Book Review | Local priest inspires lead character in ecclesial thriller

At 82, "Father T" is still active, living out his priestly vocation as full-time pastor of a parish and staying involved -- not only in his faith community but in the local community that he loves.

But that part of his life is put on hold when he learns that his former archbishop and now cardinal is being threatened in Rome by a left-wing terrorist group trying to intimidate and frighten the Church into changing its position on several issues.

In his latest novel from Ridgewood Press, "Father Turiddu Returns: The Cardinal and the Inquisitor," Daniel Conway advances the fictional story of Father Salvatore E. Turiddu, a priest modeled after Msgr. Salvatore Polizzi, an 83-year-old priest who currently serves as pastor of St. Roch Parish in St. Louis' West End.

"I decided to create a fictional character, Msgr. Salvatore Turiddu, or 'Father T,' based on my friend Msgr. Polizzi. The adventures are fictional, but the character of Father T -- and that of his family and friends who appear in the novels -- are all true to life!" Conway noted. "I hope that by telling stories about Father T, I am sharing with others the wonderful life and pastoral ministry of Msgr. Polizzi."

Similar to the first novel, "Father Turiddu: The Savior of the City," Father T learns of a challenge affecting someone or something he cares about and jumps into action.

When Father Turiddu hears that his former shepherd, now a cardinal in Rome leading the Apostolic Signatura (the Church's Supreme Court), is moved from his residence to inside the Vatican after receiving death threats from the Sword of Justice terrorist group, he jumps on a plane to Italy to see what he can do to help.

The cardinal is later moved to a Benedictine monastery, then kidnapped and taken to Naples where the Grand Inquisitor of the terrorist group attempts to intimidate him to "confess to crimes" committed by the Church throughout its history.

Entrusting the situation to the Sacred Heart, readers will again see Father T's unbridled commitment to helping others no matter what the cost -- "end of story."

"I may be 82 years old, but while I have good health and a sound mind, I'm going to use all the gifts God gave me to help my family and friends," Father Turiddu said in the novel. "The Cardinal was very good to me when he was our archbishop. Now it's payback time. End of story!"

Though there are no real-life situations shared in the book, Conway said some of the fictional stories have their roots in real-life situations.

One truth that cannot be ignored is the author's commitment to the printed word. Conway, who serves as senior vice president for planning, marketing, and advancement at Marian University in Indianapolis and occasionally writes editorials for The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, admitted that writing is a "labor of love" for him. Conway recently served as a special consultant to Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

That love shines through not only in his characters in the novel, but also as he discusses clergy who have influenced him.

"During the past 45 years, since I entered the college seminary at Saint Meinrad, I have come to know and love hundreds of priests of all ages, temperament and ecclesial points of view -- liberal, conservative and everything in between," Conway said.

"I can honestly say that I have never met a priest whose pastoral instincts and commitment to his people was more genuine than Msgr. Polizzi. His heart always goes out to people in need -- no matter who they are, no matter what their station in life, and no matter what sins they have committed. When Pope Francis talks about our Christian duty to represent the God of mercy, not the judgmental God, I think of Msgr. Polizzi."

Readers will also appreciate how Conway is able to blend intrigue and action with the story's strong faith backdrop.

Family, including Father T's strong Sicilian roots, is at the heart of the story, too.

"In my book, 'A Communion of Saints,' I wrote 'nothing is more important than family because family binds us to each other and to God,'" Conway said. "I was blessed to be born and reared in a remarkable family -- very real people with lots of problems and difficulties who were sustained by their faith. Msgr. Polizzi would be the first to agree. Family comes first."

"Father Turiddu Returns: The Cardinal and the Inquisitor"

The second book in the Father Turiddu series by Dan Conway.
“Father T,” as he is called in the novels, is modeled after Msgr.
Salvatore Polizzi, an 83-year-old priest who currently serves as pastor
of St. Roch Parish in the West End.

Pages: 164

Publisher: Riverwood Press

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