By: David DiCerto, CNS - October 4, 2004
TV REVIEW Oct-4-2004 (710 words) xxxm
"Faith Works: Across the USA," October, ABC
By David DiCerto
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) -- Here's a "reality" show worth watching. No one is voted off an island or fired in a boardroom, but spirits are lifted and lives are changed -- in some cases, saved. Faith, not fear, is the motivating "factor" here.
The program, "Faith Works: Across the USA," is a one-hour documentary highlighting the extraordinary differences "ordinary" American Catholics make while responding to the Gospel challenge of putting belief into action.
Produced as part of the "Vision & Values" series -- an interfaith consortium which provides religious programming to network television -- by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Catholic Communication Campaign, "Faith Works" is being shown on ABC-TV stations beginning Oct. 3 (check local listings for time and date).
Divided into nine segments -- each profiling radically different ministries -- the program creates a beautiful mosaic of selfless giving, which calls to mind the words of Blessed Mother Teresa: "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love." The good works spotlighted in this program are links in a chain of love that stretches from coast to coast; from a noisy soup kitchen in San Francisco to a tranquil Trappist monastery in the rolling blue hills of Kentucky.
One story features Sister Bernadette Kenny, a Medical Missionary of Mary, who has spent the past 20 years shuttling a mobile clinic around Appalachia, bringing medical attention and a warm smile to those without health insurance in impoverished mining communities.
"Healing is a mutual exchange, touching heart to heart," Sister Kenny explains from behind the wheel of her Winnebago. In spite of operating on the tightest of shoestring budgets, she remains undauntedly upbeat about the future: "When the shoestring breaks, we tie a knot and go on."
Echoing her optimism and trust in the Lord is Craig Cocia, the director of Cafe Reconcile in New Orleans. In 1996, Cocia, along with his longtime friend and mentor, Jesuit Father Harry Thompson (now deceased), came up with the idea of opening a restaurant in a rundown neighborhood in south central New Orleans, where high-risk youths -- many with juvenile records -- could learn life skills and build self-esteem.
To date, the training program has had more than 200 graduates, and Cafe Reconcile has been voted among the top 40 restaurants in New Orleans. Cocia admits that the undertaking was a leap of faith, but adds, "You gotta trust that God's gonna catch you."
Not all those ministries profiled involve attending to others' physical needs, as the segment on Jesuit Father George Coyne illustrates.
Father Coyne, a world renowned astronomer at the Vatican Observatory in Tucson, Ariz., has dedicated his life to feeding mankind's hunger for knowledge and wonder. His eyes light up when he talks of his research as "a prayer," a view supported by an inscription on the plaque above the papal observatory dome in Rome, which he tells us reads "God the Creator, come let us adore him." For Father Coyne, peering through his telescope is to watch "God caress the universe."
In telling its stories, "Faith Works" presents faces of the church which even many Catholics rarely get to see. Among them: Father Michael Schwarte, who, clad in a T-shirt, shorts and aviator glasses, pilots a single-prop plane while spreading the Gospel over 100,000 square miles in Alaska, or a parish in Rapid City, S.D., where Lakota people incorporate Native American culture into Catholic worship.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle, yet perhaps the most quietly heroic, are the images of Mel and Mona Espinoza, who hold down multiple jobs, waking up long before dawn to clean classrooms at St. George's School in Fort Worth, Texas, to pay for their children's education. St. George's principal Olga Ferris sums up the program's underlying message when she says, "You have to help make the world a better place, and if you don't contribute to that then you're not living a full life."
"Faith Works" is an exceptional program which reminds us of St. Paul's counsel that "There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served."