The opportunity of being able to tell the story of the Spiritan’s work in Houston was a request of the Spiritan house in Houston. This trip was well planned thanks to everyone at the Houston location.
That pre-planning made the work of the video team very smooth and efficient. Father Michael Begley and Mr. Ray Sylvester have done a great job preparing the ground for us. We had asked them to be our “Field Managers” as a filming team needs a field manager who would contact the people to be interviewed beforehand and be able to schedule things on field and follow up the way things go when the team is operating, Both Michael and Ray shared the task between the two of them and made everything smooth for us. In advance of our visit we prepared interview scripts for interviews. Having been supplied with background on each person we were to interview was so helpful in planning.
On Feb 27th 2014, our little team of 3 Duquesne University persons, myself, Ms Julia Belechak, a Duquesne University Journalism student and Jean-Michel Gelmetti from the Spiritan office of Mission Identity were heading to Houston TX, to meet with the Spiritans there on the invitation of Fr. Michael Begley and Mr. Ray Sylvester who are responsible for the SOMA (Spiritan Office of Mission Advancement). In order for our trip to go smoothly in Houston, we talked about what to expect during the visit. Not knowing what is going to happen makes people more anxious and nervous about being on camera. Just knowing what the plan is will set people at ease and that is exactly what the Spiritans of Houston did for us.
When we arrived, the 1700 West Alabama Street, this was really our home and we could work in there, and also from there. All were very welcoming and we have been able to work according to the schedule that Michael and Ray, as field managers, had diligently planed for us. During our correspondence with Michael, we had in mind that Fr. Don Nesti had told us that there was a lady who was a student of his and worked at the NASA and could organize for us to visit the NASA complex.
Now in Houston we met her the first day of work, she is Mrs. Glenda Brown, and works in NASA as an engineer in mission control and the Neutral Buoyancy training facility. We had felt it would be useful to speak of NASA in order to present the town of Houston with NASA as a backdrop. In Houston we had a “team” plan so we were ready to go right after breakfast at the Spiritan house, our home away from home for this project. Our hosts made us feel welcome, as in the Spiritan Spirit. The peanut butter is on the shelf, orange juice in the refrigerator and if we needed something, all we had to do was ask.
On our first full day in Houston we toured the astronaut’s Chapel at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic and had the opportunity to interview astronaut Nicole Marie Passonno Stott, who spoke about her work and her Catholic faith! Part of the experience that this offered the student, was the chance to work in the field on a project that took her out of the classroom. I enjoy working with a student journalist/reporter on projects and have successfully enabled them to have the experience that prepares them for working in this business.
When we are on the way to our first story opportunity I am working with them to come up with a game plan. I figure out how much time we have to actually gather the elements we need for each story. Our trip to Houston was nothing short of eye opening. Julia Belechak had little experience working with the Spiritans, her time spent in Houston opened her eyes to just how amazing the congregation truly is. “From the moment I arrived in Houston, I was nothing short of impressed with what I was learning about the Spiritans. Whether a Spiritan priest was celebrating mass or completing work behind a desk at one of the university in the Houston area, I was constantly learning more and more about what it meant to be a Spiritan.” We had the opportunity to visit sights of interest in Houston with Ray Sylvester who drove us. Ray is a Volunteer for International Development and a Coordinator with SOMA, the Spiritan Office for Mission Advancement.
We visited St. Mary Seminary with meeting and interview with Fr. Michael Grey. We also interviewed Fr. Michael Begley and Ray Sylvester about the job at the Spiritan Office for Mission Advancement. With Ray Sylvester, Fr. Michael Begley and Joseph N’Guyen for chauffeurs, we visited St Benedict the Abbott Parish and interviewed Fr. Huy Dinh, the pastor and the associate pastor, Deacon Thang Dinh Hoang. Fr. Andy Do, CSSp, was also celebrating mass and had to be off to celebrate at another location so we missed an interview with him.
The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to the visit of the Newman Center at the University of Houston where Fr. Joe N’Guyen, CSSp, is the catholic Chaplain. There too, we could interview and take pictures of some of the staff and students and film and participate to the evening mass at 6:00 pm with the students.
At the University of Saint-Thomas, our interviews began with Fr. Don Nesti, some of his staff, collaborators and students at the Center for Faith and Culture.
We also had the opportunity to interview the seventh Bishop and Retired Galveston-Houston Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza. On our last day in Houston we were able to interview a Donor to the Spiritan Office of Mission Advancement, Bruce Wilkinson and also Ray Sylvester. When we are on location, Fr. Jean-Michel Gelmetti’s role within the team is a dual one in that he is taking photographs (and sometimes filming), but also providing insights and clarifications from a Spiritan perspective. While I was the one doing the primary filming, it is important to have access to alternative angles and still photographs, which is where Fr. Gelmetti’s technical role comes in. “I have discovered that the role of Julia as a on location journalist is a very useful and essential role in a filming team in that it brings to life the context and the content of what people are able to discuss,” said Fr. Gelmetti. “A real step towards professional results necessary to attract the attention of people on our Spiritan work!
This experience also had an effect on Julia. “From what I have observed, being a Spiritan is not just simply belonging to a congregation of priests. It is about devoting life to not only God and the Church, but to making the sacrifice of helping the poorest of poor in the most impoverished areas around the world, throwing ones own needs, wants, and culture out the door. ” Thanks for all we have been able to do in Houston.”
Most people don’t have any idea of what happens after the filming is done and everyone has returned to their regular schedules. For the editor, director and creative team, the work now begins on a less than glamorous side of documentary production. Guided by the Spirit, we will be able to tell the story of the Spiritans in Houston.”