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Friday, May 02, 2003
CATHOLICS, RCIA, AND HOLLYWOOD

My friend sent me this article which she lifted off the Catholic News Service wire. I couldn't find it on line, so I am printing the whole thing here. So much for keeping our little "the Entertainment industry IS my parish" RCIA program under the radar....

HOLLYWOOD May-2-2003 Family Theater aims to see Gospel message more accepted in Hollywood

By Andrew Walther
Catholic News Service

HOLLYWOOD (CNS) -- Once a month, across the street from one seedy gentleman's club and beneath a billboard for another one, several young Hollywood professionals enter a nondescript, cement block building that houses Family Theater Productions.

They arrive for "Prayer and Pasta," and their mission is to pray that "the message of the Gospel and the church will be more accepted in Hollywood," according to Holy Cross Father Willy Raymond, director of Family Theater.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Father Raymond said that with Catholic values often under attack by the entertainment industry, he is fighting to save Hollywood's soul.

He is trying to give Catholics in the entertainment industry the spiritual support they need to be true to the church in their work, and he wants to embrace non-Catholics in the industry who want to become Catholic.

"Prayer and Pasta" is a program that brings Hollywood professionals together to pray, eat and talk.

Family Theater "is a spiritual oasis surrounded by restaurants, night clubs and strip clubs," explained Brian Tyree, a writer and director who has attended a few of the monthly meetings since they began in 2002.

"On one of my first visits to Family Theater, the actual location struck me as a metaphor for the industry itself. It's an industry with a scandalous reputation, but one individual, or one company like Family Theater stands out, and can make a big difference," Tyree said.

Family Theater was founded in 1947 by Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton, known as the "rosary priest." He died in 1992 and is now a candidate for sainthood.

Father Peyton worked with Hollywood legends such as Gregory Peck, Bob Hope, Loretta Young, Bing Crosby and Jimmy Stewart, to spread a moral message, especially through radio. "Family Theater of the Air," the radio show Father Peyton started, ran weekly for 22 years, making it the longest-running radio program in history. Family Theater also produces films and television shows.

At the "Prayer and Pasta" meetings, "the group usually says the rosary, or we will pray from prepared material in a vespers kind of format," Tyree said. "It's like taking a retreat for a night, and praying with other people who share similar interests, in a sacred environment."

Family Theater also runs a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program for Hollywood professionals who want to convert or "revert" to the Catholic faith.

Barbara Nicolosi, director of Act One, a training and mentorship program for Christian writers, directs the program -- hosted at Family Theater -- with the help of Father Raymond.

Nicolosi, who used to run a parish RCIA program, said a separate program of catechesis for Hollywood professionals is needed to accommodate their schedules and avoid distractions they often encounter when they attend a parish program.

One person in Nicolosi's group first went to a local parish, and was immediately mobbed by job seekers. "Everybody brought head shots and wanted a job," she said.

Father Raymond agreed that the program is well-suited to those whose needs "cannot be met by RCIA in the parish, and who share our concerns about culture and the media."

"The church should be in the middle of such a situation," he said.

Nicolosi noted that the Family Theater RCIA group is flourishing. It currently has five people in this year's program, "two reverts and three converts," she said. It follows the traditional curriculum for RCIA programs, but incorporates film and spiritual reading, she said.



In addition to studying the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," the group watches movies such as "The Mission," and reads several books, including "Confessions of St. Augustine."

Nicolosi hopes the work she does in forming young professionals through Act One and Family Theater will result in people being in the entertainment industry "who want to do for God what the others are doing for money."

And though some in Hollywood still "believe that inside every pro-lifer is a murderer looking to get out," she said, things are getting better. Father Raymond agreed. It is starting to become "cool to be Catholic," he said.

According to Nicolosi, one key to turning Hollywood around morally is to help moral people become professionally successful. She said that when well-meaning people make mediocre moral movies, they hurt their own cause.

"The church's mission is not to make movies, but to give artists a spiritual foundation, and to help them figure out their vocation," Nicolosi said. "We need millionaires to step forward and go after the artists."

What is needed, she added, is "a community of apostle artists who have their act together."

Nicolosi added that her company, Act One, is designed to give writers the tools they need to succeed in Hollywood on a professional level, while maintaining their spiritual integrity.

Father Raymond sees the fact that he puts newcomers in touch with "managers and people in the industry whom they can trust" as an integral part of his work at Family Theater.

Helping to spiritually support newcomers in the industry is also a key element of Family Theater's mission, according to Father Raymond.

"We want to ... let them know that their spiritual home here is Family Theater," he said.

According to Tyree, Family Theater is fulfilling its mission as spiritual home and moral base.

"Just stepping back from 'the business' for an evening of this type of sacred prayer helps me to refocus my life and career around God," he said.