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Isaac Hecker and the Journey of Catholic America

Isaac Hecker’s story is ultimately an American story about someone who not only spent his life trying to experience God acting in the world, but who also tried to build bridges so others could join him on that journey. No matter what one’s religious background might be, Isaac Hecker and the Journey of Catholic America is a story for all spiritual seekers about someone whose life continues to impact our society today.

  • Item 501755D
  • Region: All
  • Media Type: DVD
  • Running Time: 52 mins

Alternate formats: Digital Video - $4.99

Retail: $14.99
Price: $11.99
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The United States was founded on the ideals of religious liberty and individualism, concepts that to many seemed diametrically opposed to Roman Catholicism. But one man sought to show that Catholicism and Americanism are not incompatible. Using popular communication methods of his day, Isaac Hecker became a courageous voice for Catholicism in nineteenth-century America. Given the hostility between the Old World and the New, Hecker’s ministry earned the derision of both his fellow Americans as well as many in the Catholic hierarchy in Rome.

Isaac Hecker and the Journey of Catholic America features the voices of Martin Sheen (The West Wing), Matt McCoy (The Hand that Rocks the Cradle), Bob Gunton (The Shawshank Redemption), Jay O. Sanders (JFK, The Day After Tomorrow), and David Ushery (WNBC, News 4 New York) as well as interviews from some of the leading historians and clergy in North America.

Editorial Reviews

This interesting biography of Isaac Hecker (1819-1888), founder of the Paulist Fathers during the early decades of the newly independent America, tells the story of a missionary who championed the Catholic Church to an overwhelmingly Protestant society—often in peril to his standing with the Vatican and to his fragile health. Expert interviews and archival materials flesh out Hecker's story, which begins with his birth as the youngest son of a family living in New York City. Delivering bread for a bakery run by his oldest brothers, Hecker educated himself at every opportunity, ultimately joining the American Transcententalist movement and befriending Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. But Hecker also had a deep-seated yearning for religious life, which culminated in his ordination as a Catholic priest and intensive lobbying to create a new order of clerics called the Paulists. Despite threats of expulsion and punishment from his diocese superiors for going over their heads to communicate with Rome, Hecker ultimately prevailed and was granted papal permission to move forward. What followed were years of outreach to Protestants (in hopes of conversion) before Hecker was eventually hampered by more than a decade of severe illness that would sometimes challenge his faith. Hecker successfully merged Catholicism with a distinctive American voice and optimism, leaving behind a legacy that is still with us. Filmmaker Tom Gibbons's documentary—which features voice work by Martin Sheen—tells the story of a remarkable man who had a major impact on the spiritual life of a young nation. Recommended.

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