WASHINGTON—It's Ash Wednesday in Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood, and Father Mitch Rozanski, pastor of Holy Cross Parish, struggles up the five flights of stairs to the top of his church steeple.
The bells of the 150-year-old church tower need to be fixed. Earlier in the day, Father Rozanski distributed ashes to parishioners and preached on the significance of Lent's journey. In the congregation are longtime residents of this working class neighborhood, business people from the Inner Harbor, and new homeowners with infants. Welcome to the world of a parish priest.
This world will be the topic of an hour-long documentary entitled Answering God's Call: The Experience of Priesthood, which will be distributed by ABC-TV to its affiliates Sunday, Oct. 12 at 12:30 p.m. ET. (Call your ABC-TV affiliate for the local date and time.)
In addition to Father Rozanski, Father Patrick Smith, pastor of St. Peter Claver, an African-American parish in St. Inigoes, Md., is also profiled. As the program interweaves scenes of visits to the sick and parish meetings, Answering God's Call reveals the priests’ faith journey as well as the challenges they face.
“I had an idea that somehow, some way, I would want to serve God,” says Father Smith, a native of Washington. When he realized that his call was to be a priest, he said, “the vocation crisis ended and the crisis of faith began.”
As he contemplated the priesthood, he said, he began to “worry about how I would manage. …”
“[T]hen I came to the realization that I was capable of meeting these new challenges, and that God would guide me in this process,” he said. He realized, he added, that he should “have faith and move on.”
This faith has helped him to develop into a powerful preacher and dynamic organizer who has recharged the parish and community.
Challenges also faced Baltimore native Father Rozanski when he became pastor of two parishes, Holy Cross and St. Mary, Star of the Sea. Inspired by the shamrocks in Holy Cross's stained glass windows and the stations of the cross in German at St. Mary's, Father Rozanski recalls the strong faith roots of the original residents as he ministers to the needs of today's communities.
He also notes the changing times.
“How do we make our faith just as alive and vibrant now as that faith was alive and vibrant and important to [the immigrants] when they came over to these shores?” he asks. “That's the challenge.”
Answering God's Call: The Experience of Priesthood was directed by Academy Award winner Gerardine Wurzburg and produced by State of the Art, Inc., her Washington-based multimedia communications company.
“This film takes you beyond the headlines, and into the reality of a world where the spiritual and mundane must walk hand in hand,” she said. “The decision to become a priest is not an easy one today, and I was impressed by Father Mitch and Father Pat. Each strikes a different balance, but they both see that their basic roles are to offer solace, encourage change, and believe in the essential worth of each parishioner.”
Ellen McCloskey, of the U.S. Catholic Conference's (USCC) Catholic Communication Campaign, served as executive producer.
The documentary is the first program in the annual “Vision & Values” series sponsored by the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, of which the USCC is a member. Videotapes of the program are available after Oct. 12 by calling 800-235-8722.