Scottish Father Francis Chisholm (Peck) is being retired due to past reports of his unconventional ministry. His diary, read by Monsignor Sleeth (Hardwick), flashes back to his earlier life as the son of a Catholic father Alex Chisholm (Hoey) and Protestant mother Lisbeth (Nelson). As a boy young Francis (McDowell) witnesses his parents being swept away in a storm-swollen creek after his father was beaten by a band of anti-Catholic thugs.
He moved in with his distant cousin Nora (Ball) and her brother Ned, and mother Polly. Aunt Polly (Barrett) wants Francis to become a priest, while Nora fell in love with him. Francis heads off to school with buddy Angus Mealey (Price), and says goodbye to his family and his good friend Willie Tullock (Mitchell). At Holywell College his mentor is Father Hamish McNabb (Gwenn) who understands the young man and his questioning of doctrine. McNabb consoles Chisholm on the death of wayward Nora after the birth of her out-of-wedlock child. Chisholm, now a priest, is floundering in his calling but given an intriguing assignment to reestablish a rural mission in China.
Once in Paitan, China he discovers the Mission of St. Andrew has been devastated by flood and is in complete ruin. Even more discouraging is the disbanding of the congregation except for those few “rice Christians” who joined the church in exchange for food allotments. His reception is cold and at times downright hostile from the villagers. Father Chisholm and loyal follower Joseph (Fong) are shocked when his atheist friend Dr. Willie Tullock sends much needed provisions of medicine, food, and supplies.
His first big test comes when he is summoned to treat the ailing son of a powerful local Mandarin warlord named Chia (Strong). Knowing full well as a foreigner he will take the blame if the boy dies, he relies on what little medical knowledge he has and faith to cure the young lad. The boy pulls through and as a token of his gratitude Chia donates a hillside, surrounding countryside, materials, and labor for the new Mission. Two years pass and the church and compound are finished. Three nuns arrive including no-nonsense Maria-Veronica (Stradner) the headstrong Reverend Mother. Chisholm welcomes boyhood friend Tullock to Paitan shortly before the outbreak of war.
The Chinese revolution pits rebel forces against the villagers of Paitan and the loyalist army. Chisholm, after losing his friend in the struggle as they attempt to return to the burning church, is given an ultimatum to supply food and valuables, and turn over the injured to the rebel gun captain. He assists in the successful destruction of the weapon and raid on the enemy position but sustains a leg injury. During a visit from his old friend Angus, now Monsignor Mealey, Father Chisholm is informed of the death of McNabb. Mealey has become vain, pompous, boastful, and bigoted. Chisholm is anguished by the hypocrisy and he becomes more outspoken for a more humane approach to the treatment of the parishioners under his care. The story follows the humble, compassionate, and courageous struggle of Father Chisholm into old age and resolves with the reconsideration of his retirement by Monsignor Sleeth back in Scotland.
The review of this Movie prepared by David Fletcher