2004 - Reported in Spirit
Daily.com online newspaper. "In 1992 my life changed dramatically,"
says Father Donald Calloway. "I had a profound conversion experience
after reaching rock bottom."
indeed! Now a 31-year-old priest who serves as assistant rector
at the National
Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Father
Calloway had been a runaway youngster who was immersed in everything
from drug abuse to theft.
gone through all a boy could do up to the age of twenty," he
says. "My mother had been married three times and we had no
religion. The family was very hedonistic. There was a downward spiral
in my life."
It started in
Virginia Beach -- where his stepfather was based in the military
-- and continued when the family moved to California. Drugs, sex,
smoking, and drinking -- all by the age 11. "It escalated to
the point of getting out of control," he now recounts. "We
moved near Los Angeles. Then to Japan. That rocked my world."
continuously from friends and his environment, young Donald Calloway
had decided to teach his parents a lesson. As soon as they got to
Japan, he became a "living hell" for them. He tied in
with the wrong crowd and started doing "unbelievable"
quantities of drugs -- opium, heroin, alcohol every day, even inhaling
the fumes of gasoline.
to where he ran away from the military base and fled around
the foreign country, committing felonies -- stealing "massive
amounts" of money, cars, mopeds. He even got involved running
errands for the Japanese "mafia."
no concern about anything or anybody," says Father Calloway,
whose mother had a breakdown, ended up consulting a priest, and
became a Catholic -- something young Donald knew nothing about.
She was also forced to return to the U.S. without him. Police even
tapped phones to the military base to try to get the youngster,
and finally did apprehend him. When they did, Calloway spat in the
face of one of the military cops. By now he was 15 with long hair
and a profane mouth -- so wild that he was shackled and deported.
of Japan, Calloway returned to the United States, where he told
his mother he hated her but agreed to enter a rehabilitation center.
In short order he ran away from there too and went back to drugs
on an even grander scale. Heroin, crack, LSD, uppers, downers. And
there were the girls. "There came a point where I started following
the 'Grateful Dead' and living in places like a tree trunk,"
recounts the priest. "In Louisiana, I ended up in jail. It
was an absolute mess."
He was a drop
out, his hair down to his belt. He was tattooed. It was "a
life cycle of death." There was another attempt at rehabilitation,
but of course, that fell short again. In fact, the drug use got
one night in 1992 I knew that my life would radically change, that
something was going to happen in my life to cause a radical change,"
he says. "I knew something was going to happen. Something was
It was this
peculiar, sudden, and powerful intuition that changed his life --
a feeling so powerful that he turned down the calls from friends
to come out to party as he did on a nightly basis. He still has
trouble explaining exactly what happened. The prayers of a mother?
For a while
Calloway remained in his room waiting for this unknown "something"
to arrive, then went to the hall looking for a magazine or book
to read as he waited, guided by an amazing internal feeling. "I
wanted to look at some kind of magazine with pictures while I was
waiting, something like National Geographic, with pictures, and
I went out there and there was a book that caught my eye,"
he says. "On the binding it said, The Queen of Peace Visits
It was a
book about the apparition site in Bosnia-Hercegovina by Father
Joseph A. Pelletier and Calloway couldn't comprehend what the words
meant. He wondered if his parents had taken up a foreign language!
Looking at the pictures, he saw six children staring up into nothing.
It was the seers during an apparition -- something he had never
even heard about. He read the caption and it said they were looking
at the "Blessed Virgin Mary." He was so poorly versed
in religion that he didn't know who the Blessed Mother was. "I
thought Jesus was like Santa Claus," he recalls. "I was
a blank slate." Looking at more of the pictures, he saw other
words like the Rosary, Communion, and the Eucharist that he had
little idea about.
There was all
this Catholic lingo, but he began to avidly read it. He couldn't
put it down. "I read that whole book by 3:30 or 4 a.m. in the
morning," he says. "I ate that book like it was life.
I consumed it. And I said to myself, 'That is true. Everything in
that book is true.' She was saying that Jesus was God, and I thought,
anything she says is true. She seemed so beautiful and flawless.
She captivated my heart. And I said, 'I give myself totally to this
man went to his mother the next morning and told her he wanted to
see a priest. She was shocked. He knew there was a chaplain
on the base, and that's where he ended up going -- skipping with
joy like a little boy, his long hippie hair flowing past marching
caught up with the Navy chaplain, the priest told him to go to church
and sit in the back while he said Mass, and then they would talk
to him. Donald did as he was told, waiting as a small group of Filipino
women recited a repetitious prayer -- which of course was the Rosary.
Then came the moment that changed his life. The priest came out
with robes. Calloway thought it was some kind of performance. He
had no idea what was going on. "I was amazed. All these ladies
were kneeling and standing at the same time."
But it just
clicked. All of a sudden, this young man -- this drug abuser, this
runaway -- "knew" what was happening, that what was transpiring
was a "real" re-presentation of what had happened 2,000
years ago, and that it was being poured out again. "Time ceased,"
he says. "I saw myself at Calvary with the faithful beholding
the sacrifice of the lamb." Everything about it captivated
him. He felt the Presence of Christ -- knew He was there -- as the
priest held up the "white circle."
He was twenty,
going on 21, and "all I knew was that I was madly in love with
God and Our Savior."
So touched was
he by the Mass that Calloway was ready to go door to door to tell
everyone about it. The enthusiasm exploded. After Mass he went home,
tore down all his posters, grabbed several big black trash bags,
and threw away just about everything in his room -- replacing it
all with a picture of the Pope and another of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus, which the priest had given to him (along with a Crucifix).
remember ever having said a prayer in my life," he says of
his return to his room. "I looked at the book, the six children,
who were on their knees with their hands folded, and I did the same
thing and just looked. I had no idea how it worked. I didn't know
what was supposed to happen next. My eyes focused on the picture
of the Sacred Heart and as I looked at that image something within
me knew that was the God-Man hanging on the Cross -- and that everything
the Blessed Virgin Mary said was for people like me.
profusely. You could have filled a bucket. I was so remorseful for
the things I had done. Everything came on me at once. It was like
every fluid in my body was coming out of my eyes. Yet at the same
time I knew there was hope, and I was crying tears of joy. I was
almost laughing. I knew that this Jesus died for me and loved me.
a long time I laid on the bed and for the first time in years I
felt free. An unbelievable peace came over me. Something happened
to me that I don't know how to explain. Right on the verge of sleep,
something came from behind me and knocked me out of my body. My
soul or spirit or whatever was leaving my body. I couldn't say anything,
I couldn't move. The only person I knew to cry out to was Mary,
and I cried out spiritually. I was terrorized with fear. I screamed
with everything I had, "Mary' -- and all of a sudden I was
pushed back into my body with the force of a universe come crashing
down upon me and I heard the most beautiful feminine voice I have
ever heard and will ever hear say, 'Donnie, I am so happy.'
one called me Donnie but my mother," he notes. "It
And so was what
was to come next:
had lost his craving for all his vices -- from impure thoughts about
women to cigarettes. There was no more desire to do anything he
had been doing! "God had simply changed me, and it was unbelievable,"
he says. "Christ just overwhelmed me with His love. I started
'living' in the church, saying the Stations of the Cross until I
was worn out, even slept in the pews. I began reciting the Rosary,
wearing a scapular, reading everything I could on the saints."
He says he experienced
a supernatural "infusion of knowledge" about the faith
and became a Catholic within nine months.
he joined the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and discerned
a priestly vocation.
he finally made it to Medjugorje -- where he delivered the homily
as forty other priests joined him on the altar. "All I knew
was that I loved Jesus," he says. "I loved every minute
of Medjugorje. I'm going back in March. It's the edge of Heaven,
wonderful." At the seminary, he says, most of his peers had
also been there. "Our Lady is building up this army, this whole
new generation, layer by layer. Rank by rank they are coming out
of seminaries to take their places. There's a whole generation of
priests coming, and they're just like me. No nonsense. I always
tell people, get ready, because it's coming to a parish near you.
We've only known one Pope, and he's a saint. We've been formed by
the Blessed Virgin Mary and her apparitions. So many of the guys
I knew in the seminary, they loved things like Medjugorje or Betania
or Amsterdam or Kibeho. They don't have a problem with it. They
bite onto truth like a shark, and they're going to be the guys in
the seminaries teaching. They're going to be in the parishes. One
cardinal said if it were not for Medjugorje, he would have hardly
any seminarians. I compare it to Guadalupe."
open in the Church, Calloway opines, due to a lack of emphasis
on both Mary and the Blessed Sacrament. "You take away the
Eucharist, and you take away a priest's passion, his understanding
of who he is," he says. "And when Mary was deconstructed
-- made just a sister -- it tore priesthoods apart. I attribute
a lot of the problems to feminism. We need to go against that."
in the church are the result, he believes, of "the devil twisting"
priests and seminarians. "With no Mary, there is a lack of
tenderness and they seek in a new way," he asserts. On the
current culture, says Father Calloway: "It's not the kingdom
of Heaven. We're going back to Sodom and Gomorrah, and we're there.
And we better get ready for the Father's discipline. He loves us,
and because He does, He's going to chastise us." With youth,
the biggest problem is indifference, he notes -- the attitude of
"whatever." Everything is okay.
What is the
most important thing parents can do?
thing that a kid can see in the parents is for a man, a father,
on his knees," says Father Calloway. "That is strength.
When a man is on his knees, that is stability. When a kid sees that,
it's a confessional statement. It speaks volumes. And when they
see a mom and dad being kind and loving to one another, that's also
important -- showing kindness to each other."
As for his conversion,
Father Calloway notes: "There are no accidents in life. Everything
happens for a reason, because of God the Father's plans." And
as for Our Lady of Medjugorje: without her, he says, "I might
Visit the National
Shrine of the Divine Mercy.