Children narrate, illustrate stories of friar in project by local filmmakers
Detroit — A film featuring stories of Fr. Solanus Casey as told by children will premiere July 16 at the AMC Star Southfield 20 Theatre, sponsored by the Solanus Casey Center.
“Extraordinary: Stories about Father Solanus Casey for Children” by SWC Films is produced by local filmmakers Stan and Pam Williams and is directed by Kelly Nieto, creator of “The Cross and the Light” stage musical.
In the film, children narrate and illustrate 11 stories of the humble friar’s spirituality and ministry, bringing to life Fr. Solanus’ ministry to children and their families during the difficult times of the Great Depression.
“I was thrilled to be asked to bring this project to life,” said Stan Williams, who lives in Novi and has produced faith-based films and documentaries since 1972. “I have long been a fan of Fr. Solanus. For years, I have made monthly visits to the Solanus Casey Center for spiritual direction under Fr. Jim Hast. Whenever guests come to town, the center is one of the first places I take them so they can visit the museum of holiness and pray at Fr. Solanus’ tomb.
“Being asked to create and produce ‘Extraordinary’ became a yearlong passion project for me,” Williams continued. “Everything about this project was extraordinary, not just the stories, but also the center staff, the friars, our crew, and especially the cast of 21 children.”
Tickets to the 2 p.m. premiere are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
The film combines child-like faith with storytelling and illustration; each segment of the film features a child telling a unique story about Fr. Solanus, as another child colors a large drawing that is eventually revealed as a colorful illustration of the story. While the illustrations were created by Catholic illustrator and graphic artist Sean Lam, they are colored by the children in the film.
The idea for the drawings comes from Fr. Solanus’ well-known saying, “Blessed be God in all His designs,” which is inscribed on the friar’s tomb.
“At the beginning of each story, the child tasked with coloring the picture that illustrates the story approaches a table on which is a large piece of white paper. Except, when they look at the paper, there’s nothing to color … just a few indecipherable scribbles,” Williams said. “They’re confused because they can’t figure out what to do with such an incomplete ‘design.’ But when they ask God, and wait on Him, little-by-little the beautiful drawing is mystically revealed. That allows them to color between the lines and create something beautiful.
“This, of course, is what each of our lives is like,” Williams said. “We can’t see what God’s design is for our life. But if we ask and wait on Him, and prepare ourselves with the right skills and tools, our life will be blessed and colorful.”
Williams said the entire production process was a “beautiful” experience, and was made possible through the generosity of donors.
Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap., director of the Solanus Casey Center, said the center was approached by a donor asking whether the center offered a film about Fr. Solanus geared toward children.
“He felt strongly that children learn at an early age about Fr. Solanus’ extraordinary stories and his simple, but remarkable spirituality,” Fr. Preuss said.
An original orchestral score by Royal Oak composer Jason Stonehouse also accompanies the film.
Fr. Preuss said the film — which depicts Fr. Solanus’ life as a “simplex priest” who worked in a tiny office and spent his time ministering to the people — is one more way the legacy of Fr. Solanus, who will be beatified this fall, is being told in the Detroit area.
“It is doubtful that Fr. Solanus would have touched the hearts of so many people if he had exercised the usual priestly functions,” Fr. Preuss said. “His life with limited priestly faculties freed him to serve souls in the special way God wanted. He was truly a holy man.”
See the film
The premiere of the film “Extraordinary: Stories about Father Solanus Casey for Children,” by local filmmakers Stan and Pam Williams, is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.
Where: AMC Star Southfield 20 Theatre, 25333 West 12 Mile Road, Southfield
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, July 16
Tickets: Free, but limited
Details: Call (313) 579-2100 ext. 0, or visit www.solanuscenter.org/extraordinary