My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Welcoming Archbishop Timothy Dolan



Dear Blog Visitors:

I want to take this opportunity to welcome Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the New York Archdiocese as retiring Cardinal Egan’s replacement. In light of this appointment, it is reasonable to assume that Archbishop Dolan will be elevated to the position of cardinal very soon.

When Archbishop Dolan replaced Archbishop Rembert Weakland several years ago as leader of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, I recall there was a lot of nervous apprehension, because Dolan had a reputation for strict adherence to orthodoxy. I, for one, was sorry to see Weakland leave, despite the controversy that consumed him (involved in a relationship). In brief, Weakland was one of the few members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy I was able to communicate openly with, and he and I exchanged a few e-mails on the issue of priestly celibacy and what it would take for the pontiff to change this outdated policy. In addition, Weakland and I shared a love of classical music, and I often praised his abilities as a composer and history buff. Generally, priests of the Milwaukee Archdiocese like him, so there were some anxious moments when Timothy Dolan took over as reigning archbishop.

Despite Timothy Dolans’ reputation as an adherent to strict orthodoxy, he nevertheless proved himself to be a pastoral leader during his tenure in Milwaukee. While he was not afraid to use disciplinary tactics when necessary, he also believed that negotiation should be employed prior to any consideration of canonical punishments. So, when 25% of Milwaukee’s priests signed a petition in favor of optional celibacy, Dolan did not punish them, but rather simply urged them to follow the dictates of the Vatican’s long-standing policy of mandatory celibacy. More recently, when a Milwaukee woman became ordained a priest, Dolan did not immediately threaten excommunication or issue sanctions. He rather invited her to have a dialogue with him.

It is reported that Archbishop Dolan has a sense of humor and an aura of warmth. I am sure this will be a refreshing change of pace for priests in the New York Archdiocese, many of whom signed a recent letter, urging Cardinal Egan to resign, due to his being unresponsive to the needs of the clergy. Furthermore, it is my hope Dolan will be more attentive to the concerns of women in the archdiocese.

When it was announced Timothy Dolan was coming to New York, a friend asked if I was going to make an attempt to see him to discuss my status as a married priest. My response was that it is extremely unlikely that Dolan would meet with me, because of the controversy it would cause. My sense is that at least during his first year as the leader of New York Catholics, he will want to steer clear of issues that would generate headlines, such as married priests and the ordination of women. I nevertheless want to wish him well, and will pray that he proves to be a pastoral leader of the New York Archdiocese, as opposed to his creating a bully pulpit.

To be sure, Archbishop Dolan will have his hands full. Simply getting to know the priests of the New York Archdiocese, in addition to the multitudes of deacons, women religious, and laity who serve in leadership positions, will take many months, considering that New York is the second largest archdiocese in the country. At age 59, Dolan is relatively young to have such a high-profile position and it is therefore reasonable to assume that his duration as the leader of New York Catholics will at least be as long as the tenure of Cardinal O’Connor.

This has been an attempt on my part to extend an olive branch to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and let us all pray that he serves New Yorkers well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Congratulations to Liz Lehmann

Dear Blog Visitors:

I am delighted that local filmmaker, Liz Lehmann, has found success with her latest movie, 'Fury.' Liz is an extremely talented person who has worked hard over many years to bring her gifts to the public via the large screen.

I first met Liz Lehmann around 17 years ago, whereby we embarked upon two projects together. In the first collaboration, she coached me on the intricacies involved with making a documentary on the single life in Rochester. Shortly thereafter, Liz asked me to be an actor in a film she was both writing and directing - namely, 'The Apple Orchard.' (I played a traveling preacher in the movie, which was perhaps an inkling toward my later real-life role as a married priest.) This was a great experience for me and it gave me greater insights into this talented woman.

I look forward to being in attendance at the local screening of 'Fury' at the Little Theater on February 19. Let us hope Hollywood is paying serious attention the Liz Lehmann's potential.

What follows is a feature article that was written in our local newspaper about Liz and her latest film:

February 16, 2009

Fairport filmmaker talks about locally produced/award-winning 'Fury'

Local filmmaker, cast and crew win at 2009 San Diego Black Film Festival

Sheila Rayam
Female audience editor
Democrat and Chronicle
Rochester, New York

Some local actors and their producer lost their voices in San Diego recently, but it wasn't laryngitis that left them speechless.

The announcement that supernatural chiller Fury took Best Cutting Edge Film honors in the 2009 San Diego Black Film Festival choked their vocal cords.

"We couldn't believe our ears," recalls Liz Lehmann of Fairport, who directed and produced the film that was shot in Rochester. "We didn't know that they had that category."

Fury — the story of a teenage band that plans its first concert in a haunted, abandoned building but are visited by two unexpected guests — was filmed on the upper floors of the Nick Tahou's building on West Main Street. The original script was written by Oz Wilson, whom Lehmann met in Los Angeles while she was there to pitch scripts to producers.

All of the actors in the film are from the Rochester area, says Lehmann, a graduate of West Irondequoit High School, Syracuse University and Rochester Institute of Technology.

We talked with Lehmann about her journey to filmmaking and the production of Fury.

Q How did you become interested in filmmaking?

A When I was little I always enjoyed making up stories whenever I drew pictures. Then in college, I watched every movie that came on campus. But it wasn't until I finished my master's degree that I realized that I wanted to something more creative in my life. When I pieced together all my interests, I thought I'd give filmmaking a try and signed up for classes at Writers & Books (for screenwriting) and The Visual Studies Workshop (for filmmaking). Basically, I found that I really enjoyed it and was good at it. From there I took classes at several colleges, read books, and volunteered on a lot of movie shoots.

Q What was it about the script for Fury that made you think this would be a good film to bring to the screen?

A The script had an interesting story structure (so it would hold up well), the story itself had an historical angle that hadn't been done before. Fury started out as a horror movie but it morphed into a supernatural chiller because it doesn't have enough blood and body parts for a typical horror. We're at the suspense end of the horror spectrum. There's also a lot of humor. (The film is rated R for language.)

Q When did you begin shooting Fury and when was shooting complete?

A We started shooting a couple of years ago on the last weekend in June and finished the first weekend in January — basically, we shot weekends for six months.

Q How did you find the actors for Fury?

A I turned around. Literally. I was at Geva Theatre talking to an actress I knew after the evening performance and turned around. At the NextStage, there were a group of African-American actors, so I went over to find out what was going on. It turned out that they were having the graduating show for a special program for actors, directors and playwrights of color called The Enterprise Zone. Fortunately, there was a second performance the following night and I started taking down names. Subsequently, I started asking other directors as well as the actors if they knew anyone.

Q Have you written, produced and directed other horror films?

A The short I made before Fury, called She Wrote, He Wrote, had some zombies in it, but it was basically a comedy. It won the Bronze Remi at the Houston Worldfest and was a finalist at Telluride Indiefest.

I shot a feature drama called The Apple Orchard many years ago but distributors weren't interested because we didn't have any stars. When I asked them what would they take without stars, they said horror. That's when I started looking around for horror scripts since I write mostly science fiction and comedies.

Q When many people think of making a motion picture, they think Hollywood or New York City. What is it about Rochester that makes this a good place to shoot a film?

A Rochester is very movie friendly. It has many different types of locations and we have an excellent actor base. There is a lot of theater here and we get quite a few escapees from NYC. The filmmakers help each other as well.

Q What's next for Fury?

A We will try to get a distributor and getting this award will help a lot. We are also looking into self distribution.

Q What is one fun/interesting fact about fury?

The ceiling actually did fall — fortunately an hour after we wrapped on Sunday. We had been walking under it all weekend. It was written into the script and shot the following weekend. We joked on the set that there was a real ghost in the building.

'Fury' will be shown at The Little Theatre, 240 East Ave. at 6:30 pm. Thursday as part of it's Spotlight on Black History Series. The showing will be followed by "Talkback with Rochester Filmmaker by Liz Lehmann" as well as members of the cast.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

My Days as 'The Wizard of Pun'

Dear Blog Visitors:

Today's post is somewhat of a departure from my usual commentaries dealing with reform in the Roman Catholic Church.

For a change of pace, I thought you might like to hear a few segments from my days on the radio. In brief, I was known as 'The Wizard of Pun' on Rochester radio station WAXC. In this role, I was part of the daily morning show hosted by Ferdinand Jay Smith. (I served as 'The Wizard of Pun' from 1975-1978.)

What follows is the web address that will take you to page that contains a 15-minute compilation of tapes that I have referred to as 'The Best of the Wizard of Pun.' When you get to the web page, simply choose the 'streaming' option from the list of formats.

http://www.archive.org/details/TheBestOfTheWizardOfPunWaxcRochester

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Father Ray's Inquisition: A Staged Trial

Dear Blog Visitors:

Considering the Vatican's ridiculous treatment of married priests, I couldn't resist putting a video together in which I am being interrogated by three inquisitors. The purpose of doing this video is to simply highlight that in many respects, Benedict XVI has shoved the church back into the medieval period. While he and I share a love of classical music, we certaintly disagree on solutions to the priesthood shortage. While I see an advantage to bringing married priests and women priests into the mix, Benedict prefers the status quo of mandatory celibacy.

For your viewing pleasure, here is my spoof on Vatican interrogations: