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 two of a two-part series excerpting from his new book, No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy (Marian Press). To read part one, click here.
I had come to know that The Divine Mercy message and devotion were one of the greatest gifts that God had given to the Church in our times. I had fallen in love with this message and the great secretary of God's mercy, St. Faustina Kowalska. At the core of this message and devotion is a spirituality of trust. As many people know, at the bottom of the image that depicts Jesus as The Divine Mercy is the inscription "Jesus, I trust in You!" It is precisely that spirituality of trust that I had welcomed into my life and wanted to tell others about.
So when I found out that the Marians were like the guys on the front lines when it came to spreading this message, I so wanted to be a part of that. As a matter of fact, Pope John Paul II even told the Marians in 1993 that they were to be apostles of Divine Mercy under the maternal mantle of Mary. What more could I ask for than being a Divine Mercy priest!
But what also excited me was that the Marians were orthodox and faithful. They clearly loved the Eucharist, the Pope, and observed the teachings of the Church. There were also young men there who were on fire and talked of Marian apparitions. They spoke about all the things that were really important to me and had brought me to Christ and the Church.
As the weekend came to a close, I was so enthused about what I saw and heard that I told Fr. Dunn I wanted to stay. I didn't even need to return to Virginia; I offered to have my stuff shipped up to Washington, D.C. Father Dunn appreciated my enthusiasm, but he chuckled and said, "There's a little more involved to this process than that. Why don't you go home and pray about it. Then, if you decide to apply to our community, I will send you an application and we will begin the process."
When I went back home, I began praying. I felt an emptiness about not being with the Marians, which indicated to me that this was where God was calling me. I wanted to bear Mary's name, and this was the perfect opportunity.
Meanwhile, the Marians were honest and up-front about my prospects for acceptance. "You have a past-and-a-half," said the Washington house superior, "but if God is calling you to our community, we don't want to get in the way. We want to be open to God's will."
However, I learned that the application process wasn't the only obstacle I had to overcome. Becoming a priest is typically a long process, and it would be even more protracted for me. Normally, it takes approximately six years to become a priest, but in the event I was accepted, I would have an extremely long formation. For me, it would take about a decade — owing to the fact that I not only lacked a college degree, I didn't even have a high-school diploma.
I was only 20 years old, so at the time, a decade amounted to half my life. Yet, while the time commitment seemed daunting, I felt like I had nothing to lose. In my mind, I felt like I should have been dead already. Now I was getting a second chance.
"Don't get discouraged thinking about the length of time," counseled the house superior in Washington. "Always keep in mind that wine that ages over time is better." If that were the case, I would be like a very fine wine because the long journey towards priesthood would assure I was going to age for a long, long time.
I formally applied to the Marians in early 1993. Next came the formal application process, which proved difficult. Because of my background, remembering, reviewing, and explaining my past was trickier for me than for most applicants. Like any other prospective candidate, I had to fill out a form that covered my family history and education, plus I had to provide my confirmation certificate, my baptism certificate, and all my high school transcripts. I also had to deliver seven reference letters and undergo a daylong psychological exam — one that involved answering an awful lot of inkblot questions. Finally, I had to write a five-page autobiographical essay and submit to a comprehensive medical exam.
After doing all of this, all I had to do was wait for an answer from the provincial superior and his four provincial councilors. Patience wasn't yet one my virtues, so the waiting for an answer was agony.
When Fr. Dunn called and notified me that I had been accepted into postulancy — the first year of formation — I was ecstatic. My mother was equally thrilled. At that point, I had been Catholic for almost a year, yet the Marians still decided to accept me and give me a chance. It was amazing that I was actually going to do this and, in a sense, live like they did in the early Church, where everything was going to be about Jesus and Mary and striving to save souls. Miracle after miracle was happening, and everything I had hoped for was coming true.
For more information about Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, please visit his website, www.fathercalloway.com.