MILWAUKEE — Through the years people have gone to the movies with friends, family members and significant others.
But at Gesu Parish in downtown Milwaukee over the last few months, people have been “Going to the Movies with God.”
That’s the title of the ongoing film program Gesu’s director of adult and youth formation, Mike Heimbach, introduced at the parish in January. Three movies have been screened; two more will complete the series. Admission is free, and each movie night begins at 6:30 in Fr. Herian Hall in the basement of the Gesu Parish Center, 1210 W. Michigan St. Each session lasts approximately two hours and is independent of every other. Parking is available in the lot behind the church.
“I’m always looking for different programs to enrich the adult formation experience at Gesu,” Heimbach told your Catholic Herald. “I wanted to do something with film.”
After each film is shown, he said, “I give (audience members) a brief opportunity to discuss.… I also send them home with a series of reflection questions.”
Providing questions for the road, he explained, makes for a less time-consuming movie night out. “People don’t feel so overly committed” with just a two-hour expenditure of time once a month, it seems, he said.
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The idea for “Going to the Movies with God” stemmed from an article Heimbach read in the National Catholic Reporter about incorporating film into the study of the Word, he said. The article’s author was Daughter of St. Paul Sr. Rose Pacatte, movie reviewer for St. Anthony Messenger.
“Once a month participants will view a film and then have the opportunity to reflect on how God’s Word was active within the characters of the film,” according to the Gesu website in describing the film series. “This procedure,” the website further noted, “is an offshoot from … ‘holy reading’ and represents a traditional Catholic practice of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to increase in the knowledge of God’s Word. It is a way of praying with Scripture that calls one to study, ponder, listen, view and, finally, pray over God’s Word within the soul.”
The first two films in the series – the 2008 documentary “The Human Experience” and the Luke Wilson/George Lopez comedy-drama “Henry Poole Is Here,” also from 2008 – exhibited “very uplifting elements,” according to Heimbach.
“The Human Experience,” he said, had been “promoted by the archdiocese” and previously shown to confirmation candidates and catechists. The documentary follows a band of brothers visiting lepers, orphans and homeless individuals in various parts of the world.
February’s movie, “Henry Poole Is Here,” concerns a man who goes back to his boyhood home, presumably to die – only to have the house turned into something of a shrine by neighbors who think they see Jesus’ image on one of the outside walls. The principles of consolation and desolation are present in “Henry Poole Is Here,” said Heimbach, and there are the notion of the miraculous and the idea of finding God in all things as well.
The final films of the series are scheduled for Wednesdays, April 27 and May 25. The expected April 27 selection, the drama “Doubt” (2008), stars Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and tells the story of a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, where a popular priest’s ambiguous relationship with a troubled 12-year-old black student is questioned by the school’s principal.
The May 25 movie, “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007), is about a young man who finds an absolute doll of a girlfriend – not a “living doll,” but a literal one – on the Internet. Ryan Gosling stars.
The “Going to the Movies with God” series, said Heimbach, “has been a very rewarding experience” – so much so that he’d like to start a new series this fall.