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May 05, 2010

New DePaul University Documentary Brings Saint of Charity to Life

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Three centuries after his death, St. Vincent de Paul has come to life on the big screen in a new documentary that presents a man known for his service to the poor to a world still plagued by poverty in 2010.

"Vincent de Paul: Charity’s Saint" debuted in January and has already been invited to film festivals in Ireland, England and America. The CatholicTV Network has selected it to air on Vincent’s feast day, Sept. 27, and will repeat it regularly during programming on saints.

The Rev. Edward Udovic, C.M., DePaul University’s senior executive for University Mission and an associate professor of history, wrote the script and served as executive producer of the 64-minute documentary biography of St. Vincent, which features insights into his longtime collaboration with St. Louise de Marillac.

Udovic has fielded requests for a video on Vincent for years, and all he was able to offer was the 1947 film "Monsieur Vincent," which although Academy Award-winning, is historically inaccurate. "We considered how to reach the widest audience to create a concise overview that books and articles can’t," he said.

For "Charity’s Saint," "six historians brought their life’s work to the project," including Udovic and the Rev. John Rybolt, C.M., the world’s leading Vincentian scholars, said JoAnne Zielinski, associate professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Cinema and the film’s producer. "Each expert brought a unique and special perspective on the subject, from insight into the human side of Vincent, his relationships and how he lived based on his writings, to concrete examples of his practical approach in serving the poor, and his contribution to the reform of the church—one parish at a time," she said.

Other scholars interviewed for the film are the Rev. Robert P. Maloney, C.M., former superior general of the Vincentians; Barbara Diefendorf, professor of history, Boston University; Sr. Marie Poole, D.C., editor and translator, Vincentian Translation Project; and Sr. Louise Sullivan, D.C., professor emerita of foreign languages, Niagara University.

Udovic said he designed the film to separate myth from history, contextualize Vincent within 17th century France, highlight the pivotal role of Louise, the Ladies of Charity and the Daughters of Charity in Vincent’s life, and explore what his legacy of charity and service means today on the 350th anniversary of Vincent’s and Louise’s deaths.

Zielinski said the movie "identifies the Vincent of history as an ordinary person who grew into sanctity. He wasn’t a ‘saint from the cradle’ as they say."

"We wanted it to be a stunning film with beautiful photography as well as an accurate chronology placed in historical context and interpreted critically," Udovic said. Edited into a single-hour experience from 45 hours of interviews, the film has been received enthusiastically by a wide range of audiences, and in particular with gratitude from the Daughters of Charity for recognizing Louise’s pivotal role in Vincentian history.

"We are hearing that it has the right balance of content on Louise de Marillac, the Daughters of Charity and women in the Vincentian tradition, all of whose roles have never been given justice," Udovic said.

The film has been accepted at three festivals so far: the International Christian Film Festival to be held in the United Kingdom this August; the International Film Festival of Ireland in September; and the Chagrin Falls International Documentary Film Festival to be held in Ohio in October.

The film was shot by Steve Avery, president of Orchard Productions in Chicago. It is currently being dubbed in Spanish and French and will be shown to Vincentians worldwide in June in Paris at the General Assembly of the Congregation of the Mission, which occurs once every six years.

The Rev. Robert P. Reed, director of The CatholicTV Network, said the film will reach tens of thousands of viewers across the United States and in some 203 countries on its broadband network.

Credits: Executive producer, Rev. Edward R. Udovic, C.M.; Producer, JoAnne Zielinski; Director, Steve Avery; Written by Rev. Edward R. Udovic, C.M.; Co-writer, Paul Hazard; Production company, Orchard Productions Inc., Chicago; Production assistance, Vincentian Studies Institute, DePaul University, Chicago. It is for sale at for $9.80.

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