Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Let There BePeace On Earth" - The 2007 Rosary Bowl

by Hope Frances w/writing contribution from Paschel Sims

The brightest stars in Hollywood were shining over the Rose Bowl Stadium on Saturday.Over 50,000 Catholics filled with their faith, filled the stadium for the Rosary Bowl. Thetheme for the event was "A World at Prayer is a World at Peace." And, that peace was definitely felt by all who attended the celebration.

The Rosary Bowl was sponsored by Holy Cross Ministries and its local member FamilyTheater productions, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The awe inspiring evening left all who attended wondering when the next one would take place.

It was an amazing celebration of the rosary, and honored the Blessed Virgin Mary sobeautifully. Participants entered the stadium to the sound of praise and worship music.A choir of 80 singers conducted by Saint Monica Parish Music Director Ed Archer filledthe air as one angelic voice. Special musical guests included Mario Reyes of the GypsyKings Family, Mario Alberto and Paul Harrigan.

The procession onto the field represented various Marian groups from throughout thediocese. They were followed by our precious treasure of the church - nuns from manydifferent religious orders. The Knights of Columbus were next to grace us with theirpresence donning Fourth Degree regalia. It was a sight to behold.

One-by-one, the princes of the church, Los Angeles' seven auxiliary bishops, processedtoward the altar with our Cardinal Roger Mahony displaying the most blessed sacramentin the monstrance to the delight of an overwhelmed crowd.

A living rosary was created on the field with several people making up each bead.

Every nationality was represented in their native dress. The start of every bead was prayed in adifferent language, followed by the crowd in English. This showed the multi-culturalaspect of the evening and the power of prayer across the world and across nationalities.Between each decade a guest speaker gave their testimony to the power of praying therosary and how it had changed their life.

Jim Caviezel, who played the role of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, was one of the guest speakers. He mentioned that although he has found recognition in Hollywood, it is much more important to have recognition in heaven with God.

After concluding the rosary, the gospel was proclaimed by Deacon Hosea Alexander.Cardinal Mahony then spoke eloquently on the beauty and merits of praying the rosary.He encouraged us to pray the rosary regularly and suggested praying it in our cars as ameans of bringing peace to the streets.

The evening ended with a procession out of the stadium to the hymn, "Let There BePeace On Earth." It was a fitting ending to such a wonderful celebration of the BlessedVirgin Mary and the power of prayer.

God shines brighter than all the stars in Hollywood.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gerry Straub - Using the Power of Film for the Service of the Poor (Part II)

by Hope Frances

(Click here to read Part I of this story)

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Matthew 19:21


…So Gerry rounded up some of his friends in the film industry to produce a documentary based on the poor and homeless at the St. Francis Inn. They spent four days living at the shelter in the slums with Philadelphia's destitute. We Have a Table for Four Ready was then produced and according to Gerry, "somehow the film ended up on PBS."

Viewers of all faiths so overwhelmingly responded to the film that it brought in close to a quarter of a million dollars in donations to the St. Francis Inn. With the donations, the friars built a new soup kitchen, which could better accommodate their needs. In addition, the friars also were able to add a chapel to the second floor of the shelter. The homeless can now pray in the chapel and experience God away from the struggles they face living on the streets of Philadelphia.

By following his desire to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis, the documentary filmmaker found his calling in life. The man who was once "chasing after Brother BMW" now found true fulfillment in living among and documenting the plight of the poor through the power of film.

"That experience (at the St. Francis Inn) showed me that it was possible maybe to put the power of film at the service of the poor," said Gerry.


During a meeting with the Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Gerry told his desire to go deeper into the "belly of the poor." He asked permission to travel around the world, live with the friars and serve the poorest of the poor. The Minister General blessed the plan and for the next 15 months Gerry lived out the struggles and hardships of the poor spanning 29 cities across India, Kenya, Jamaica, Italy, the Philippines, Mexico, Canada and the United States.

He saw firsthand the depth of despair plaguing the poor on a daily basis. Of their living conditions he said, "I have filmed in the worst slums on earth, seeing people earning a living scavenging through the waste of others in massive garbage dumps. And encountering horribly disfiguring lepers in the Amazon region of Brazil and spending months on the mean streets of skid row in downtown Los Angeles."

From his 15 months of living in the most unimaginably poor conditions in the world came the book, When Did I See You Hungry? Through the eye of a camera, Mr. Straub uses black and white photography to bring to surface what we so often shelter ourselves from - the 2/3 of the world's population living in severe poverty. A short film based on the book was then produced. Narrated by Martin Sheen, the documentary When Did I See You Hungry? uses over 250 photos from the book of the same name to further reinforce our responsibility to the least of God's children.


The San Damiano Foundation was later founded with the mission to produce fundraising films for Christian charities throughout the world that serve the poor. The foundation was named after the church of San Damiano in Assisi, Italy where the Franciscan movement had its start.

The funding for the films he produces is either raised on his own or the services are donated in kind. In making the films he has never stayed in the comforts of a hotel. Gerry's life is equally as uncomfortable as those seen on screen. He literally lives with the poor. Staying in "rooms with bats, snakes, no running water or electricity" is not uncommon.

It is "emotionally draining, hard work." Devoting the first 90 minutes of each day to prayer is what sustains him. Gerry feels no desire to go back to his old lifestyle of the rich and famous in Hollywood.

"I make virtually no money, yet I have never been happier or more fulfilled living with the poor," he said.

His films have a lasting impression on viewers. In the past year five college students who saw The Patients of a Saint we so moved by it that they decided to spend their summer volunteering in Lima, Peru with Dr. Tony Lazzara. Dr. Lazzara opened up a home for poverty-stricken children with severe illnesses. Not only does he offer free medical attention to the children, he also provides them a place to live as well as an education.

"When we hear the cries of the oppressed, the cries of the poor, we hear the voice of God," said Gerry.

I encourage all who read this to visit the San Damiano Foundation website ( and view some of the video clips to hear the voice of God.

God continues to shine brighter than all the stars in Hollywood.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gerry Straub - Using the Power of Film for the Service of the Poor (Part I)

by Hope Frances

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Matthew 19:21

So often the lure of materialism leaves us in denial that there is another side of the spectrum. Hollywood, especially, is known for its movie sets that portray the 'perfect' life as one full of the latest and greatest material goods: several cars neatly parked in the garage of a beautiful, pristine home where the cupboards are stocked and the electricity and water flow freely at the flip of a switch or the turn of a faucet.

Very rarely, though, are we viewers exposed to that other side - those living in poverty.
As a former producer of General Hospital during the heyday of Luke and Laura, Gerry Straub lived among the richest of the rich in Hollywood. And now as founder and president of The San Damiano Foundation, he lives among the poorest of the poor in unbearable conditions in slums with neither running water nor electricity.

He lives among lepers. He lives among children in poverty-stricken countries whose bodies are being eaten away by incurable diseases.

All in an effort to show the reality of poverty through the power of film.


Raised in a Catholic home, Mr. Straub felt the calling to become a missionary priest at a young age. He entered the seminary in his teens, but withdrew in the first year.

After graduating high school he landed a summer job at CBS New York handing out tickets for "The Ed Sullivan Show." He continued moving his way up the ladder and by age 21 he was an executive at CBS. By 30, he had his own network show.

"I was a big success," said Gerry. "I made a lot of money. I had a lot of prestige, but there was a deep emptiness inside of me, which I tried to fill with all kinds of things, usually bad things. But, the emptiness wouldn't go away."

Eventually he started getting disillusioned with network television. He felt the focus was on rating points. He turned down the opportunity for advancement and left his television career in favor of writing.


Essentially, he wanted to use his writing as a vehicle to find out what happened to his faith.
"As a child and as a young teenager I had these ideas about being a priest. Suddenly after 15 years of television all of that just fell by the wayside."

With the rise of his career as a television executive he fell away from his Catholic faith. He says that he became "a committed atheist."

His first novel entitled Dear Kate was about a man obsessed with searching for God. He started writing a second novel, The Canvas of the Soul. He wanted to "explore the connection between creativity and spirituality with Vincent van Gogh representing creativity and St. Francis representing spirituality."

After devoting one and a half years to the novel, Gerry encountered a writer's block. So, to get past the writer's block, he decided to travel to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, and to Arles, France where van Gogh found his creative inspiration.


Gerry's trip to Assisi turned out to be more than a means of inspiration. It was a conversion.
On the day of his arrival in Rome, he walked into a church and read Psalm 63 in the Liturgy of the Hours and "God broke through the silence of the church."

He felt the "overwhelming presence of God." He knew that the longing he had felt all these years could only be satisfied by God.

"In this moment of revelation I was transformed from an atheist to a pilgrim and I went from denying God to wanting to experience more and more of God," he said.

Later, upon the recommendation of a Jesuit priest, Gerry scrapped his book on the connection between van Gogh and St. Francis. Rather, he spent the next five years writing The Sun and Moon Over Assisi: A Personal Encounter With Francis and Clare.

In writing the book, he couldn't comprehend the saint's love, not only of the poor, but of poverty.
"To St. Francis," said Gerry, "voluntary poverty was a way of becoming wholly dependent on God for everything. St. Francis spoke of being wedded to Lady Poverty."


Gerry again made a life-changing decision. A friend of his, an elderly friar, suggested that he live with the poor to better understand St. Francis' love for poverty. He went to the worst slum in America, the Kensington section of Philadelphia, and lived with the friars at the St. Francis Inn.

"Every concept I had about the poor and homeless turned out to be a misconception. I met real people. People just like me in so many ways," he said.

He said that it's so easy to judge or label these people but cautions us because it removes the obligation that we have to love our neighbor as God asks of us. From his experience living with the poor he decided to make a film about the St. Francis Inn…

…to be continued next week as…
God continues to shine brighter than all the stars in Hollywood.

For further information about the Gerry Straub and The San Damiano Foundation, please visit their website at

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Accepting God's Will

by Hope Frances

I heard a story about a priest who went to visit a 27-year-old dying man at the hospital. The priest made a wrong turn and found himself in the room of an 80-year-old.

Instead of turning around and finding the younger man's room, the priest decided to stop and chat a while with the elderly man. To the priest's surprise he found the man to be very hardened toward God. It seemed that the more the priest tried to console him, the harder his heart grew.

After their visit was over, the priest found the 27-year-old's room. What a contrast was their visit compared to the one the priest had just had. He found the younger man to be very at peace with the reality of the cancer that was eating away at his body.

There's no doubt that the peace and resignation to God's Will that the young patient felt can be attributed to his Catholic faith and prayer life.

Like the young man in the above story, Therese Fox is also resigned to God's Will. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer several weeks ago. The doctors have given her 6 - 9 months to live.

Therese is a devoted wife and mother of seven children. An active Catholic, she is the Director of Religious Education at her parish in Georgia. Her faith and trust in God is unwavering. Miraculously, Therese's Catholic faith is giving her the peace to surrender to God's Will for her life.

When I first heard about Therese having been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, I wanted to write a story about her life and what an incredible wife, mother and friend she is.

But, she didn't want a biography. She didn't want the attention to be on her and all of her accomplishments in life. To me, that just shows what a genuine person she really is. She's not looking for sympathy, however, she does welcome the gift of your prayers.

So, I ask you readers to offer your prayers for a miraculous recovery for Therese Fox. Her family asks that you pray for the intercession of Pope John Paul II for strength and acceptance of God’s Will in their lives.

To find out more about Therese and to send her a spiritual bouquet, please visit the website

"For nothing will be impossible with God." Luke 1:37

Thursday, February 15, 2007

168 Hour Film Project - "A Theme, A Verse, A Week"

by Hope Frances

168 hours. One week. That's how long contestants in the 168 Hour Film Project have to produce a short 10-minute film. And, there's one other requirement. The short has to be based on a BIBLE verse.

It's the ultimate filmmaker's challenge.

"We're starting with what the word of God says and then putting it into a vehicle the world understands," said John Ware, Founder & Executive Director of the 168 Project.

Now in its fifth year, the filmmaking competition has been launching the careers of Hollywood's future producers, writers and directors while keeping them focused on their Christian faith. Over the past four years, 173 films have been produced for the competition in hopes of being recognized at the 168 Film Festival. This year they are expected to have 60 entrants.


Prior to production week, the 168 hosts workshops and mixers to get the production crews prepped and ready to roll camera. Then the BIBLE verse is assigned. According to John, "What they do in the assignment is they take a stone and the stone has a BIBLE verse on it. Then we read the BIBLE verse and boom, they're gone."

Once they have the verse upon which the film is to be based, the writers are given three days to write the script. After the three days of writing, a huge casting session is held to select the actors. With such a short time frame in which to work, most of the actors are cast that day. "After casting they finish up pre-production week. The actual 168 hours refers to the period of time for production and post," said John.


When you have only one week and limited resources to produce a film, you're already behind the eight ball. The mere challenge of producing a film in 168 hours tests the moviemaker's faith and trust in God. But miraculously, everything seems to fall into place.

The behind-the-scenes stories of production week are equally as compelling as the films created during that time. It's not uncommon for those involved in every level of each film project to have life-changing experiences drawing them closer to God.

"We've seen so much revolutionary change," said John regarding the ways in which the competition has changed people's lives.

"There was one girl who was going to kill herself and somebody persuaded her to be on a 168 project. So she found the kindness on the set. She decided not to kill herself and she actually found the Lord on the set, too."

Pointing out another life-changing experience John said, "One guy was a producer and he said, 'Before 168 God and I weren't talking. Now we have a relationship.'"

There have been so many amazing miracles on the set that the 168 Hour Film Project is looking to produce a reality television show based on the behind-the-scenes stories of production week.


In order for a film to qualify for the 168 Film Festival it must adhere to the strict policies of the competition. According to John, "If they're late or if the film is over 11 minutes, they're not eligible for any awards. If they're one second late, we have to say, 'We're sorry.'"

All of the eligible entries are then pre-screened and rated numerically. Then they are narrowed down to the top 20. "Once we give the 20 to the judges we have a day of judging," said John.

Using to the BIBLE verse and its meaning weighs a lot in the scoring process. "You have to do what we call scriptural integration. That's 20% of the so-called grade. If people don't get the verse right, then they don't do well in the contest. It's a marriage of dreams and following God's word. Our goals are to illuminate the word of God and train young filmmakers and advance their careers," said John.

The top 20 films are then shown during the two-day 168 Film Festival held in Glendale, California on March 23 at Star's Art Theatre and March 24 at the Alex Theatre. The public is encouraged to attend the screenings and the awards show. Twenty awards are presented at the end of the film festival including best scriptural integration, film, comedy, screenplay, actor and actress. Select films from the festival will be shown on TBN.

Last year's winning film was from Italy. "It was a beautiful story. It's been downloaded about 10,000 times in Italy," said John.

Once again showing that… God shines brighter than all the stars in Hollywood.

(For further information about the 168 Hour Film Project and tickets for the 168 Film Festival, please visit their website at

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hollywood Connect - Keeping Christ Center Stage

by Hope Frances

It's no secret that making connections in any business is important. In the entertainment industry, those connections can help get one's foot in the d

oor and onto a movie set. But, how do you maintain your Christian values along the way?
Enter stage left - Hollywood Connect.

Started in 2003, Hollywood Connect has been connecting 'Christians in the Arts, Media, and Entertainment industry by providing resources and guidance for their practical, professional, and spiritual needs.' By arming Christians with the proper skills and resources, they will be better able to stay on track while living out their God-given talents.


According to Michele Suh, Director of Hollywood Connect, "Our ministry in a nutshell is helping industry Christians fulfill their calling by helping them meet as many of their spiritual, professional and personal needs. It's a real holistic ministry."

Browsing through the organization's website, I was amazed at the thoroughness of the information they provide for those pursuing a career in show business. The website is a virtual plethora of information that covers every step of the process involved in working in the world of entertainment - moving to Hollywood, job resources, parishes, agents, industry-specific training, books, and the list goes on - all in an effort to help Christians connect with each other and with their faith.
According to Michelle whether you're a veteran or new to the city, "We disseminate all kinds of information through the website, through our orientation sessions, and then we send them back out to the appropriate ministries for which they're probably going to have an affinity."

In addition to their 'exhaustive website' of information, Hollywood Connect also has two flagship programs they have created to help Christians in the secular world fulfill their calling. The 'Gateway' program is targeted to newcomers. "It helps people transition to the Los Angeles/Hollywood lifestyle spiritually, professionally and personally," said Michelle.

And, for the veteran is the program entitled '360°.' "The 360° is more for veterans," said Michelle, "who have been here for a while who are kind of stuck and just need to get to the next level in their career."

They target such issues as 'roadblocks' and marketing yourself. "We teach you to honor your spiritual gifts and make sure that you're aware of what they are."


Since the entertainment industry is global, Hollywood Connect saw the need to take their organization to other key cities throughout the United States with their Global Arts & Entertainment Alliance. They've established partnerships in the cities of Atlanta, Indianapolis, Nashville, New York and Washington, DC all in an effort of "helping them build networks and alliances to get them strategically unified."

And, the fruits of their labor have paid off for Christians with a stronger presence in the entertainment industry. Michelle pointed this out in saying that Christians are "so much more aware of the jobs that are open because we're making greater inroads and so we're passing along information much more quickly.

The secular industry is noticing. And they're willing to hire (Christians)."

Proving once again that… God shines brighter than all the stars in Hollywood.

For more information on Hollywood Connect, please visit their website at

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Rosary Bowl - 'A World At Prayer Is A World At Peace'

By Hope Frances

Picture this - 90,000 adoring fans gathered at the Rose Bowl Stadium plus countless thousands watching from home on their television set. Sounds like a description of the famous football game played there every January. However, instead of team spirit, they're filled with the Holy Spirit.

They're celebrating their Catholic faith and devotion to the rosary at the Rosary Bowl.
On May 19, 2007 from 6 - 9 pm Holy Cross Family Ministries and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will host the Rosary Bowl at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California.

According to Fr. Willy Raymond, Co-Director of the Rosary Bowl, the choice of the Rose Bowl as site for the event was a "no-brainer." "The Rose Bowl was always the favorite because of its name - Rose." The rose has been the symbol for the Virgin Mother for many centuries.
History of the Event

The concept of the rosary rally dates back to 1947 when Fr. Patrick Peyton started spreading devotion to Mary through publicly reciting the rosary as he traveled across the world. The crowds drawn to the rallies rapidly grew in number, with some rallies topping a million people.

"He saw these as an opportunity for the local churches to gather together and give praise to God and celebrate the important role that Mary plays as the mother of God and the mother of the church," said Fr. Willy.

And thus was the inspiration for the rosary rally at the Rose Bowl.

"We were looking for a way to revive the practice that Fr. Peyton had of these large celebrations of the Catholic faith."

Family Prayer

The main purpose of the Rosary Bowl is to promote prayer in the family. After all, Fr. Peyton made famous the phrase, The Family That Prays Together Stays Together.

And, there are plenty of families in Los Angeles, as it is the largest archdiocese in the country.

"I think it is the best place in the country to begin reviving with a fresh and new look this tradition of coming together to celebrate our faith in large numbers," said Fr. Willy.

The three-hour event promises to be youthful and contemporary.

"We're drawing on a lot of artists and people in the entertainment industry, athletes and others to come and share their faith."

The first half of the evening will be comprised of song and personal testimony. The second half will include exposition and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament followed by Benediction.

"Young people will be making up the living rosary out on the playing field. Each bead will be made up of 10 young people in the archdiocese. Every ethnic group in the archdiocese will be represented in their national costume and will be leading some portion of the rosary."

Becoming a Part of History

The Rosary Bowl is an event young and old will not want to miss. The celebration is sure to be an unforgettable evening filled with the Holy Spirit. What a beautiful way to share your faith and spread God's Word across the world!

Indeed, God shines brighter than all the stars in Hollywood.

For ticket information on the Rosary Bowl, please visit the website at