The Life of Father John T. Callahan
Co-founder of the Madonna House Priests
Why did he do it: leave an exciting, fulfilling ministry in the city he loved for a struggling new community in Ontario? Father Cal loved Our Lady.
Father John T. Callahan, ordained a priest of the diocese of Rochester, New York, was active in the radio apostolate, youth work, Catholic Action, the family apostolate, and in fostering sanctity among priests. Young, beloved, and respected, he was yet called to a new vocation far from his native diocese.
His vocation came to be intimately bound with that of Catherine Doherty, foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate, in Combermere, Ontario. He became spiritual director to Catherine, and chaplain to the community. His gift of discernment brought anchor and stability to the apostolate in its pioneering years. He became the first and founding Madonna House priest.
Why did he do it: leave an exciting, fulfilling ministry in the city he loved for a struggling new community in rural Ontario? Father Cal loved Our Lady. He believed Madonna House was her house, and she was calling him to be there. He didn’t necessarily speak many words about her. He simply loved her and lived her life with Jesus. She taught him. And his life taught us how to be little, poor, simple: the children of God.
“I saw Father Callahan as a light and learned from him how to be a good priest. To touch him, to see his life, was to know compassion and the mercy of Jesus Christ. He let himself become nothing so that Jesus Christ could become everything. He let grace happen. He let Jesus be Jesus!” — Father Robert Pelton, Director General of Priests, Madonna House
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