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Come to the Water
World-Premiere of the documentary about St. James Cathedral's RCIA Program!


Father Ryan is interviewed in the Cathedral on Holy Saturday, 2004.
 

The Challenge
How do you become Catholic? If you answer with words like RCIA, classes, Sacramental Preparation, Rites of Initiation, the Church can sound a bit cold, even academic. But the process of becoming a Catholic is less about education than about conversion. It's not a series of 'hoops' to be jumped through, but, a transformative, unforgettable experience, in which every corner of one's life is re-examined in the light of the Gospel.

In commissioning a new documentary on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave the New Group Media team a huge challenge: to explain the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults without getting bogged down in detail, and to tell the stories of individual inquirers without losing sight of the universal Church. With this challenge in mind, in the spring of 2003, Christopher Salvador and Sr. Judy Zielinski began scouting for parishes to profile. Their search led them across the country, from small-town, blue collar parishes to big inner-city churches, and finally to St. James Cathedral.

Deciding on St. James
Sister Judy remembers: "As we went to various parishes, we were looking for interesting stories, people starting from different places but converging on the way to baptism." Little things impacted their final decision: a pastor in Phoenix didn't show up to meet them, for instance! Another parish had a wonderful RCIA program, but would not have any catechumens preparing for Baptism in the coming year. Then again, there were parishes where the candidates or catechumens were unable to articulate what the experience meant to them on a deeper level.

When Christopher called St. James in Seattle and got Helen Oesterle's voicemail, he thought she sounded bright and upbeat. That positive first impression of the Cathedral was reinforced when Christopher came to Seattle. At the Wednesday evening RCIA meeting he attended, he counted 78 people, an absolutely extraordinary number, especially compared to the other parishes he�d visited. He was equally impressed with Helen, her team, and the catechumens preparing for baptism. He returned to South Bend full of enthusiasm about the possibilities. Sister Judy says: "Chris brought publications back from St. James. He came back very excited about some of the candidates!"

They knew they wanted to feature St. James but the project still lacked focus. The USCCB had wanted them to feature two parishes, one that had "mixed rites," that is, a parish that celebrated all the rites of initiation in one Mass at Easter. How would this work in terms of editing? Would it feel strange to jump back and forth from a rural, small-town parish to the inner-city bustle (and architectural grandeur) of St. James? And how would they coordinate having two teams working simultaneously in two different parishes on the holy night of Easter? When the USCCB said it wouldn't be necessary to show two parishes, that the team could focus on St. James alone, everything began to fall into place. And the team came to realize that St. James was itself so diverse it would be possible to show many different stories within this one parish.


Dozens gathered in Cathedral Hall on Monday night for the world-premiere.
 

Raw footage into finished documentary
The team made many trips out to St. James Cathedral, filming not only liturgies in the Cathedral, but interviewing Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett, Cathedral pastor Father Michael G. Ryan, Helen Oesterle and her team, as well as the candidates and catechumens themselves, many of whom welcomed the crew into their homes and spoke frankly about their faith journeys. But the collection of the footage was only the beginning! Back in Indiana the creative work began. Some twenty hours of collected footage is carefully transcribed, word by word, and is slowly pieced together to tell the story. Intense research follows, and Sister Judy (the writer) creates a script. For documentaries, the ratio of footage shot to finished footage is 20:1. From a liturgy an hour long 10 seconds or less might appear in the finished film. Narrative voice-over is added, and a musical score and artwork to give the documentary a particular feel. NGM Editor and Partner, Larry Bilinski, spent nearly two hundred hours editing the program together.

The Finished Film
The film traces the journey of several candidates and catechumens on their conversion to the Catholic Church.  They speak frankly and movingly about their faith, their doubts, their discovery of Jesus Christ, their experience of the RCIA process.  While the film is intended primarily as a teaching tool to clarify the meaning of the different Rites of Initiation, it has a universal appeal as well.  In a profoundly moving way, the documentary shows how the Church gathers people from every walk of life into one family of faith in Jesus Christ.

The Mission of New Group Media
New Group Media began as Golden Dome Productions at the University of Notre Dame. Begun in the early 1980s, by the late 1980s, when Christopher Salvador joined, it was a huge production company. In 2001, Notre Dame brought in consultants and made the decision to dissolve the company. Millions of dollars worth of equipment was sold off, scores were laid off. Within minutes, clients began calling Chris. So four partners, including Larry Bilinski, Christopher Salvador, Douglas Thomas and James Salvador joined together to form NewGroup Media.

New Group focuses on faith-based programming. They have created documentaries on refugees in Bosnia; they've produced on location in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America as well throughout the entire United States. "NewGroup Media values its faith-based clients - churches, dioceses, religious orders, not-for-profit organizations, educational institutions and national religious ministries, helping each one articulate its particular message. Our familiarity with and sensitivity to issues of faith allows us to work with a variety of believers. We have created powerful video tools for a variety of faiths, dealing with far-ranging themes and issues," said Sr. Judy. NewGroup Media also has a successful commercial division which produces Television spots, Documentaries, Industrial and Institutional videos, Capital Campaign and Fundraising videos, Training programs and coordinates staging and lighting for Annual Meetings, Conventions and Fund Raising events.
 


After the screening, Stuart Ling and Odetta Owen Ling congratulate Christopher Salvador of New Group Media, who produced and directed the film.

Continue on to Tuesday's events
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Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303