In June of 1941, in Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a young Irishman from County Mayo was ordained a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. This young priest’s name was Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., and for the next fifty years he faithfully served the Church, especially through his pioneering use of radio, television, and film to promote the Gospel and devotion to Our Lady in the Rosary. The coiner of the famous slogans, “The family that prays together, stays together,” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace,” Fr. Peyton brought Hollywood legends such as Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, Loretta Young, Grace Kelly and James Cagney to his legendary radio program, “The Family Rosary Crusade,” in order to pray the Rosary with him—and the world.
In 1947 Fr. Peyton launched a new initiative, Family Theater Productions, as a means of putting the modern mass media at the service of the family. Located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California, Family Theater Productions is still going strong after 52 years. Now directed by another Holy Cross priest, and the Center’s good friend, Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C., Family Theater Productions continues to sponsor films, documentaries, and other events that, in the spirit of Fr. Peyton, seek to evangelize our culture through the media. In 1996, Family Theater Productions began a new outreach program, the Angelus Awards Student Film Festival. The Angelus Awards honors student filmmakers as they explore and create works that respect the dignity of the human person.
Since 2007, the Center has invited the Angelus Awards to make Notre Dame one of the stops on its annual promotional tour. Each year, Fr. Willy and the director of the Angelus Awards, Monika Moreno, travel the globe with a group of Angelus Awards winners in order to showcase the work of these young artists and to promote the transformation of culture through the mass media. In 2009, the Angelus Awards hit the road for stops at the Sundance Film Festival and Rome, Italy. After mucking about in these cultural backwaters, the Angelus roadshow finally arrived in late April to the state-of-the-art Browning Cinema in Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center for an event that has come to be known as An Evening of Angelus at Notre Dame.
This year’s event included a screening of four of the award-winning short films: In The Name of the Son (written and directed by Harun Mehmednovic); Deface (written and directed by John Arlotto); Old Days (written and directed by Matt Shapiro); and Small Change (written and directed by Anna McGrath). Anna McGrath, a native of Australia, couldn’t make it to the event, but after the screening the audience was able to hear from the three other filmmakers as they took part in a panel moderated by Monika Moreno.
After generously engaging in some final Q&A with the large and enthusiastic audience, the filmmakers repaired to a reception in their honor just outside the Browning Cinema. Given the connections between the University, Fr. Peyton, and the Congregation of Holy Cross, it is entirely fitting that An Evening of Angelus at Notre Dame continues to grow as an exciting new Notre Dame tradition. A beautiful day that traditionally begins with a Mass said by Fr. Willy in Notre Dame’s Log Chapel, continues with a lunch in The Morris Inn that affords a chance for Notre Dame students to meet the Angelus filmmakers, and culminates with the screening and panel in the Browning Cinema. An Evening of Angelus at Notre Dame is an exciting event that helps fulfill the Center’s mission to help transform all of culture with the light of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition. Fr. Peyton, whose cause for sainthood was opened in 2001, is now, like Pope John Paul II, honored by the Church with the title, “Servant of God.” May he intercede for us at the Center and for An Evening of Angelus at Notre Dame!