We recently had the opportunity to interview Fr. Donald Calloway M.I.C., well-known Marian priest, popular speaker and presenter, and author of the new book No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy.
Father, our readers and customers know your name from your many books and talks, but can you give us some more information about your background?
I’m a convert to the Catholic faith. I was born in 1972 to non-Christian parents; my parents were not members of any religion. When my mother remarried I was adopted and baptized into the Episcopalian Church in southern Virginia. I was ten years old at the time. Unfortunately, we never went to church after that because the family really didn’t believe in God. Since my step-father was a military officer we began to move all around the country, and ended up in southern California. There I began to drink, do drugs and other immoral things at the early age of twelve. After that we moved to Japan. I didn’t want to move to Japan and eventually ran away at the age of fifteen. I caused an international incident and got deported from the country and had to enter into an institution back in the USA. During this time my mom and dad had a huge conversion to Catholicism, but I thought they were weird and wanted nothing to do with it. I started using very heavy drugs, dropped out of school, and was living on my own when I was 17 years old. I eventually had to go to another rehabilitation facility in Philadelphia and, unfortunately, that one did not work either. I ended up following the Grateful Dead around and got thrown in jail in Louisiana at age eighteen. Needless to say, I was not doing well in life. Yet, the God I didn’t know had a plan. At age twenty I hit ultimate rock bottom and one night in March 1992 I read a book about Marian apparitions that my parents had on their bookshelf and it radically changed my life. I ended up talking to a Catholic priest the next day and began my conversion to Catholicism. Things have never been the same since. All of this is recounted in great detail in my new book “No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy.” After my conversion, believe it or not, I responded to the call to become a priest. I had to study for ten years, but it was worth it. Now I have been a priest for almost seven years, and travel the world telling people about Jesus, Mary, and the Catholic Church. You can check it all out on my website: www.fathercalloway.com
Our readers/customers are always interested in the process of writing a book. Can you tell us both about the process you went through to write “No Turning Back” and perhaps your other books?
I have four books available. They all take so much work. I kinda live in airports so airports have become my office. No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy was about 6 years in the making. I wanted to do it right after my ordination, but got caught up in ministry and had to pace myself with putting it all together. At one point, I even put it on hold for about two years. My other books are: “Purest of All Lilies: The Virgin Mary in the Spirituality of St. Faustina”;“The Virgin Mary and Theology of the Body”; and “The Immaculate Conception in the Life of the Church.” All of these three books focus on some aspect of the Virgin Mary in the life of the Church. I love the Virgin Mary so much because she brought me to Jesus, and I want as many people as possible to know and love her. I have tons of more ideas for books about her, too.
Is your new book a biography or more of a spiritual memoir and why have you chosen to write your new book in this format?
It’s more of a spiritual memoir or autobiography. It’s not your ordinary Catholic book, let me tell you. I think this book is gonna rock souls for Jesus and Mary! It has a special appeal for young people because it is not a theology book or technical at all. It is written in a common, down-to-earth language that will really draw young people into the story. I would love for every young Catholic in the USA to get a copy. Also, there is a great message of hope in the book for parents who are struggling with rebellious teens or young adults. I was pretty much the worst of the worst, so if I can change, there is most certainly hope for others.
The message of Divine Mercy continues to have a profound impact on many people. In your opinion, what is the meaning behind this for our time?
Basically I believe that since our times are so messed up and confusing, God saved this message of Divine Mercy for us, here and now. God has always been merciful, but due to the craziness of the times in which we live, He saved this great message of his compassion and love for our times. Who can honestly say that they have not been affected by the culture of death in which we live? Even a chair that sits there collects dust! We are all wounded and in need of God’s redeeming love and mercy. The Divine Mercy message and devotion is the message for our times. Both Pope John Paul II and now Benedict XVI have told us this. Without God’s mercy we are lost and have no hope. So many people today think that they are beyond the reach of mercy due to their many and horrible sins. But this is simply not true. All a soul has to do is reach out for God’s unfathomable mercy and God will pour an ocean of mercy upon that soul and give such a peace to the person. All we have to do is trust in Jesus! He is mercy incarnate for us!
Can you tell us what role the Divine Mercy message has played in both your vocation to the priesthood and in your ministry as a Marian priest today?
I consider myself the ‘poster child’ for Divine Mercy! I’m so unworthy of God’s love, but because He is the Father of mercies I know that he loves me and is drawing me to himself. In a certain sense, I feel I have been bathed in mercy. And because of this I have been drawn to become an apostle of this mercy. What you have been given, freely give. So, as a Catholic priest, my role is to bring people into a relationship with the Father of mercies. No matter what I do as a priest: hear confessions, preach, conduct conferences, etc, I always seek to let people know that though their sins be like scarlet God is madly in love with them and wants their hearts. That’s what being a priest is all about. I want to bring souls to Jesus and Mary!
During Lent, this holy time of continuing conversion and repentance, our thoughts and prayers touch on themes of Divine Mercy. Please share with us some of your thoughts for Lent.
Lent is a time of going deeper with the Lord, seeking reconciliation with God and with others. Thus, the theme of Divine Mercy is a big one during Lent. For example, if you have been estranged from a particular relative for a period of time, why not reach out to them and extend a merciful invitation to start the relationship again. Oh, sure, maybe you were wronged in the past or an injustice was committed against you. Welcome to the fallen world! After all, we have turned from God so many times, and yet every single time we seek reconciliation with him, he takes us back with open arms. Thus, Lent can become a great time of ‘restored relationships.’ Mercy reaches out to the other, even when the other is not looking for it. Remember the prodigal son? Well, his father was longing for him to come back, waiting every single day for him to return. That is how God wants us to be towards our neighbor because that is how God is with us. Mercy, mercy, mercy. That is the message of Lent.
You are currently both the Vocation Director and the Director of the House of Studies for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Can you tell us how the Marians are spreading the message of Divine Mercy today? What effect has the Divine Mercy message had on Marian vocations?
My community, The Marians of the Immaculate Conception, are the official promoters of the Divine Mercy message and devotion. Our headquarters in the USA are in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where we operate The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy and the Marian Helpers Center. We spread the message of Divine Mercy more than any other group in the Church. Our website where we let people know about all our Divine Mercy materials and ministries is: www.thedivinemercy.org In addition, the Divine Mercy has proven to be such a blessing for us, too! We are attracting so many men to join us that it is amazing! We currently have 27 seminarians and are accepting another 8 this summer! We are busting at the seams with vocations. As the Vocation Director for my community I am so in awe of what Jesus and Mary are doing. We need a generation of priests who are apostles of mercy, and they are just on the horizon! You can check out our community at: www.marian.org.
You have experienced the unfathomable Mercy of God in your own life. We live in challenging times and many people are suffering in many ways. What message do you have for those in need of God's mercy in their own lives, who might be reading this right now?
I would say to them: no matter what you have done or could do, God will forgive you. Trust me, I know. My new book recounts most of the filthy, disgusting, horrible things I did in my past, things that I will be forever ashamed of. Yet, I can tell you for certain that God is in love with you, and pants for your love. Turn to him with humility, go to confession, and experience the freedom of living in the mercy of our heavenly Father. There simply is nothing like it on earth. I just can’t tell you the joy and freedom I experience after having gone to confession; it is the best feeling in the world! And all I can say after it is: Thank you, Father. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
What are some concrete ways Catholics can live and spread the message of Divine Mercy in their own everyday lives?
One of the best ways I can think of for living a Divine Mercy spirituality is by starting, or becoming involved in, a Divine Mercy Cenacle. Dr. Bryan Thatcher founded the Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy (EADM) and works closely with my community in helping people to live a spirituality of mercy by having cenacles of prayer where people reflect upon the message of mercy and seek to do concrete works of mercy in their particular area. It is a beautiful way to become a vessel of mercy for our times. You can find out about this particular apostolate of my Marian community at: www.thedivinemercy.org
Father Calloway, again, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to participate in this interview with us and thank you for your ministry and your service to the Church!
You may browse all of Fr. Calloway's book right here.
You may purchase Fr. Calloway's DVD right here.
Learn more about the Divine Mercy Message and Devotion right here.