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Men’s conference will feature return visit by Father Calloway

Registration now open for Jan. 29 event in Nampa

By Gene Fadness

Editor


The Idaho Catholic Men’s Conference has earned a reputation as one of the best in the Northwest, partly because of the quality of speakers it attracts including, among others, Father Larry Richards, Father Donald Calloway (returning this year), Catholic apologist Tim Staples, EWTN’s Dr. Ray Guarendi, and Curtis Martin, founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS.


However, just as transformative for some are the testimonies offered by men who live here in the Diocese of Boise. Eddie Trask of Boise remembers in particular a 2017 testimony offered by Robert Valencia, a parishioner at St. Pius X Parish in Coeur d’Alene.

Trask was in the process of coming back to the church after years in evangelical circles and looking for apologetics videos online when he came across Valencia’s moving story on idahocatholicmen.org, the website for the Idaho Catholic Men’s Conference that has videos from all past conference speakers.


On the video, Valencia tells about becoming a successful stockbroker and then getting addicted to drugs and alcohol and spending more than four years in prison on drug-related charges. After a suicide attempt, Valencia returned to his Catholic faith while still in prison and today ministers to people who are homeless and struggle with addictions.


That was a turning point for Trask, who four years later, was a speaker at the 2021 Idaho Catholic Men’s Conference and now works for the Augustine Institute where he has helped develop the “Amen” social media app.


That’s the kind of ripple effect that the men’s conference organizers, Johnny Horn and Travis Wingo, hope for every conference.


“We’ve received extraordinary feedback from men who have been deeply impacted,” Horn said in a 2017 Idaho Catholic Register article. “We’ve heard many stories of conversions, of men coming back to their faith after being away for many years. We’ve heard stories of how the men’s conference helped save marriages and brought families back together. We’ve been humbled to see, in both big and small ways, the fruits that have come when men step up to be the spiritual leaders that they are called to be.”


This year’s conference, “Chosen For Such a Time As This,” is scheduled for Jan. 29 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Nampa. It will feature a return speaker, Father Donald Calloway, the “surfing priest,” whose conversion story was a highlight of the 2019 conference.


“We try to get new guys each year, but we got a lot of positive responses about him, so it’s nice to bring some of these men back,” Wingo said.


Also scheduled to speak are Deacon Adam Curtis, a military chaplain who served 26 years as a Navy SEAL and Matthew Harte, a native of Ireland who is a professor at Ave Maria University in Florida.


The day will begin with Mass and a homily by Bishop Peter Christensen and will also include time for confession and Adoration, breakfast and lunch. There will also be plenty of Catholic and other faith-based vendors. A $500 gift card to a sporting goods store will be awarded at day’s end to someone who has visited the vendor tables.


The conference will also be made available at watch parties throughout the Diocese for those not able to travel to Nampa, Wingo said.



Father Donald Calloway in Boise in 2019.


A convert to Catholicism, Father Donald Calloway belongs to the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2003 and is the author of a dozen books, many focusing on the Rosary. His most recent book, published in 2020, is “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father.” His website is fathercalloway.com.


By the time he was 13 years old, Father Calloway was smoking, drinking, and using drugs and pornography. His idyllic life surfing on the beaches at San Diego was disrupted when his stepdad, a military man, was transferred to Japan. While living in Japan, Calloway quit school, ran away from home frequently and was transporting drugs for the Japanese Mafia, sometimes carrying as much as $10,000 in his backpack.


No longer living with his parents, he did not know that his mother had converted to Catholicism and moved to Pennsylvania. At about the same time, Calloway had been jailed in Japan and sent back in handcuffs on a military plane to the United States. Returning to his mom and stepdad, he was sent to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Altoona, Penn., for three months, but that did little to change him, finding it almost as easy to get drugs inside the facility as out. He ended up living in a bus, spending most of his time attending Grateful Dead concerts. In the meantime, his stepdad and brother joined his mother in the Catholic faith.


“I couldn’t even stand to stay in the house because they had religious stuff in the house,” he said. One of the items in the home was a book about Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina.


The book he was reading “began convicting me of stuff,” he said, and he felt an urge to follow the book’s admonition to confess his sins to a priest. The priest listened for a while, but after understanding he was not Catholic, invited him to attend daily Mass after which they could talk some more. He sat in the back while five Filipino women sat in the front praying the Rosary, praying so fast he could not understand what they were saying.


But it was a point during the Mass, the first he had ever attended, that changed his life. When the priest elevated the host, Father Calloway heard within him a voice that said, “worship.”


“I knew what that man had in his hands; I knew he had God in his hands,” Father Calloway said during his 2019 remarks at the Idaho Catholic Men’s Conference. “When the priest elevated the chalice, the same inner voice said, ‘worship.’ I was getting crazy knowledge; I thought I was going to explode, I wasn’t hearing voices, but I was knowing,” he said.


After so many years of drug use, he found it ironic that the priest was putting something on people’s tongues that was giving purpose to life that drugs placed on the tongue never could. “And I had drunk of the chalice of the world so many times, that the what my body craved was in a church. I was in God’s rehab,” he said. “This was the medicine to get the poison out.”



Deacon Adam Curtis has served at Ascension Catholic Church in San Diego since his ordination in 2015. Originally from Baltimore, he is a Navy veteran whose 26-year career as a Navy SEAL officer included command of SEAL Team THREE during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Deacon Curtis is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a Master’s Degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. After retiring from the Navy in 2011, he worked as a defense consultant until returning to the Navy in a civilian capacity in 2014. He and his wife, Bonnie, have five adult children and four grandchildren.



Matthew Harte is from County Tyrone in Ireland. After teaching high school for five years, a series of challenging life events and a pilgrimage to Fatima in 2014 ignited his long-dormant Catholic faith.


Harte completed his Masters in Theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville. After teaching for a semester at Franciscan, he moved to Ave Maria, Florida last summer and is now working on completing his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology.

Harte and wife, Catherine, have four children.


As in the past, there will also be a local testimony, this year presented by Tim O’Neill, a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise.


To learn more about the conference or to register, go to idahocatholicmen.org.


If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.



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