Scenes From a Parish
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by James Rutenbeck
color, 90 min, 2009
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In 2001, an irreverent, young, Harvard-educated Catholic priest arrived at Saint Patrick Parish in the hard-pressed former mill town of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Father Paul O'Brien soon discovered that trying to foster an inclusive community amidst the ethnic tensions of this working-class, multicultural parish would be no mean feat.
Older parishioners like Edna McGregor were resentful of a new generation of immigrants - people like the tattooed Elvys Guzman, a former gang-banger from Santo Domingo - who was seen playing basketball with other Latino teenagers in the parish center. Meanwhile more idealistic parishioners like Peggy Oliveto were trying to reach out to those in need but faced cultural entanglements that grew more complicated with the passage of time.
Filmed over four years, Scenes from a Parish explores the personal stories a Catholic parish struggling to reconcile the ideals of faith with the cultural realities of a globalized United States.
“[Scenes From a Parish] unfolds in a series of incredibly diverse personal stories as both O'Brien and his fractious flock struggle to hold fast to their faith in the face of dire circumstances” — Chicago Tribune
“The Vatican is trying to rouse Catholics' ire toward Ron Howard's upcoming 'Angels and Demons' without giving the blockbuster drama exactly the publicity it craves. Here's an idea then: Steer the faithful, and everyone else, to 'Scenes from a Parish,' a surpassingly lucid documentary... It raises more questions about the church's place in a changing world-and touches more emotions doing so than any big-budget studio folderol.” — Ty Burr, Boston Globe
“James Rutenbeck's modest, old-fashioned, simply shot documentary is exactly the right way to tell a story of old-time verities and virtues, daily life in a Catholic parish in Lawrence where the several priests are good guys, and where many of the parishioners struggle to put Christian charity into practice.” — Gerald Peary, Boston Phoenix
“A surefire discussion starter for religious and community groups and college classrooms.” — Booklist