By Fr. Corey Close
This past October, to celebrate the great event that is All Hallow’s Eve, we at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton held our first high school youth FWF (Film With Father) Night, which drew 23 teens for film, faith and fellowship! Before I describe this event, let me tell a little back story.
I love movies. I always have. My parents and I would watch a movie together almost every night when I was growing up. My dad had a big, thick book listing nearly every movie ever made, and we made it our task to go through every four- to five-star movie in the book. So, in short, I’ve seen a lot of movies. During those years, several movies caught my attention and I fell hopelessly in love with a special few. As I transitioned into seminary life, my love for movies inspired me in a new way: “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could use movies as a form of ministry?” As the seminary years moved on, I tucked away in the back of my mind a dream of showing movies to whatever parish I would be assigned, creating an opportunity for discussions and spiritual growth. James Martin in his book “My Life with the Saints” wrote “movies can serve the same purpose that murals or frescoes did in prior centuries…” As the stained-glass windows of old taught so many in the ways of the faith, maybe movies could do the same for us today.
When I arrived at Prince of Peace this past summer, Father Ken Kuntz, the pastor, showed me around my quarters. I noticed a door that was closed. It looked like it led to the back basement, so I had no real desire to enter. Then, to my surprise, he said: “And here is where our best-kept secret is.” The door was opened, and I looked in shock to see a movie theater, right off of my study. I could not believe it. How Divine Providence had led me to serve this parish that had not only a rectory, but one with a movie theater! It was enough to humble me. I began preparations immediately, talking first with Brenda Bertram, director of faith formation and youth ministry, about the possibility of having movie nights with the high school students. We set dates and compiled a list of possible movies to view. Our first movie night was Oct. 20.
Now, being a lover of All Hallow’s Eve, I made preparations as best I could. I dressed up my apartment as a mini-haunted house, invited the teens to come in costume, got a popcorn machine, and had the movie ready to go. However, without the hard work of Brenda as well as some parents who volunteered, this endeavor would not have been possible.
On movie night, 23 teens showed up, about half of them in costume! Six guys arrived, sat down on the couch and put a bed sheet over their heads to turn into six ghosts. There was a clown, a jester, a Greek goddess, an Oreo cookie and more! But my favorite, the best in show, was two girls dressed up as Fr. Ken and myself! I handed out awards for best, most creative, creepiest, and laziest, and then began the movie!
“Coraline” is a fun, imaginative and somewhat spooky claymation movie that tells the tale of a little girl who’s moved to the Pacific Northwest from Detroit. She doesn’t particularly like her parents or her neighbors, and wishes her life were different. It’s a great movie, especially if you want a Halloween movie with a good message. After the movie, we had a great discussion — cut short only because it was time to go — about the movie’s meaning.
I am so thankful for God’s generosity and sense of humor in allowing me this one silly thing, and I hope and pray that our other FWF nights are as fun and as successful as our first!
(Fr. Corey Close is parochial vicar at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton.)