Thursday, August 18, 2016


“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven..."
Matthew 18:3-5

Out of the mouths of babes!

World Youth Day in Krakow Poland announced to the world that God is very much alive, hope is in endless supply and the future of humanity rests in the energizing faith of our youth!

Hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from around the globe converged to make this the largest gathering of its kind in the world! They inspired unity among diverse cultures and their obvious joy yielded an outpouring of love that is certain to spread far and wide well into the future.

On a personal note I am so proud of my friend Benny's son Daniel who is on the video! Go Comunita Cenacolo!

Check out this story at the link below-

Sunday, July 31, 2016


My friend Karen bid farewell to her husband this weekend and I know the passing of his life from here to eternity has been painful.

She celebrated anyway, because that’s what loving someone is really all about; celebrating their life and their love and their unique imprint on our world…even when they are no longer here.

Great loves always leave an indelible imprint that never fades. It is as though an ethereal spirit remains to remind us of the value of that person and their place in our life.

We feel them in the raw and rigorous process of grief that only time can carry away. We embrace them in the joy that, for now, is secondary to the loss that lingers longer than we would like. We hold them in our hurting hearts because it is so true, “parting is such sweet sorrow.”

In a special ceremony Karen celebrated Mel in one last dance of love that honors the gift of their marriage, the joy of their lives together and the hope that they brought to so many by their bold choice to live a life of love, “until death do we part.”

For the living, death often destroys us because when we define life only as a tangible physical reality then we close the door to the unlimited potential of our supernatural forever. Karen’s celebration of life after death reinforces that living and dying co-exist in a natural unfolding of our eternal destiny.

Karen released the pain of Mel’s passing to the resurrection of beautiful memories; soulful laughter, humble forgiveness and heartfelt moments of truth. And though she probably didn’t know it, she also honored her husband and her friends with renewed hope….For out of the darkness of Mel’s death came an illuminating light of love and an inspiring peace that can never be put to rest.

Monday, July 25, 2016


Where there is life there is hope and where there is hope, there is God. I’ve always believed in that uncompromising truth despite the debilitating darkness that refuses to dissipate during active addiction.

As I watched my oldest son Johnny slipping deep into the abyss I clung to hope, praying through the paralyzing terrain of relapse and recovery, believing with every fiber of my human will in the saving grace of God who is the source and the summit of all hope!

Last December I witnessed the powerful manifestation of hope in action during my 24 day visit to Liberia West Africa where Johnny has now been a missionary for 31 months. I watched with gratitude as he juggled his daily work routine, which is wrapped around prayer, with his responsibilities to the other missionaries and to the orphans, 31 children ages 1 and a half to 17. I marveled at his strength and resiliency amid the long hours, the sweltering heat, and the humble living conditions.

I was deeply touched by his desire to reach out to a badly battered nation reeling from poverty following two civil wars and life threatening diseases like Ebola, Typhoid and Yellow fever, and Malaria which Johnny survived three times.

Seven and a half years sober, Johnny is a man for others and the man I always believed he could become. As we strolled down a winding dirt road in the “bush” where mud houses are nestled in between overgrown shrubs and palm trees he introduced me to his Liberian friends. Laughing and joking with them in “Bassa” the local dialect he has been teaching himself, Johnny proudly announced. “This is my “ma,” she’s come to visit me and Liberia.” The villagers beamed with pride, hugged me tightly and said, “He is a good man. He is also our son!”

During those precious weeks with Johnny I experienced his humility and yes-his humanity, as he talked about the future. “I don’t have to make a lot of money, but I want a career that has meaning,” he shared. “I’d like to get married, but I want a wife who prays.” We can only hope!

Hope is the eternal whisper, the persuasive knowing that prods us to hang on when we are feeling helpless and afraid. Hope pushes us to believe in a solution even though we may be blinded by disbelief. Hope is heaven’s promise to carry us when we think we cannot go one step further. Hope harnesses the power within that propels us forward so we can rise above the darkness until we reach the inevitable light that always comes after the storm.

It takes an act of our human will to reach out to the hand of hope; to believe in a power greater than ourselves; to summon every ounce of strength when we are depleted by one more disappointment. Hang on anyway and remember my son Johnny who is living, breathing proof that Hope springs eternal!

Mary Lou McCall

Sunday, February 28, 2016


“God calls us specifically to love this world, to be carriers of hope and sparks of light and kindness that resurrect humanity.” Mother Elvira

Dec. 3-4, 2015
In the chalice of my being I could not contain my joy! Ripples of laughter flowed across the vast ocean from Brussels to Africa as my new friend and fellow passenger Margiah and I joked about the comedy of errors that brought us to this space. Providence had provided me with a seat on the final flight to Liberia, right next to a wonderfully entertaining Liberian woman!

Margiah wore a festive skirt called a Lapa and a headdress which only accentuated her colorful personality. She told me she lived in Houston but was returning to her homeland for the holidays. Since neither of us could sleep we giggled away the miles like two school girls on Christmas break! I felt warmly connected to her spirit and the peace that flowed heart to heart. In fact, I felt at home among all the passengers the majority of whom were African.

Exhausted, exhilarated, excited-so many emotions welled up inside of me as we approached our final destination and the conclusion of a nearly two day pilgrimage from New Orleans to New Jersey to Brussels to Sierra Leone and finally to Liberia.

As we began our final descent through the pitch black night I noticed through the window tiny flickers of light drawing us to the small airstrip where my son Johnny would be waiting.

What a journey! Logistical issues, Ebola...everywhere I turned there were roadblocks. Six months ago I wondered if I'd ever make this trip. “I’ve been waiting for more than six years to do an experience with Johnny,” I said in frustration to Albino the Italian gentleman who runs Comunita Cenacolo in America. “Yes,” Albino replied. “And when you go it will be a very good experience!”

I knew Albino was right but the wait tested my patience and my trust. Now-at this moment all those challenging years melted away and I understood the wisdom in the wait. “I have hit the jackpot of experiences,” I thought to myself.

We landed at a small airstrip about 2 hours outside of Monrovia, the capitol of Liberia, in the middle of the “bush.” “I won’t need this sweater,” I mumbled to myself, as I stepped out of the plane into the December heat.

A man directed me to wash my hands at a barrel with a spicket that contained water and chlorine and then a woman pointed a thermometer at my temple to check for fever before allowing me to enter the airport building to retrieve my bags. “Ebola precautions,” I whispered to Grace.

Miraculously my five suitcases arrived along with the luggage of Grace, Joe and Mitch. God had protected our providence and our travels!

“Wow,” that’s a shock, I laughed when I spotted my handsome son Johnny sporting long blonde hair and a beard. “We’re doing a play tomorrow and I’m Jesus,” he laughed as we hugged tightly. “Thank you God for this beautiful gift,” I whispered to myself.

Johnny introduced me to his friend Marlin, the missionary surgeon from Costa Rica who had requested the medical supplies and then we loaded up the SUV with the luggage, and exited the airport down a rocky, winding road to our final destination 2 ½ hours away.

“What’s this?” My heart skipped a beat when I saw the roadblock. Johnny smiled reassuringly, “Don’t worry mom you just have to know how to speak to the Liberian people.” He leaned out of the window and said, “Hey man we have no money today, we are just coming from the airport…next time…yes next time.” Johnny was confident, kind and respectful. I was impressed.

The roadblocks were set up by local authorities who were conducting security checks and in some cases by locals who were trying to score money. An Archdiocesan decal on the side of the vehicle gave us instant legitimacy and so we sailed through at least seven different roadblocks with no real problems.

We passed through overgrown shrubs, palm trees and a scattering of small mud homes with tin roofs, through the outskirts of Monrovia and eventually into the mission compound just past midnight.

What a glorious, joyful welcome! The guitar playing missionaries were lined up outside serenading us into the kitchen for cake, pizza and old fashioned fraternity! It was surreal! I have never received such a warm welcome anywhere and my eyes brimmed with tears at this special anointing!

The missionaries and the children sleep bunkhouse style however, as the mom I was given a private room with a private bathroom. A mosquito net covered my bed and screens and bars covered my open windows. There is no air conditioning or hot water but there is filtered water for drinking. None of the sacrifices mattered to me and I made a mental decision to ignore the heat and to concentrate on the gift of this profoundly personal experience.

Before leaving America, I fielded a lot of questions from people who couldn’t understand why I would go to Africa, especially after Ebola and with all the unrest in the world. A close relative warned, “If you disappear I’m not coming to look for you!” “And I wouldn’t," I replied "because you won’t find me.” I honestly did not fear the destination, though I was grateful to be traveling with other people.

Physically exhausted, I lay down on the top of my sheets just before 2 a.m. and as I drifted off to sleep I felt deep within my core that God had personally called me to Liberia and I couldn't wait to experience why!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

DIVINE INTERVENTION: Mercy, Love and Liberia

“We believe that in the darkest night, it is possible to find light again.” -Mother Elvira Petrozzi

Lent is a perfect time for me to reflect on the lessons I learned recently in Liberia West Africa thanks to a living saint, Mother Elvira. In the next few posts I will share excerpts from my daily journal.

December 3, 2015

As United Flight 1140 taxies down the runway in New Orleans, my heart is overflowing with gratitude! Divine intervention is literally leading me to Liberia to spend the next few weeks with my Catholic missionary son Johnny; to walk in his shoes; to learn the Lord’s will for my life. Johnny has been in Liberia for two years so initially I think this trip is about seeing him. However, something is telling me this is a mission of mercy for the benefit of my soul!

Today is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary Priest who-yes-traveled to Africa to share his contagious love for God by the example of his life. Shivers still run down my spine when I think about the fact that my son traveled to Liberia on this feast day two years ago! God is surprisingly wonderful all the time!

Settling back into my seat, I resolve to ignore the irritating reminder that my broken arm has left me weak and hurting. I stare out of the airplane window and my mind wanders back to the beginning in 2009.

‘I am storming the heavens inside the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at St. Francis Xavier Church, begging Jesus to help the oldest of my five sons. Our broken family is a mess and Johnny is sinking deeper into the corrupting darkness of drug addiction. “Are you going to talk to Jesus?!” My son’s sarcasm replays in my head. “This is not my child speaking,” I remind myself. Besides, a tinge of guilt reminds me he comes by his problems honestly.

Suddenly a light goes on in my head-Medjugorje! “Johnny is supposed to go to Comunita Cenacolo in Medjugorje!” I recall the TV interview I did there at the end of the Bosnian war with a former heroin addict named Francesco. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he’d been heroin free for two and a half years without the help of doctors or medicine! Francesco said hard work “prayer and the love of his brothers” were healing him. Visionary Viska Ivankovic confirmed, “With God all things are possible.”

Francesco had been living with other troubled youth at the community founded by an Italian nun Mother Elvira Petrozzi. Back then I knew nothing about addiction and so I assumed I had simply stumbled on a great story. Who knew God had planted a seed!

More than a decade after that interview another Medjugorje visionary, Ivan Draicevic, visits New Orleans and prays with my hurting child. “There are two paths for your life. The path you are on which will lead to death and the path that God has designed for you which will lead to a life of peace,” Ivan says. “I will bring you in prayer before the Blessed Mother tonight when I have my apparition and ask her to intercede on your behalf.” As we hug goodbye Ivan whispers, “Do not worry, I will be praying for him.”

Miracle of miracles, soon after Johnny’s 24th birthday he harnesses his free will and enters “Our Lady of Hope,” another community house in St. Augustine Florida. Though it’s a three year program I’m not even thinking that boldly. “Please, just commit to six months. Then it’s between you and God,” I plead looking into his tormented eyes.

Johnny is sequestered from all family contact until the fall family retreat which is six months later. But what a reunion!

I am praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament at an outdoor altar at “Our Lady of Hope” when I see a group of young men walking up the side steps of the altar. As they cross over to the monstrance I can hardly believe my eyes because Johnny ends up kneeling smack dab in front of Jesus! I burst into tears of joy! Later he tells me, “I don’t know how long I will stay…but now it’s between God and me.” Alleluia! The prodigal son returns!'

The airline stewardess’s voice snaps me back into reality. We are landing in New Jersey. A nice man offers to retrieve my overhead bag which is weighed down by a heavy piece of medical equipment that will help in the diagnosis of yellow fever.

A few minutes later I am standing in front of a New Jersey ticket agent silently praying, “Sacred heart of Jesus I trust in you.” Someone canceled the rest of my airline tickets! The agent is able to get me back on the plane to Belgium, but she says the flight to Liberia is now completely full. I place my trust in divine providence knowing full well it is his merciful love that has gotten me this far!

Grace and Joe, two young community missionaries, and Mitch a friend of community meet up with me just in time to board the plane to Belgium. Sitting next to Grace I think about the irony of literally being carried on the wings of grace to see my son and so I continue to trust that “His” amazing grace will also carry me over the obstacles that are sabotaging my journey.

I pray. “Dear Sweet Jesus carry me, caress me, keep me in your loving embrace. I fear not my fate, for you are my peace, my hope my resting place. Wrapped securely in your mercy I am soothed into submission to your holy will.”
---Stay tuned---