Fr. Donald Calloway, 47, is a member of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary (MIC). His community served as consultants for Love and Mercy: Faustina, a new docudrama by Michal Kondrat about the life of St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-38), a Polish nun used by God to spread devotion to the Divine Mercy. The movie opened to packed theaters on October 28, and will return to selected theaters nationwide on December 2nd and 10th.
The Marian Fathers are a worldwide community founded in the 17th century in Poland who promote devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Divine Mercy and who pray for the souls in purgatory. The community’s U.S. headquarters is in Massachusetts; they have 500 members worldwide and 45 in the U.S., with an impressive 31 U.S. seminarians. Fr. Calloway serves as his community’s vocations director and lives in a Marian Fathers house in Steubenville, Ohio.
Fr. Calloway was born in Dearborn, Michigan, in a non-religious household. After a difficult childhood and living a worldly life as a youth, described in No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy, he experienced a conversion in which he “fell in love with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.” He converted to Catholicism 26 years ago, and 10 years later was ordained to the priesthood. He is the author of 11 books, including five on the rosary, and is a sought after speaker. He leads pilgrimages to Catholic sites throughout the world, including an annual trip to Poland.
He spoke with CWR about the new Faustina movie and the Divine Mercy, going on pilgrimage to Poland and his book Consecration to St. Joseph: the Wonders of Our Spiritual Father, which will be released January 1, 2020.
CWR: Your community played an important role in the production of Love and Mercy: Faustina? What are your thoughts on the finished product?
Fr. Donald Calloway: We love it. We’re inspired by it and we like how her story was presented. The first showing was sold out in many theaters, prompting its return to theaters in December. I was personally pleased that the movie chose to emphasize the importance of Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko, Sister Faustina’s spiritual director. Without him, things would not have been able to progress as they did.
CWR: Why is Sister Faustina’s story an important one for people to know?
Fr. Calloway: She shows us the importance of trust in God. Many times in her life it appeared as if all her efforts would come to nothing. She was criticized by members of her own religious community; priests she knew were suspicious and doubtful. But Faustina had extraordinary trust and she persevered, and ultimately accomplished much in her short life. We see this with so many saints; they are persecuted and endure much suffering, but in the end, their lives bear much fruit.
CWR: You’ve been on 12 pilgrimages to Poland, with another one scheduled for August 5-13, 2020. What are some sites related to Sister Faustina that pilgrims should visit?
Fr. Calloway: I like to take people to her home in Glogowiec. She came from a poor family, the third of 10 children. Her father was a carpenter. When you get there and look around, you realize that it is really in the back country, the middle of nowhere. It shows the simplicity of her upbringing.
I also like to stop at St. James Church in Warsaw. When Faustina first came to the city, she stepped off the train and looked to the right, and there it was. It was the first church she entered and prayed in. Another great site is the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, where St. Faustina is buried. It is very powerful to kneel and pray before her relics.
There are many other places not directly connected to Sister Faustina worth visiting as well, such as St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Niepokalanow monastery and Auschwitz cell and Pope St. John Paul II’s birthplace in Wadowice, and the mountains where he skied.
Poland is an awesome place to visit. I’m blown away by its Catholic culture. It’s the homeland of many famous saints. You see priests and nuns walking around in traditional habits. Churches are packed, and images of Our Lady and the saints are on street corners. I think it is the most Catholic country in the world.
CWR: You are going to Poland with Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry, which regularly presents conferences on the Divine Mercy in California. Why is the message of Divine Mercy important in our time?
Fr. Calloway: I think many people recognize their brokenness, and that they’re sinners, but find it hard to move forward because they think they’re beyond help. They’re tempted to adopt the YOLO philosophy—You Only Live Once—and live sinful lives just for the moment because they think their lives are so messed up. But it’s not true. God’s mercy is there for us, and greater than our brokenness. The realization of this can be life-changing.
God is the Father of mercy. Part of the saving mission of Jesus is to reveal the merciful face of the Father. The devil wants us to think that we are condemned, and that there is no hope. But that is not true. Jesus came for the lost, for the sinner, for the broken and for the wounded. He will take us to the Father, a Father who is God, to whom we can run with our wounded, bloody souls.
The Father has power. He can restore us. He can elevate us to a greater place than where we were before.
We live in a valley of tears, in a fallen world. We all have a cross to carry. We may not be feeling good. People we love are going to die, or we may be experiencing financial difficulties or have health problems. But God is telling us He is worthy of our trust. We can go to Him.
I speak publicly as a priest on the Divine Mercy, and I’m surprised when I meet people who have never heard of it. But the English translation of Sister Faustina’s Diary was only approved in the 1980s, which is nothing in Church time. So, it’s important that we get the message out there.
CWR: There are also many promises associated with the Divine Mercy.
Fr. Calloway: Yes. If you pray the Chaplet of Mercy at the bedside of the dying, for example, God comes not as a just judge, but as a merciful Savior. He pours out mercy for the salvation of souls. You don’t have to be a priest or nun to pray it; anyone can say the Chaplet in their home or parish church and offer it up for a person who is dying that day.
Also, for those who venerate the Divine Mercy image, God will pour out an ocean of graces. And, on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter, He empties out the heavens, pouring out unimaginable graces to souls who make an act of trust to Him on that day.
We must always remember that God is a loving Father, who wants to heal His children and give them hope.
CWR: Recent popes have emphasized the importance of God’s mercy.
Fr. Calloway: Yes. We have had three consecutive popes who have talked about being witnesses of mercy. What the world needs today are witnesses; people who give testimony of their relationship with Jesus Christ. They tell people, “This is who I was, and God brought me out of that situation, and is continuing to heal me.”
People who offer this witness are evangelizers, they are apostles: you have been sent by God to bear witness to His mercy. That witness has the power to bring people back to the Faith, back to the sacraments and to give them hope. It’s not only the popes who have called attention to this, but recent saints, like Mother Teresa. Everyone can be a witness to Divine Mercy. I hope those who watch this new Faustina movie will keep that in mind.
CWR: Why did you want to write your new book, Consecration to St. Joseph?
Fr. Calloway: 2020 is the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being named Patron of the Universal Church in 1870, making it a significant year to honor and celebrate St. Joseph. I spent three years writing this book, unpacking who he is, his virtues and titles. These are confusing times, and St. Joseph can be helpful to us. He is the head of the Holy Family, and the Terror of Demons.
I would certainly encourage everyone to read it. It will be available January 1, but people can pre-order it.
CWR: Why did you join the Marian Fathers?
Fr. Calloway: After my conversion experience, I wanted to give my life to God and serve Him. I loved Our Lady. I prayed about what to do. I sent postcards to different religious communities, and I received one back from the Marian Fathers. I visited, I thought they were great, and that they were the community for me.
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