Despite growing up during harsh religious persecution, Fr. Fred Kalaj still found and fell in love with the Gospel — even becoming a priest
(0:14) At just 15 years old, Fred Kalaj was already pondering life’s toughest questions: Why are we here? What is our purpose? What is death, and what comes next? He searched for answers in the books of great Russian, French and American authors, but one unexpected text would have all the answers he needed.
(4:11) Fr. Fred talks about the changes the Albanian government began implementing during the 1960s and how churches and towns were repurposed — or just destroyed altogether. Practicing religion in public became a jailable offense.
(10:24) After an earthquake hit Fr. Fred’s town of Shkodra, his brother, who works in construction, found a forbidden book tucked away in the debris of a local home. That book was the Gospel of Matthew, which he gave to Fred to read, and so many of Fr. Fred’s questions finally had answers.
(14:17) Fr. Fred feels the call to the priesthood, and he found the opportunity to seek asylum away from Albania and work toward his vocation in the United States.
(17:07) Fr. Fred reflects on the graces of reading the Gospels time and time again and the new insight one gleans from each new reading. He talks of his constant prayer to God to make his heart and spirit new everyday, so that his vocation may be more than just a routine job.
Reporting by Dan Meloy; narration and production by Ron Pangborn