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From a Slave to Sin to My Mother’s Arms: Fr. Donald Calloway’s Improbable Journey to the Priesthood



Fr. Donald Calloway - published on 04/21/15

Freed from a life of addiction, sin, and crime by an encounter with the Blessed Mother

Editor’s Note: Fr. Donald Calloway, a priest with the Congregation of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, tells his dramatic conversion story in his book, No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy. It’s a story of a young man enslaved by addiction and sin, and enmeshed in a life of crime. All was changed, and Fr. Calloway’s began his improbable journey to the priesthood after coming across a book about the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje.

In the book Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, Fr. Calloway recalls how having run away from home, been arrested, and following a couple stints in drug rehab the unrepentant Calloway came across his parents’ book on the Marian apparitions: 

Stupefied, I read the captions. “My parents are into some kind of a cult!” I thought with horror.

Fascinated, I took it to my room and began reading. At 3 a.m. I closed the book, having read it from cover to cover. I had no idea who the Blessed Mother was, but when I started to read about things like prayer, fasting, Jesus Christ, and His death on the Cross for me, I was overcome with a sense of love and joy. Much of it I did not even understand. When I put the book down I said to myself, “This woman is the woman I have always been looking for. This Virgin Mary is perfect. Her God is my God. I will listen to whatever she tells me.”

My euphoric excitement made sleep impossible. I could not wait until my mom woke me up so I could share my enthusiasm with her. My whole life had been flipped upside down when my mom did finally wake up, I shakily told her I wanted to talk to a Catholic priest. Stunned, she asked me to repeat what her ears could not believe. 

Fr. Calloway has given us permission to reprint this adaption from the first chapter of his book which describes his life before his dramatic conversion. To read what happens next and the complete story of his conversion, you can purchase his book at

The day I was captured in Japan was straight out of a big-budget action film. One can easily picture the scene; it was just like the climax of a Hollywood movie. Imagine undercover agents, police officers, and American military police surreptitiously stalking a pair of hardened, young criminals, hoping to catch them in the act of delivering money and illegal drugs. What the criminals don’t know is that the agents have used wiretaps to monitor their lines of communication and “turn” one of their associates, who has reluctantly agreed to lure the kingpin of the bad guys into a trap.

The tension builds as the good guys close in, even as they debate the pros and cons of confronting the criminals in a busy public place. The bad guys have insisted on meeting their associate — the traitor — in a train station, so that any attempt at capture is sure to compromise the safety of innocent bystanders.

While this might sound like a stereotypical movie action scene, it was perfectly real. I was one of the bad guys in this scenario, chased through the streets by a multinational group of law enforcement officers. I was the so-called “big fish” that everyone was looking to capture, and by the time I was in hand- cuffs, the American and Japanese governments had already negotiated the terms by which I’d be released into the custody of the American military. Within days, I would be deported from Japan, on my way back to the United States where I would be confined to an institution. I was just 15 years old.

The plans for that fateful day were made over the phone the night before. As I remember it, I called my friend Nathan, who agreed to rendezvous with my friend Tommy and me — my main partner-in-crime — at one of the larger train stations in Yokohama, a major city roughly 18 miles southwest of Tokyo. The plan was to give Nathan my overflow cash — a little more than two million Yen — most of which I had recently stolen from local department stores. Then, Tommy and I planned to take him out on the town and blow the rest of the newfound money on alcohol, drugs, and girls — just as we had always done.

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