Donna D’Errico: Interview of a Catholic and Explorer

[ 39 ] September 9, AD 2012 |

Before I jump into the interview with Donna D’Errico, I would like to thank her for answering a few questions regarding her life as both a Catholic and explorer.  See if you can name what Catholic sacramental she is wearing on her expedition. 

JQ Tomanek: Can you give us a little background on yourself?  Were you raised Catholic?  Where did you grow up?  How many children do you have?  What is your favorite Southern song?  What music do you have on your iPod?

Donna D’Errico:  I was born in Dothan, Alabama, while my father was serving a tour of duty in the Vietnam war.  He was an army Captain from a big Italian family in Connecticut, and my mom was a sweet Southern belle.  After returning from the war, we moved to a city just outside Fort Benning, Georgia named Columbus. My brother, sister, and I were all raised Catholic (my mother converted), and attended Catholic school.  Most of my teachers were nuns.  There was a convent on the school grounds, and all the nuns wore full habits.


I’m not sure I have a very favorite Southern song, but I of course love the Southern “anthem” – Sweet Home Alabama.  I tend to prefer country music, and classical music.  That’s all I have on my iPod.  The classical music on my iPod is only the music my son has composed.  He’s a classically trained pianist, and has composed and recorded some beautiful pieces on piano that I like to listen to.  I have two children – a nineteen year old son and an eleven year old daughter.

JQ Tomanek: I recently read you made an adventure to fulfill a lifelong dream.  Can you tell us where you travelled and what dream you were fulfilling?

Donna D’Errico:  I went to Turkey to climb Moubt Ararat and search for Noah’s Ark.  That had been my dream since I was a little girl in third grade at St. Anne’s School.  While there, I also was searching for a man named Donald MacKenzie, who disappeared from Mount Ararat in September, 2010, while he was searching for the Ark.  I interviewed several people on-camera over there who knew Donald or saw him before he disappeared, including some who I believe may know what happened to him, as part of a documentary I am doing about Donald’s disappearance.  No official investigation or search was ever really conducted after he disappeared nearly two years ago.  Interestingly, as soon as I left, one of the people whom I had interviewed and questioned about Donald’s disappearance, pointing out to them that had it been an accident that befell Donald his gear would have been found, suddenly “found” Donald’s gear.

JQ Tomanek:  Were you always attracted to the outdoors?

Donna D’Errico: Yes.  As a little girl, I was always outside catching turtles, lizards, frogs, snakes, etc.  I didn’t really have any friends (I was very shy), there was no Internet, no video games, only four television channels, and no cell phones back then.  So I entertained myself by spending my free time in the forest across the street from our house.  There is a big lake there, and lots of reptiles and amphibians.  I’d play near a particular stream that had minnows and crayfish in it, which I enjoyed watching and studying.  Sometimes I would catch some of them and keep them in a little aquarium at home.  I taught myself how to find and dig up worms, which I would use as bait to fish with in the lake.  I think of those days quite often.  Life was very simple back then.

JQ Tomanek:  I have to admit, I do not get to interview many explorers.  In fact, you are the first.  But it is a very cool title if you will.  How does it feel to have that on your list of lifetime accomplishments?

Donna D’Errico:  When Good Morning America and the Today Show referred to me as “Explorer, Donna D’Errico”, I was without words.  I’m so used to being referred to as an actress, former Baywatch “babe”, etc., that I was caught off-guard.  It’s nice to be recognized as an explorer.  I like the title.

JQ Tomanek: The Catholic grapevine heard you pray the Rosary everyday with your children.  Please explain your process and how you accomplish such a great goal.  I know many Catholic parents seek or tried (pointing my figure over at myself) that out as a goal but fall short.

Donna D’Errico:  We pray the Rosary along with our evening prayers every night as a family before bed.  There’s no coercion; it’s just part of our routine by now.  At 19, my son is certainly no child.  But he never skips evening prayers.  It strengthens us as a family.

JQ Tomanek:  Ok, an easy one.  Who is your favorite saint?

Donna D’Errico:  Saint Monica.

JQ Tomanek:  I have noticed you wear a brown Scapular.  Is there a particular reason you have a devotion to this sacramental?

Donna D’Errico:  I was enrolled in the Brown Scapular years ago, and have never removed it since.

JQ Tomanek:  To end our interview, I would like to ask a question for our feminine audience.  Our culture sends us many messages of false hope.  Many of our readers are young Catholic women that struggle with many of today’s social problems like self-esteem, eating disorders, being objectified, etc.  What are some good ways to stay the course and hold onto the Faith in today’s troubled waters?

Donna D’Errico:  Pray the Rosary every day.  Attend Mass every Sunday.  Go to Confession regularly.  If you do these things, you will be able to withstand and get through anything.  I know what it’s like to be led astray and fall into a life of sin.  I know how easy that is.  I’ve lived it.  I also know what it’s like to come back.

 

I keep re-reading that last answer and cannot help thinking that those recommendations are quite powerful for any Catholic.  If you are interested in following Donna D’Errico, her facebook page is ThisIsDonnaDErrico, her twitter handle is @DonnaDErrico, and her website is www.donnaderrico.com.  Her son’s music channel can be found on YouTube at the derricomusic channel.

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About the Author ()

J.Q. lives in the country of Texas with his wife Denise, a Southern Belle from Trinidad and Tobago, and his three children. He holds two graduate degrees from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, an MBA and Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Having taught for five years in Catholic education, he now works in the construction industry in Victoria, TX. He is a parishioner of Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Parish in the Diocese of Victoria.
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  • Dan

    When I saw that Donna D’Errico had been on Bay Watch (a show I didn’t watch) I had a suspicion so I googled her. And sure enough there are multitudes of nude pictures of her floating around the internet. Is there no famous Catholic who keeps their clothes on you can interview? Is this what we’re left with to hold up as role models?

    • Sue

      We all have a past….and thank God He forgives us! I wouldn`t want people to judge me on how I lived in the past as I am different today. She is leading the life today God wants her to , and that is all the matters.
      God bless

    • Wendy

      Every Saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
      Her life shows that “any man (woman) born in Christ is a new creation”
      2nd Corinthians

    • Bill M.

      Were you born without sin, Dan?

    • Robert Hochfelder

      We all have faults and shortcomings. AKA sin. Let us be thankful to almighty God for his love,mercy and forgiveness for our own faults.

    • http://oneintheirhearts@gmail.com oneintheirhearts

      Judge Not! Lest yea be judged. Praise the Lord another one ( great sinner), returns home. Some of the greatest saints in the church have the most horrific past! They walk away and return to Jesus and Do NOT Look Back. We are the holier than thou, In most need of Mercy and Forgiveness. J.M.J. God Bless!!

    • LizEst

      “Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me only in the light of your love.” Psalm 26:7

    • http://nyknyc kiki Boubay

      Dan – wow I guess not everybody can be perfect like you .
      So she made mistakes big deal she changed and now is a different person who are you to attack this woman for turning around on her hollywood past and becoming a better person?

    • Tony

      Well St. Dan, patron Saint of the Self Righteous, Holier than Thou, internet commentators. You can cast the first Stone.
      I’ll bet for every nude picture of Donna you find, Jesus will be able to tell you 10 sins of you committed that are as bad or worse. Besides Dan? Why is a Saint like you looking through, in your own words, “Multitudes of Nude pictures” on the internet? After you noticed a few of those pictures did you NOT get the idea? But No Dan, you had to go through “Multitudes of Nude pics”. Dan,You should get help for your addiction to internet porn

  • J.Q. Tomanek

    Dan,

    I didn’t watch Baywatch either. Oh there are plenty of famous Catholics to interview and Good Lord permitting, I would love to do more. Please check back in the future for more.

    However, if a person’s past life disqualifies for an interview, a life that has been converted, that would mean I wouldn’t be allowed to interview any Catholic saint with the exception of our Blessed Mother. If you have a connection with her, I would love to interview her. ;)

  • Kyle

    @Dan: I think the point is that she has turned her life around and come back to God. Her very last quote in the interview is: “I know what it’s like to be led astray and fall into a life of sin. I know how easy that is. I’ve lived it. I also know what it’s like to come back.”

  • Sue

    Thank you for this interview! It has prompted to try and say the rosary as a family and to wear my scapular on the outside!
    God bless

    • J.Q. Tomanek

      You are very welcome. Thanks for sharing your response.

  • David

    I am sure the Lord and we should celebrate the return of a prodigal son or daughter. Wonderful story J.Q. We need more like this to give us all the courage to standup and face our own sins and repent.

    • J.Q. Tomanek

      Thank you. I have always enjoyed conversion type stories. Back when I read “Surprised by Truth,” I think it took me like 2 days even though I read slowly.

  • Patt

    It is my understanding that Mary Magdalene had a past. Christ forgave her. Now she is one of our great saints.
    People are allowed to change– everyone has something in their life that they regret.

  • Seraph

    The interview did not touch upon her troubled past during her adult years as an actress, which is why Dan seems to be confused. Many of us have lived wicked lives, but by the grace of God have been converted.

    • J.Q. Tomanek

      And for us people out of the public eye, our sins for the most part are only known to our priest. I cannot imagine what people would think of me if they could see my sins. Thank God for the grace of the sealed confessional and the grace of conversion of heart!

  • john

    As Christians..you should know enough not to judge..you should rejoice that she has returned to her faith and is living it.Everyone has a past including many many saints…I for one would rather read an article about someone like her than someone who comes across as perfect..I can relate more with a real person who has scars and imperfections as well as led a past sinful life than someone who comes across as perfect.Good for her..I’m happy for her and even more happy that she is living out her faith..good for you Donna..welcome home.

    • J.Q. Tomanek

      Fr. Urteaga wrote about the problem with thinking saints were angel-like perfected people living amongst sinners. He wrote a good spiritual book called “Man, the Saint.”

  • Sue

    From Wikipedia;
    She is now a devout Roman Catholic and attends mass weekly and prays the Rosary every night with her children.[7] When asked about how her newfound faith compares to her past career, she said, “I’ve made mistakes and choices in my past that I wouldn’t make today. That’s a chapter in my life that I’ve closed the door on. It seems to me like another person. It’s not who I am today.”[7]

  • http://www.sundayscripturestudy.com Vince C

    “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)

    It’s often said that every Saint has a past, and every sinner a future. If we don’t hear stories of those who have repented and changed their lives, many would be bereft of hope for themselves.

    • J.Q. Tomanek

      One of my favorite lines from The Divine Comedy: “Lay down all hope, you that go in by me.” This comes from Canto 3 in the Inferno just before the entrance of Hell. This despair Dante mentions would be our eternal penalty if sinners could not repent.

      The wonderful thing about being a Christian is not that we are just allowed to be holy, but even more than that, we are called or invited to a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are each called to be saints.

    • GuitarMan

      Look at St. Paul…St. Augustine…et al….I’ve often said my life is comparable to St. Augustine’s life….unfortunately, the first part of his life before his conversion. I pray to God that my life ends up being comparable to his post-conversion life….

  • Daniel J

    God bless Donna and her family. It’s our present and future that matters, not our past. I thank God that that is so for me.

  • http://www.Spiritdaily.com BlackPirate

    Heaven is full Saints that were sinners – Donna D’Errico shows courage and commitment and the Grace to stand up to admit mistakes – These are the first baby steps on the Road to Holiness – Lets Hope that all Hollywood follows her example God Bless Donna keep you in the Family Rosary

    • J.Q. Tomanek

      Good call BlackPirate. It takes a lot of courage to open up about your faith. I get nervous when someone asks me to give an opening prayer. Ms. D’Errico seems like a strong woman.

      There is an organization called Act One http://www.actoneprogram.com/ and John Paul the Great Catholic University that are doing good work baptizing Hollywood.

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  • http://nyknyc kiki Boubay

    I was very impressed by Donna . What an amazing lady.
    I NEVER would have guessed that she is such a nice person and has better religious values than most people today.
    You can not tell a book by its cover – she is fantastic and has her priorities in order.

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  • vitto

    what does she mean by “to search for Noah’s Arc”. Does she mean she believes that such a thing existed literally? What’s next she’s gonna search for the graves of Adam and Eve?

    • J.Q. Tomanek

      vitto, Whereas the book of Genesis is not a science textbook, I think Catholics are allowed to hold the stories as either literal or something similar to a parable or truth-saying story. Can somebody correct me if I am wrong?

      • http://thepulp.it/ Tito Edwards

        J.Q.,

        You are correct.

        But I am a bit shaky on the portion of the Bible that covers Noah’s Ark concerning whether to treat it as an anecdote or an allegory.

        My thoughts are that it is both. Noah’s ark did exist(the actual physical boat), but probably not in the way the modern mind imagines it. It’s difficult to explain here in ComBox, although I could be wrong on this.

        Just imagine 8000 years from now people will be debating whether or not there actually was a U.S. Constitution because of lack of “evidence”.

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