visit his website, www.fathercalloway.com.

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deb - Jan 26, 2010

dear Fr. Donald,
I just finished your book last week, and it is a beautiful walk through the Mercy of Our Lord, how beautifully you were brought to him through the love of Our Lady, what a loving,mother we have in her.
After reading the book, I put on the CD that you had collaberated on with Mark Mallett, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and you start with the prayers, when you started the Apostles Creed, I heard, "I believe in God", I started to cry, remembering your journey, the faith you have and share with others, the Merciful Lord through the intercession of Our Lady, in his mercy brought you home in faith, and in his mercy, he has brought you, to show, and be an example of Mercy in the world. You were shown mercy, to be mercy for others, to be a light.
God Bless you Fr., hope I get to see and speak with you, during Divine Mercy weekend.
May the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, be your health and your protection.
In Christ,
debbie Slavin

Mary - Jan 27, 2010

Great job done in your work, Keep Jesus close to your heart,your in my ptayers Jesus I Trust in You . God Bless

harry - Jan 27, 2010

I've just spoken to my brother in California on the phone and he has already bought your books for me. Cannot wait to read your conversion book father. And I will surely spread introduced your book to everyone here in Holland.
May Jesus and Mary protect you and all the Marians priests and brothers always.

paula gonzalez - Jan 27, 2010

oh, i'm so excited to know this! i have seen you speak and you really have a gift for telling it like it is. i'm sure your book is going to touch many people. there is a generation of lost souls that so needs to heare a message like the one you preach. i live in california and am wondering if your book is available in spanish? many of my relatives need a book like this but don't know too much english.

Erica T - Jan 27, 2010

This book should definitely be translated into Spanish.

Pat Darby - Jan 29, 2010

Dear Fr. Calloway,
Well, our dear Mother knew what she was doing when she called you, didn't she. I saw you when you came to St Monica's in Dallas some years ago. I have the DVD of that conference and have shown it to many, as it is such a beautiful story of God's love and mercy for us. I too experienced a life changing conversation through the Queen of Peace.
She is such a good Mother and teaches us the best way to love Jesus.
Words can't express the happiness I feel when I think of your story - it is such a shining example of God's love for us and that He never gives up on us.

Your passion inspires me..what a servant of Jesus and Mary you are!

Don K - Jan 29, 2010

Dear Fr. Don,
I was at the Schoenstatt conference in Wisconsin several months ago in which you were one of the featured speakers. Your humor and spirit were very inspiring with regard to the mercy of God. I had no idea of your background at the time, but took the time to read one of your books and watch the video you made of your life. I feel greatly blessed to have had the opportunity to have been in your presence and talk briefly to you. Your book and your life are very inspiring and I wish you well and will pray for you on your way to doing God's work. May God continue to bless you infinately, in Jesus Christ!
Don K

Rolly Lirio - Jan 30, 2010

Dear Father Donald,
I and my wife are so blessed having met you and heard your conversion story during the blessing and turn-over to the MIC of the 50-ft statue of the Divine Mercy in El Salvador, suburb of Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao, Philippines. I am also humbled identifying myself with the Filipino women who were instrumental in your priestly vocation. We have a picture posing with you and would gladly send it to you if you give me your email address. God bless you!

florence - Jan 30, 2010

so wanderfull to hear your story.Please pray for my son he is 31 and has the same problems and is in need of your prayers. I pray for him every day .i wish i could denote something .God bless you . thank you so very much

Marta Obregon. - Feb 1, 2010

Dear Fr. Donald,
Your AWESOME case, gives me so much hope for my son Stuar, he is in a place now, he has been in drugs and ran away from home several times, he is only 16 years old, he started this 3 years ago, I was home schooling him and his twin brother, but Stuart was pulled out by a big obsession to go to the wrong path. As a mother I pray for him all the time, sometimes my husband and I feel the pain so UNBERABLE. We are a very Catholic family and always dedicated to our twins. This bevavior from Stuart came out of the blue, he began escaping from home to try to find friends in the streets he found the so called friends and got lost in drugs. We just could not stop him, we called the police so many tiems. We tried to convince Stuart to make friends with other home schooler but he just did not want that. It has been a very painful experience Fr.Ronald, he began to use a lot of profanity towars me and threaten to kill me.That is when he got in and isnst. We his parens have been married for 37 year, and love eachother dearly, and also love our sons and tried to give the best to them. Fr. Ronald please tell me what to do, you just gave me so much HOPE, and I alwas ask Jesus and Mary to please help our Stuart, we consagrated him to the Inmaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Echaristc heart of Jesus. PLEASE FR. Ronald tell us something. We imagine how busy you are, but you coud interced for the soul of our Stuart. I beg you in desperation.
God bless you,
In Christ,

Needs Help - Feb 1, 2010

Thanks for your witness! Please pray for my health and to lose alot of weight and to keep it off. Thank you.
Needs Help

Deacon Len Long - Feb 3, 2010

Father Don owes me a nights sleep, because I spent last night reading his entire book, I couldn't put in down, but it was worth it! Everyone should read this awesome book about Our Lord's immense mercy! For The sake of His Sorrowful Passion, I never thought I meet someone who was cured by Jesus Through the intercession of St. Faustina and Our Lady! WOW!
God Bless,
Deacon Len Long

Br Graham-Michael bSH - Feb 7, 2010

I am deeply moved by your story which reflects so much of the Prodigal Son parable. Your message about 'friends' is particularly poignant, and it reminds me that no matter what - friend or not - we are all children of God, and he knows us and loves us.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world. It is a powerfully loving message. Bless you.

Carla - Mar 1, 2010

I am very disappointed in the Marians in accepting Fr Don for the priesthood.
After all he has done, which is a disgrace to the Catholic Church, and than the Marians accept him. I cannot believe that he did all of these things and than stopped after reading a story about the Marians. I'm sorry, but it is very taxing to believe that God would call this young man after all he has done to the priesthood. And there are other men trying to get into the priesthood, but can't. I am sorry, but I think thids is a disgrace to the Catholic Church.
Greatly disappointed in the Marians,

Kim - Mar 20, 2013

Hi Carla,

Fr. Donald is the evidence of God's infinite mercy. God listens to prayers. Fr. Donald's mom converted to catholic sometime before the conversion of Fr. Donald took place. Apparently, his mom has prayed tirelessly for her wayward son. The more I contemplate on Fr. Donald's conversion, the more I feel such love, such tender of our Lord's Heart. God never condemns us, but patiently waits for us to come back to Him. Even when on the cross, Jesus asked His Father to forgive those who tortured, mocked, and put Him to death.
The Precious Blood of Jesus washes all the sins of sincere repentant sinners regardless how ugly, dirty our sins were. Jesus's Blood is so precious and utmost worthy that all of our sins spotlessly be washed away if we come to Him with our truly repentant hearts and ask God for forgiveness. We must trust God on this, on His unfathomable mercy of forgiving our sins. Nobody is not worthy for God to save no matter what grave sins she or he had committed, for Jesus's Blood pours out for this only reason: to save us from the fire of hell, especially to those that the devil is very close to have them (Fr. Donald was among those).
Fr. Donald has touched many souls and transformed lives. One of my friends who was in drug, alcohol.... I let her borrow Fr. Donald CD. After she watched it, she told me: “I cry and laugh, and cry again, wonderful, God is wonderful". Now I can see on my friend's face expression of joy and hope that I have not seen before. She now knows that God loves her very much. Though every day she is struggling to get over her addictions, but she understands that God loves her and never condemns her of her sins but patiently lead her every little small step toward His lights and to free her from slavery of sins. This understanding gives her so much joy on her remaining journey.
Thank you Fr. Donald for sharing your life story with us. Thank you for your courage and humility.