This is a story of love, and pain and loss and faith, and hope and the grace to rise above trials.

Priestling is a novel written by Richard Mangan, a member of Holy Family Parish in Whitefish Bay, and surrounds the story of 18-year-old Wally Moriarity, who during a dark time in his life, enters a religious order in rural Minnesota.

Richard Mangan’s first novel, “Priestling,” was recently published. (Submitted photo)

Reeling from the loss of his brother, Wally enters the novitiate in the early 1960s as a bit of an experiment and to cloister himself within its walls in an effort learn more about his recently deceased brother, Darryl, who spent his last four years of life in this space.

While Wally exhibits many similarities to Mangan, who entered the Jesuits in 1963, the story is loosely based on actual individuals, and events and characters are often a compilation of several individuals. A key difference is that Wally continues on to the priesthood, while Mangan left to pursue the vocation of marriage.

“Over the years, I tried to come up with other story ideas, but this time of my life kept beckoning me back,” said Mangan. “My story is somewhat different from Wally’s in that I did not have as difficult a time in the beginning or in my novitiate. However, I knew some fellows who were not as happy as I was there.”

The story surrounds Wally’s experiences in the Order, and the close friendships he made with three other novices and their relationship with an elderly priest, called the Padre. The elderly and infirm priest-theologian once counseled popes before being disgraced and banished from Rome.

Wally learns about himself through talking with the Padre, from reading forbidden texts, study and through his friendships with other young men seeking also to find themselves and their purpose.

The 75-year-old Mangan hopes readers will gain some appreciation for a different time in the Church and the world, as well as some of the customs and teachings that may have changed during the past 50 years.

“I know there are many different Catholics in our Church, each with his or her own personal thoughts and insights into our Faith,” he said. “I have met some people who, if the current Church began to implement new changes as great as those of Vatican II, might not want to continue as Catholics anymore. I have met others for whom changes would make little, if any, difference in their faith.”

Mangan also hopes readers will appreciate the immense level of commitment required to become a priest or religious sister, whether it happened 50 years ago, or at present.

“I think it is harder now because the world has changed. People do not attend church like they did back then, and prayer is not esteemed,” he said. “When I attended grade school and high school, we attended Mass every day of the week except Saturday, and the good sisters encouraged us to attend Saturday morning Mass, as well. There were no Masses of Anticipation on Saturday evenings yet.”

One of the messages Mangan hopes readers take away is not only the messages of evil and sin, but also the importance of forgiveness and repentance. In researching for this book, Mangan relied on his memory, but also studied Church doctrines, Vatican II documents, Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica and some of Our Lady’s apparitions.

“I somehow remembered a lot of the Latin but whenever I wasn’t sure of something, I would research it,” he said.

This is the first published book for Mangan, who has a background in writing and producing, namely business films and videos as well as television commercials and public service announcements.

“I won some awards for some of these and even entered a film in the Academy Awards back in the 1970s, but it did not get nominated. To enter the Academy Awards in those days, your movie had to be photographed, edited and released on film, no video allowed, and play for seven consecutive paid play dates in a theatre in Los Angeles County, which may or may not be the case in today’s world,” he said.

Mangan and his wife, Peggy, have been married for 33 years and he has a 45-year-old stepson, Bill, from Peggy’s previous marriage. He is working on a sequel.

Priestling by Richard Mangan is available at Woodland Patterns in River West, local libraries in Whitefish Bay and Shorewood, Amazon.com and directly from Mangan or his wife. More information can be found online at www.facebook.com/priestlingnovel.