I just finished reading "No Turning Back - A Witness to Mercy" by Father Donald H. Calloway, MIC, which I received for free from the Catholic Company in return for my review.
The book begins with a classic on foot chase through a Japanese train station as the good guys set up and pursue the bad guys. In this case, one of the bad guys was Donnie Calloway, a 15 year old thief and drug user. He was the king-pin of a group of boys who robbed the Japanese town surrounding an American Naval base where their fathers were stationed. After being caught and arrested, Donnie escapes briefly by running out of the door and into some deep woods. To avoid the dogs that were sent out after him, Donnie hides in a drain pipe. Somewhat ironically, it is full of raw sewage. How metaphorical! After he is caught, he is deported and spends some time in rehab.
After an unsuccessful stint in rehab, Donnie is back to his old tricks. Drugs, alcohol and girls are the only things he cares about. Running away, getting arrested for stealing a case of beer, stealing a car and money - all of these things were not uncommon for Donnie. He became a Grateful Dead groupie, following the group from show to show, reveling in the drugs and the sex available among the followers. By his own admission, he was bad to the bone.
Eventually, the money ran out and he was on the lam from the law. He had no choice but to go back home. Hardly a model son, his parents take him back in. During his absence, they have become Catholics and Donnie rolls his eyes at their devotion. He doesn't understand it. He resents it.
One night, bored and restless, he goes into his parents bedroom, looking for something to do. He picks up a book. His intent is only to look at the pictures, but he finds himself intrigued. It's a book about the apparitions at Medugorje. The whole thing is foreign to him, but he begins to read and study. He reads all night and by morning, he is on fire. When his mother gets up, he insists that he HAS to talk to a Catholic priest and it has to be NOW. Marveling at the change in her son, his mother makes a phone call. The priest agrees to an appointment later in the day, but Donnie insists that he can't wait. Taking his mother up on her suggestion to visit the Catholic chaplain on base, Donnie takes off running. Long haired, scraggly and dressed in the clothes he wore the day before, the priest is not sure what to make of his young man who insists that he HAS to become Catholic NOW. The priest invites him to the Mass that he will be celebrating soon and an entire new world opens up for Donnie. He returns day after day to talk to the priest and to learn. He begins his study in order to join the Church. His former life now only a memory, Donnie soon understands that he is being called to the priesthood. Because of his love for Mary, the mother of God, he investigates orders devoted to her and chooses The Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. They agree to accept him and thus begins his 10 year road to the priesthood. Because of his former lifestyle, he needs to begin by earning a high school diploma. After the GED, he begins college classes and then seminary. He is now a priest and travels the world telling his conversion story to parishes, schools, prisons, etc.
I enjoyed the book. Roughly 2/3 of the book deals with his hell-raising days, in order to impress upon the reader how bad he was and how great God's mercy is. The only criticism I have with the book is that any lasting effects of his drug and alcohol use and his addiction to pornography are glossed over. It is is as if that night marked the end of all of that. There is no discussion of the pull of those addictions and there is very little discussion on the reactions of his former friends. Did they try to change his mind? Did they tempt him with drugs in order to get him back? It is as if they just shrugged their collective shoulders and left him behind as they went on with their lives. He does mention that he is as tempted as any other man, maybe more as Satan knows his weaknesses. How he deals with those temptations would have been instructive.
It's a good book and a great story. It left me wanting to know more about this man and his incredible journey. Thank you to the Catholic Company for the opportunity to read and review this book.