Listen: Ron Tesoriero chats to Katrina Roe about Mike Willesee's final book and his spiritual search. Image: Screenshot, Channel 7, 'Sunday Night'
Mike Willesee was arguably Australia’s most famous journalist and broadcaster. He spent more than fifty years working as a journalist across newspapers, radio, television and documentaries.
When he was 51 years old, on his way to a documentary shoot in South Sudan, he had a sudden premonition that his plane was going to crash. He didn’t act on the premonition. He didn’t believe in premonitions. He just knew it was going to crash.
So he prayed his first prayer in 35 years. As he says in his book, it was “a prayer to a God whose existence I was quite uncertain about”. But he prayed all the same: “Father, I place Greg and myself into your hands.”
Shortly after take-off, the plane started to fall, “spinning and vibrating, tail first”. Fortunately Mike, cameraman Greg, the pilot and the two missionaries on board all survived—but the plane was a wreck.
Mike said a short thankyou to what he describes as his “maybe-God”, and then got back to work.
Stepping Into a Spiritual Destiny, Late in Life
Mike Willesee was born into the Catholic faith and spent many years trying to avoid what he later saw as his spiritual destiny. His book, A Sceptics Search for Meaning, was written in the final year of his life – before his death in 2019 – and documents his spiritual journey.
Six months after his life-changing plane crash, Mike found himself on a plane to Bolivia to meet a spiritual woman named Katya Rivas, who claimed to be receiving messages from Jesus. Mike wasn’t terribly interested in the story, but it was a favour for his old friend and former neighbour, Ron Tesoriero, who shared the story on Hope Mornings.
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
Ron’s own return to faith was a dramatic one, told in the book. It began when, in his work as a lawyer, Ron was approached by Father Bill Aliprandi, a Catholic priest who wanted to buy a block of land to build a church and school. The priest had been visiting the site every day to ask God for the land. He had no money.
The block of land in question was not even for sale. What’s more, it had no power, water or sewerage connected and no road access. But the priest was convinced that this block of land was the place God wanted him to build His church. Ron told him it was impossible; but, over the coming days, every obstacle was miraculously blown away. A few months later, the state government announced plans to build a new high school next door, meaning all the infrastructure would be delivered for free.
“With hindsight, Mike speculates that facing up to his own sin was probably the roadblock to returning to faith.”
That incident was the start of a reawakening of Ron’s faith and a journey to discover whether God still intervenes in the world in miraculous ways. Ron challenged Mike to apply his journalistic mind to investigate mystical phenomenon, including the Bolivian woman, Katya Rivas, who claimed to be receiving messages from Jesus.
Mike Willesee and Ron made a documentary together, called Signs from God, in which they filmed Katya’s spiritual experiences, including manifesting the stigmata – the wounds of Christ on the cross – and many other mystical phenomena.
In spite of his involvement in the project, and his belief that God was working in the world, it was years before Mike Willesee was willing to make his own personal commitment to follow Christ. When he did, he “felt a heaviness come off my shoulders”.
With hindsight, Mike speculates that facing up to his own sin was probably the roadblock to returning to faith.
Sadly, Mike Willesee passed away from throat cancer in March 2019, before the book was published.
His book is called A Sceptic’s Search for Meaning – A Spiritual Journey.