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Pg1-SaintsActor portraying Saint Augustine of Hippo greats audience members on Feb. 5 at the filming of a new series for EWTN. (Photo by Bob Mullen)

WATERBURY – "Ladies and gentlemen, … there’s a saint in the house."

With those sonorously delivered words of introduction, producers of a new television series for EWTN filmed a series of half-hour programs about saints before a live studio audience in February at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Called "Saints Alive!" the novel program for the global Catholic network features 10 of the great saints of history who return from heaven to be interviewed and questioned about some of the most important issues of today.

During the days of filming, Feb. 5-7, producers held intensive one-on-one interviews with the actor/saints; then, at night, they preselected members of the audience to ask a question of the saint before the live audience.

"It’s fantastic," said Ellen Restivo of Waterbury about the live program. "Not only is it exciting that it’s being produced here in Connecticut, but it’s a wonderful way to learn more about the saints."

As the actors entered the basilica in costume and walked down the aisle, escorted by a Knights of Columbus honor guard, they were greeted by enthusiastic applause before ascending the steps of the altar and taking questions from the audience.

"This is an opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation for the wisdom of the saints, as they present their thoughts on current issues as if they were living today," said Donna Slusz of Forestville.

Noted Dick Keeley of Waterbury, "I support EWTN and the basilica, and wanted to come and see what the process was all about."

The program was conceived by Doug Keck, EWTN’s chief operating officer and executive officer, who reached out to the Winsted-based Arcadia Films Ltd. to produce the series. The local company, founded by the father-son team of Richard and Stephen Payne, has produced some 120 films, largely in the Catholic media market.

Each evening, a noted theologian served as opening speaker to set the tone and provide background about the communion of saints. They were Father Benedict Groeschel and Father Andrew Apostoli, both members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and both popular authors, speakers and EWTN series hosts; and Ronda Chervin, a professor at Holy Apostles College in Cromwell and an author.

Following their talk, the saints for the day were introduced: Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Gemma Galganni and Saint Gregory the Great on the first evening; Saint Louis de Montfort, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Robert Bellarmine on the second evening; and Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, and Saint Jean Vianney on the third.

On the last evening of filming, actor Michael Morlino, as Father Michael J. McGivney, walked down the aisle with a Knights of Columbus honor guard. Stephen Payne said that in the series, Father McGivney will welcome the saints as one who is on the path to sainthood.

The renowned native of Waterbury, who later served at Immaculate Conception Parish, went on to found the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary Parish in New Haven.He is now being considered for canonization, having been named "venerable" by the Church in 2008.

"This is a real opportunity for us to get to know about the saints not just as people but as models for our lives who can help us reach holiness," said Lorraine Greski of Ansonia.

"It’s wonderful for the city of Waterbury," added Elaine Cerullo, who, with her husband, Lou, operates St. Michael’s Catholic Bookstore in McGivney Hall behind the basilica.

"It brings everyone together and helps us understand why we venerate the saints and how important they are in our life, in our prayer life and in our contact with God," she said. "This program helps us understand that they are real people like us. They remind us that anybody can be a saint."

Stephen Payne said of the filming, "It’s an expression of the mercy of God to focus on our true heroes."

It is not yet known when the series will air.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.