SASKATOON — A new video series in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon features ordinary Catholics sharing faith as an inspiration and a witness.
The first instalment of a “My Catholic Story” video series was recently released, to mark the beginning of Lent, said Sharon Leyne, who has worked with Rev. Darryl Millette to produce the videos.
“As we enter into the lenten season this is the best time to reflect on our story, why am I Catholic? How did I get here and how can I share it with those I meet? It is in telling our story that we can step back and see how God has been working not just in our life but in the church as a whole,” said Leyne.
“We are not meant to keep our journey to ourselves, as Christians we are called to share,” she added.
“Sharon and I decided to do the series after our first diocesan Study Days with Katherine Coolidge (of the Catherine of Sienna Institute),” said Millette. “One thing she (Coolidge) mentioned was the need to ‘break the silence,’ that is, to tell our stories of faith in order to give encouragement and to break the isolation that people often feel.”
In 2015 and again in 2016, Coolidge spoke to diocesan leadership in Saskatoon about the importance of sharing personal faith stories to bring others closer to God. “I have seen first hand the power that a testimony can have on others,” said Leyne. “We encounter people daily who may not be ready to hear about church teaching or theology, but the moment you begin to share your journey, your life experience that is when ears open and hearts soften.”
The first five-minute video features an interview with Heather Buchholz, whose experience attending World Youth Day in Brazil as a non-Catholic prompted a great hunger for the eucharist — a longing that eventually led her to join the Catholic Church. The video interview has been posted on the diocesan website and has been shared on YouTube and through social media.
Several more “My Catholic Story” videos are currently in production.
“We have an interview with a father of four as well as a woman who has triumphed over unspeakable tragedy and has devoted her life to helping those in prison,” said Leyne. “Our hope right now is to release a video for each liturgical season in order to give people the opportunity to reflect on their story. I find that in each season, be it Lent, Advent, or Ordinary Time, we tend to view our story with that lens and perhaps tell it differently.”
Leyne and Millette have personally felt the power of the faith stories that they are hearing as they interview, videotape and edit the series.
“The process of interviewing has been very uplifting to me, as I hear these stories from people. I feel very privileged to have been able to witness and record the three interviews we’ve done so far,” said Millette.
“What started as a fun idea has become a form of deeper conversion for me,” said Leyne. “I am left in awe and overwhelming admiration for the people we have interviewed so far. It is not easy to bare your heart in front of a camera, and these people have been so generous in doing so.”
She added: “Each interview has changed the way I think, the way I feel, the way I act and speak, some in large ways and others in small important ways. Each person has also challenged me to judge less and to listen more to everyone I encounter. If we were all to take that to heart how different would our community, our church look?”
She stressed the importance of building connections to nurture and affirm faith. “There is a need now more then ever for relationship, to feel connected. It is through feeling connected that we feel we belong somewhere. By being honest and opening ourselves up to others, sharing what we have been through the good the bad and the ugly, not only can we transform those who can relate, but we transform ourselves too.”
Choosing to share faith stories through video involved “two film and tech nerds seeing an opportunity to not only get these stories out there and change lives, and introduce people to our own church community, but also to play with some really cool gadgets,” said Leyne, a mother of two who works part time at the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Saskatoon.
“Audio and video along with social media have been hobbies of mine for a while and so it seemed like a natural way to share stories from people,” added Millette, a diocesan priest who currently serves as pastor of Holy Spirit in Saskatoon.
More interviews are being planned, he said. “If anyone would like to share their story of faith, they can feel free to contact us. I can be reached on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — @frdarryl.”
This series is not just about one person’s story, it is an invitation for all to step out in courage to share, stressed Leyne. “Your story may be the one someone needs to hear.”