By Gordon Nary
Gordon: When you received your vocation, why did you decide to be a Jesuit?
Fr. Eddie: In 1997, I had the opportunity to work there before ordination. My two primary jobs were to work in the box office and help with event planning. Both gave me great insight into the festival and a chance to build relationships with talented filmmakers. Also, I loved being able to screen so many great films!
Gordon: What courses do Jesuit seminarians take that most other religious orders may not study?
Fr. Eddie: Jesuit formation is really uniquely grounded in the experiential. The first two years spent in the novitiate are like boot camp. You learn about Ignatian spirituality, prayer, and the Jesuit way of proceeding. You also make the long retreat (a 30 day Spiritual Exercises retreat). Then you move on to First Studies (three years of academic and ministerial work). Then comes Regency (three years of full time ministerial work) followed by three more years of theology studies. The whole process is about ten years and only then are we approved to be ordained.
Gordon: What impact does contemporary culture have on religion?
Fr. Eddie: The level of self-imposed isolation has increased in our culture in recent decades. So much of our days are spent by ourselves behind screens. When we never unplug, when we no longer choose to be part of faith communities, when we spend so much time focusing on ourselves, it can be very difficult to hear where God’s calling us. However, we still crave that connection and we crave community. So when people seek out religion today, they do so with a new kind of fervor. I see it at the college campus where I teach. Many of the students were raised without any kind of religion. So, when you see them participating in a religious service or activity, they arrive with genuine curiosity and desire, not a sense of obligation. That kind of interest brings an energy to modern religion that has the potential to renew the Church.
Gordon: What interested you in getting a film degree at LMU?
Fr. Eddie: Jesus told stories and Jesuits have been at the forefront of storytelling for over 450 years. In order to carry on that tradition in present day, it only made sense to study film and television. Mass media has the potential to inform, inspire, and entertain and I went to LMU to learn the best methods to do that.
Gordon: When were you appointed president of LPI and what are your primary responsibilities?
Fr. Eddie: I founded Loyola Productions, Inc. in 2000. My responsibilities over the past 18 years have been to manage day to day operations, work closely with colleagues to use this medium effectively, and to ensure our Jesuit mission is rooted in all that we produce.
Gordon: How important is film as an evangelization source?
Fr. Eddie: Given that Americans today spend more time on TV, mobile phones, and the internet than they do exercising, being with friends and family, eating, sleeping, showering, and volunteering, combined (National Labor), we believe the Church must have a strong presence in film, television, and digital media. Francis of Assisi told us to preach the Gospel at all times, but only use words when necessary. We can and should take this approach to our digital content. We must carry on the rich Catholic tradition of the communication arts by weaving our sacramental truths through dynamic, modern, artistic storytelling. It has the potential to invite viewers to encounter God in unexpected ways.
Gordon: What are your favorite films?
Fr. Eddie: My favorite films include Cinema Paridiso (beautifully weaves themes of family, cinema, and sacrifice), The Mission (a well-told story that reminds us there are no easy answers to difficult situations) and (to be somewhat self-serving) Blood of the Martyrs (a passion project documentary I produced that tells the story and sacrifice of the Jesuits killed in El Salvador. It’s now available on Amazon to view).