On October 4th students at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford enjoyed a live performance of Thérèse: The Story of a Soul, an enactment of the life of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
The touring play was created by Saint Luke Productions of Battle Ground, Washington. Saint Luke Productions is a Catholic theater ministry that creates plays and movies about the Gospels and saints. The mission of the theater company is to teach audiences about Jesus and to support those in theater and media arts — actors, set designers, cinematographers, etc. As their website explains, the company’s hope is to touch their audiences. “Although we are Catholic in our vision, these stories have touched and changed the lives of people of all faiths. This has been a humbling experience. We know that it is God, and not Saint Luke Productions, who touches souls.”
The man behind bringing Thérèse: The Story of a Soul to Northwest Catholic High School is Father Ed Nadolny. For the past three years, Father Naldony has brought plays to Connecticut schools. Last year Nadolny and his organization the Good News Fund, Inc. brought St. John Vianney to Northwest Catholic and fellow Catholic schools, such as East Catholic in Manchester. Nadolny said Thérèse was now heading to St. Paul’s in Bristol, Mercy in Middletown, then to the University of Hartford.
When asked why he worked so hard to bring these plays to schools, Father Nadolny answered, “Because many of our students have no idea what a saint is. I want them to understand the Catholic identity.” He continued, “Students have models in football and basketball and so on but not in saints.” Father Nadolny wants young people to have models like Saint Thérèse. Lastly, Father Nadolny remarked, “Many students have never experienced anything like this before.” It’s obvious Father Nadolny loves bringing these stories to teenagers.
Northwest Catholic’s Director of Campus Ministry, Kristina Gillespie, also answered the “why” question. Gillespie explained, “Plays like Thérèse help teach the history of our faith. Studying the lives of saints helps us see in practical ways how we can live holy lives.” She gave examples of how we could relate to Thérèse. For example, “Thérèse was melodramatic in her youth, much like we are. Thérèse had to help people who required an extra measure of patience. We, too, need to show patience when working with someone who challenges us. Thérèse shows us how to do that work with love.” Gillespie drew one last and very real parallel: “Thérèse needed to wait a long time before she was accepted into the convent. Like Thérèse, seniors will soon be waiting for their college acceptance letters.”
Sara Avery, English teacher and theater director at Northwest Catholic, appreciates the value in bringing live productions into the school. She said, “Theater as an educational experience is often overlooked. Live theater offers something unique. It helps foster a respect for the art.”
Northwest Catholic’s Mortensen Theater was packed on Tuesday morning. The entire student body and faculty attended the performance along with students from St. Timothy’s Middle School and friends from local churches. Whether the audience members exited the theater a little bit more like Saint Thérèse was impossible to tell, but surely those who attended left with a fresh perspective on the life of Saint Thérèse, an admirable soul who believed in humility and good deeds no matter how small.
Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford is a coed college preparatory secondary school established and maintained in the Catholic educational tradition. Learn more at northwestcatholic.org.