â€œService at The Altar,â€ a 24-minute documentarythat includes comments from four priests, a eucharistic minister andtwo altar servers â€“ a boy and a girl â€“ deals with more than thestruggles of todayâ€™s clergy.
â€œItâ€™s about Christianity,â€ said Frank Dâ€™Agostino, who produced the filmwith Tristan Rudat. â€œThe church has a message of love and hope. Itteaches us to be merciful and forgiving.â€
One of the most effective ways for the church to instill that messageand characteristics in children is to have them become altar servers,according to Eleanor T. Purdue, a eucharistic minister at LaSaletteShrine here. By having children participate in the Mass, she saidduring the documentary, they will grow closer to God and become evenmore aware of some of the churchâ€™s teachings.
John E. Kearns Jr., director of the communications office for theDiocese of Fall River, said the filmmakers did a great job, producing ahigh quality documentary â€œthat brings forth some real honest reflectionfrom priests on how their relationships with altar servers have beenimpacted by the scandal.â€
Dâ€™Agostino and Rudat received permission from the diocese to talk tothe priests in the documentary, and Bishop George W. Coleman gave hisapproval to the finished product, Kearns said.
â€œThe feeling at the end of this piece is a positive one,â€ said Kearns,who would recommend the documentary as a resource for parishes.
The 28-year-old Dâ€™Agostino said he wanted the â€œdocumentary to havelegsâ€ so he could educate the public about the important role played bythe church in the community.
â€œEverybody involved in the church is an altar server,â€ he said. â€œWe allwant to be loved. â€¦ Christâ€™s most important commandment is to love oneanother. When youâ€™re an altar server is when you start to learn aboutlove.â€
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, fearhas increased, Dâ€™Agostino said. â€œWith fear, comes anger,â€ he said. â€œButthe churchâ€™s message is one of love and hope. It teaches us to bemerciful and forgiving.â€
In the documentary, Father James Fahey of St. Theresaâ€™s Church remindsviewers that before the clergy sex-abuse scandal faithful Catholicsturned to priests for every need. â€œThe trust we had was created 100years ago,â€ he said. â€œIt took years to build up.â€
To regain that respect, he said, the clergy will have to serveâ€œgenerously and freelyâ€ for a period that will surpass his lifetime.
â€œThe church has never been a stranger to sin. The most grievous sins ofthe past cried out just as the sin of pedophilia cries out today,â€Father Michael Carvill of St. Josephâ€™s Church here said in thedocumentary.
â€œChristâ€™s answer to those sins was mercy,â€ he added. â€œThe way to overcome sin is to embrace all.â€
Priests live a life of service, Dâ€™Agostino said, and they deserve to be involved in the community.
A minority of priests destroyed the coveted trust men of the cloth hadwith their flocks, he said, adding that itâ€™s time for parishioners tostart believing again in their religious leaders. â€œWhat will it take?â€Dâ€™Agostino said. â€œI donâ€™t know, but this is a start.â€
Rudat and Dâ€™Agostino have held one public screening of the documentary.Dâ€™Agostino said he will start working on making the piece available tothe public after he enters the work in some film festivals.
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For more information, e-mail Dâ€™Agostino at email@example.com.