Vianney play: Bringing s saint to life, and a boost to priests

GALESBURG — “Go forward with a new enthusiasm for the priesthood.”

That challenge, issued Tuesday by actor Leonardo Defilippis from the stage of Brophy Auditorium at Costa Catholic Academy, was embraced by hundreds who saw his dramatic portrayal of St. John Vianney at five regional performances in the Diocese of Peoria this week.

After receiving a standing ovation in Galesburg for “Vianney” — a 90-minute, one-man drama that is introducing Catholics throughout the U.S. to the patron saint of priests — Defilippis said he was dedicating his diocesan tour to “all your priests, to your bishop, and to deceased priests for all they did for us.”

The Portland-based actor and producer also had words of encouragement for seminarians. He prayed especially for mothers that they “be open to the priesthood” for their sons.

“After all, where do priests come from?” he asked, before providing the answer: “Families.”

Through the words and life of St. John Vianney — a French priest of the 19th century known to spend 16 hours a day hearing confessions — the drama also offered several insights into the question “What is a priest?”

“A priest is one who pours himself out for souls, no matter what the cost,” the priest known as the Cure of Ars says near the end of the play.

“Vianney” opened Monday night at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. Other stops on the diocesan tour included Wednesday at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights and Thursday at St. Joseph’s School in Peru. The final performance was scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, at Sacred Heart Parish in Moline.

Defilippis, founder of Saint Luke Productions, is bringing “Vianney” to 35 dioceses during the Year for Priests declared by Pope Benedict XVI. A goal of the production company, he said, is to “perform for the Holy Father, so we can present to him face-to-face his own patron.”

The Galesburg performance was sponsored by the Rosminian Fathers. Father William Miller, IC, pastor of Corpus Christi and St. Patrick’s parishes in Galesburg and Sacred Heart, Abingdon, called the drama “inspired” and “impressive.”

Further information on “Vianney” is available online at www.vianneydrama.com.

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