Mary Lou McCall: Saved by faith in Jesus Christ
She has traveled the world reporting about the Catholic faith, even accompanying Pope John Paul II to Czechoslovakia, Poland, Cuba, Rome and beyond, but it took hitting rock bottom for Mary Lou McCall to discover her true beliefs. On May 31 at the Magnificat prayer breakfast in Metairie, McCall divulged her “love story” of gaining an intimate relationship with Jesus. It’s one filled with its share of tragedy and triumph, forgiveness and resurrection.
McCall asserted that Jesus was always on the periphery of her life but someone she didn’t always follow or turn to when she needed him most.
Her journey involves being a military brat whose family often moved, leaving her, as she reminisced, without a strong sense of family or community. She recalled dismissing her first vision of Jesus as a teen, not knowing how to react.
She came to New Orleans to study journalism at Loyola University, married her college sweetheart and got caught up in a broadcast news career, rising quickly through the ranks of local TV news.
McCall told the women she thought she could have it all – marriage, children and a career – only to find her life spiraling out of control as she eased her troubles with alcohol instead of turning to God. Her notes for a forthcoming book say, “My biggest mistake was that I did not make God my first priority every single day. I did not participate in the sacraments in the way I do today, and that left me vulnerable to the snares of the enemy.”
While covering the flurry of local Catholic pilgrimages to Medjugorje – a small town in the Bosnia-Herzegovina province of the former Yugoslavia where the Blessed Mother was reported to appear to five children – for a local network affiliate in 1986, McCall had a “spiritual transformation.” She revealed how she miscarried a baby there but “gained enormous faith.” A short time later, she traded her secular television job for what turned into a 20-year career with the Christian Focus TV.
She said God witnessed to her while she reported stories about the strength of faith displayed by Christians who were tortured and murdered by the Communists and the faith of others with near-death experiences.
Difficult to cope
But McCall said the noise and pressure of her world – raising five sons, working full-time and drinking to cope – steered her off course. The fear of humiliation and shame kept her in bondage, she said, so she continued to drink. She likened the experience to being so trapped in her own human poverty that she didn’t know how to give herself to God.
“Everything got in my way of my relationship with God,” McCall said. She now knows she could have protected herself using the arsenal of weapons called the sacraments.
As she struggled to survive, her marriage was in shambles and two of her sons also turned to drugs, while a third became anorexic. In April 2007, she lost her Focus TV job and thought she had lost everything. She knelt before Jesus in the adoration chapel and completely gave what was left of her battered self to him.
“Jesus had the graces of healing for me” but was waiting for her to ask for these graces with her heart, she said.
From that point, she began to fully embrace the sacraments to gain what she calls a “spiritual rhythm” in her life. She started praying the rosary daily, attending daily Mass, going to adoration more frequently and monthly confession. That led to attending healing Masses such as those celebrated by former pastor Father Joe Benson at Blessed Seelos Parish in Bywater.
“I was on fire,” she said. A friend told her that she was hungry for Christ and that he was going to use her in a powerful way. She began living in the grace of the light and using the tools that God gave her, and she kept being renewed.
“When you begin to be healed and see the cross has turned into this tremendous gift, you want to share it with everyone,” she said.
McCall recommended to those attending the Magnificat breakfast to regularly visit an adoration chapel and go to confession.
She said her children are all doing well today; one will be a missionary to the poor in Liberia with Comunita Cenacolo. McCall is a prevention specialist with the nonprofit Action Against Addiction, a public speaker and freelance TV journalist. She said she speaks “openly about my recovery because I want individuals and families to know that despite the stigma of alcoholism, you are not alone. Jesus loves you unconditionally.”
The power of faith and the grace of God help her remain sober. “I am continuing to be transformed,” she said. “It is a daily process. The center of my life is Jesus, and with Jesus anything is possible.”