Photo: Robin Parow

New Documentary Goes to 'Extremes'

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By Chris Sparks (Nov 25, 2013)
Marian Press has just released Extreme Mercy II: The Expanded Fr. Donald Calloway Conversion Story. We sat down with the man himself to find out more.

Other DVDs have been produced about your conversion story. How is this one different?

Well, I think one of the differences right off the bat is that it's a live presentation before an audience, whereas many of the other ones that we've done officially have been just me talking to the camera or looking off into the distance. Then this one has one-on-one interviews interjected into the presentation throughout. That makes it a little bit longer, of course, but at the critical moments where I'm talking about something really intense, very emotional, or whatever, that's when we stopped and Megan and Robin there at the candle shrine in the Marian Helpers Center asked me about things like, "What did it feel like when you were experiencing this hate towards your mom?" So I answer those kind of questions all throughout. They help to fill out the intense aspects both of my preconversion and then my conversion. And they did that beautifully — I mean, they interjected them at good points. I think it flows really well.

It's the same conversion story, but we get a behind-the-scenes look at it in a new way?

That's a good way of saying it.

And this is all interspersed into the conversion story itself?

Yeah, so it's not right at the end or anything. It's during it. You'll get about 12 minutes of me telling the story, and then you'll get a little interjection of maybe a minute of an interview.

In the behind-the-scenes interviews, what are some of the topics you address?

Not having God in my life; living for pleasure and thinking that that was happiness; the hate toward authority and my parents that I had as a teen and how I acted out on that; and the experience of having a dysfunctional family and the effects that had on me as I lived my teen years. And then obviously the conversion experience: what it was like to read something about Christianity and what my initial thoughts were, and how I continued reading and it just blew me away. Also the experience of God's mercy — I mean, knowing, thinking to myself, "There's no mercy for me because I'm at the bottom of the barrel," and yet God is all good and all merciful, and so there is mercy for me. Those kinds of questions.

Who would benefit most from viewing this DVD?

Probably two groups. One would be teens. [The DVD would be useful] for youth groups or church functions. I've actually heard a lot of feedback from [religious educators who show the DVD] to their Confirmation class or the church youth group, and they love it. I have friends who are teachers, and they've shown it to their classes [who've] just been really drawn to it. They've said it's helped them to understand more about their faith. The other group would be parents who are struggling with problems in the family, especially with their children. You know, it gives them a hope and a reason to hang on and keep praying and not give up. I've heard that feedback from a lot of parents as well.

What is the main message conveyed through your conversion story?

I would say definitely hope and mercy. Hope in the sense that no one's lost, no one's beyond the reach of God's mercy. And then I think it's also a witness to God's mercy. Like John Paul II and Pope Benedict, and probably even Francis now, said, "Be witnesses to mercy." So it's just giving testimony that I was so far away. People can really learn that there really is hope for their particular situation, whatever it is.

The film ends with a song written about you, and a scrapbook containing never before seen photos chronicling your life.

Some of the photos I hadn't seen in a while! I think the song is beautiful. I know Robin Parow (Chief Communications and Publicity Officer for the Association of Marian Helpers) is being humble about it, but, you know, she wrote it. A whole bunch of people there at the Marian Helpers Center helped out and did the music. I just think it's a really unique tribute to Our Lady because the song is about mercy and Our Lady. It's just beautifully done. I think her voice comes across so lovingly, so feminine and beautiful. Interspersed with those pictures, it does something emotionally, at least to me, because I mean it's about me, but I think it draws out the element of not being lost. For a time, I was far away from the truth and living in sin and darkness. The pictures take you through those stages and then it comes to the conversion and you see new life. It's a song, once again, that talks about the extreme mercy that's been shown to me, as the title says.

When you saw the pictures and heard the song for the first time, what especially hit you?

The reality of it. I mean, it always hits me, but when you see it in that way, it does something deeper. It's like, "Wow, I mean, that's me. This is what has happened to me." I've told my story now so many times it's crazy, but then when you see it ... it's one thing to hear it, but then it's another thing to see the pictures and feel the emotion of the song. You end up giving thanks to God for the reality of what has taken place and the conversion.

Marian Press will be releasing your next book in 2014. Can you give us a sense of what's coming?

Well, basically it's super simple, I mean, definitely the simplest book that I've done. The one for next year is just going to be 366 Marian gems, the quotes on Our Lady that were in my book Under the Mantle, one for every day of the year (including Feb. 29). I've tried to the best of my ability to link them up with the particular saint that's liturgically celebrated on that day, so if I have a quote from a saint that said something about Our Lady, you'll find it on their day, and then a title for Our Lady underneath it, asking her to pray for us. "Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us." So it's just a nice little book to have as a daily devotional. I have another book that's going to be coming out in 2015, as well. It's probably jumping the gun, but in 2015, I'm working on one for the Rosary. It'll be the same format, but it'll have a quote from either a pope, a saint, a blessed, a venerable, or a servant of God for every day of the year that's specifically on the Rosary.

Anything else you'd care to share about the DVD?

I guess I would say I've been a priest now for over 10 years, so, in the updated and expanded version [of my conversion story], I've really been able to present it now in a more — I don't know what you would say — in a more complete way. Sometimes before I would just jump around. People have said, "Maybe you should include this in your talk or you should talk about this or how you got your vocation after you had your conversion because your story just ended and we were wondering." In this one, I take people from the beginning when I was a kid all the way up to the present. It flows really well. There's not a lot of missing pieces because I've been delivering it for 10 years so I've got a method down of talking about it. People are not left wondering, "Oh, what about this? What about that?" It's the complete version ... that's why it's two hours long.

To order Extreme Mercy II, please visit our online catalog. To arrange for Fr. Donald Calloway to address your organization, visit

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Alan & Anh Middleman - Dec 7, 2013

Yes, we agree with George Samite. We hope his story makes it into the movie. What's an inspiration it would be for the younger generation. Maybe Martin Sheen and his sons will produce the movie.

George Samite - Nov 25, 2013

Good news! I hope his story makes it into a movie someday. It is so needed for this generation.

Erica - Nov 25, 2013

My students are always inspired by Fr. Calloway's conversion story and can never get enough of it. I'm so happy I will have more to share with them. Thank you, Father!