By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
“Vianney,” a one-man national stage production depicting the life of St. Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney, the patron saint of all the world’s priests, will be performed in five parishes across the Archdiocese Nov. 30-Dec. 4.
The play coincides with the universal Church’s celebration of the Year of the Priest, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Aug. 4 death of the saint. Commonly known to Catholics as the Curé (parish priest) of Ars, St. John Vianney won the hearts of his villagers in France by conversing with them, teaching them about God and reconciling them to the Lord in the confessional.
The 90-minute multimedia play is produced and performed by 57-year-old Leonardo Defilippis, president of St. Luke Productions, an independent Catholic company that produces professional theatrical, DVD and feature film dramas on the life of Christ and the saints.
Headquartered in Battle Ground, Wash., Defilippis co-founded the company nearly 30 years ago with his wife Patti, who is also a director and screenwriter.
Defilippis also directed and starred in the 2005 feature film “Therese,” the story of St. Therese of Lisieux, distributed through the company’s Luke Productions.
The Philadelphia Archdiocese is sponsoring the “Vianney” performances in five parishes. In lieu of an admission fee, a free-will offering will be taken up.
“Vianney” chronicles the saint’s life – 1786 to 1859 – from his childhood amid the chaos of the French Revolution through his death at age 73 after serving for 40 years as the renowned parish priest in Ars.
His many battles with the devil, from whom he valiantly steals souls, are also depicted. “He’s one of the most attacked saints of all time by Satan himself,” Defilippis said.
The production is not merely a play but a movement to foster a renewal of parish life, vocations to the priesthood and religious life and a return to the sacraments. “People go to confession after seeing this play,” Defilippis said.
St. John Vianney’s simplicity, charity and passion for souls are paramount to the audience’s attraction to the play, according to Defilippis.
He assures that audiences will leave with a sense of hope and perseverance after learning about the humble pastor who spared nothing to save sinners.
“It is my prayer that when people meet John Vianney, they will, just like the people of Ars, be transformed by his life, story and message,” he said. “I know that young men looking for a radical way of serving God will be drawn to the priesthood through his example.”
The play was scheduled to be performed for prelates attending the November 16 – 19 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.
As the Year of the Priest commemorates the sesquicentennial of the saint’s death, Pope Benedict XVI is designating the patron saint of parish priests the patron saint of all the world’s priests.
“The Curé of Ars is the saint who will inspire all of us, especially young people, with a deeper understanding of the heroic life of the priest,” Defilippis said.
With the assistance of Father Christopher B. Rogers, director of the Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood, Father Joseph C. McLoone, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Chester, Delaware County, is coordinating the production in the Archdiocese.
“Hopefully, the play will elicit in the lives of the people not only an understanding of the life of John Vianney but how God is still at work in the life of the Church, especially through the gift of the priesthood,” said Father McLoone.
In an effort to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life, young people are especially encouraged to attend the production, Father McLoone added.
Although the promotional material states that the play is suitable for those ages 12 and above, Defilippis said younger children have also been accompanying their parents to the peformances.
For more information, visit the web site www.vianneydrama.com.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 30 – St. John Bosco Church, Hatboro, Bucks County; 235 E. County Line Road, Hatboro, PA 19040. For more information, call 215-672-7280.
Tuesday, Dec. 1 – St. Cornelius Church, Chadds Ford, Chester County; 160 Ridge Road, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. For more information, call 610-459-2502.
Wednesday, Dec. 2 – St. Helena Social and Recreation Center, Blue Bell, Montgomery County; 1489 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422. For more information, call 610-275-7711.
Thursday, Dec. 3 – Holy Cross Parish Hall, Springfield, Delaware County; 651 E. Springfield Road, Springfield, PA 19064. For more information, call 610-626-3321.
Friday, Dec. 4 – Our Lady of Ransom, Northeast Philadelphia; 6700 Roosevelt Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19149. For more information, call 215-332-6166. In lieu of an admission charge, there will be a free-will offering.