Documentary on Fr Patrick Peyton wins film award

  • Matt Moran

Venerable Patrick Peyton

Venerable Patrick Peyton

The upcoming documentary - Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton - was awarded Best Documentary at the 2nd Annual God Country Family Christian Film Festival held last week in Eau Claire in Wisconsin.

Produced by Family Theater Productions (FTP) in association with Windrider Productions, PRAY profiles the Holy Cross priest, Venerable Patrick Peyton, who was born on 9 January 1909 in Carracastle in the parish of Attymass near Ballina, Co Mayo where the Fr Peyton Centre is now located at the foot of the Ox Mountains. He was sixth in a family of nine children of John and Mary Peyton who were small farmers.

Pray is an inspiring documentary about a poor, uneducated Irish immigrant who set sail for America in 1928 with nothing but his faith and dreams of becoming a millionaire. Arriving in Pennsylvania and unable to find work, he accepted the position as a janitor at the cathedral of Scranton which rekindled his long-lost desire to become a priest, and changed the course of his life.

Nearing ordination, his life took a radical turn when he was stricken with tuberculosis which was rampant at the time. Facing certain death, he sank into despair. A visit from his mentor, who delivered a simple message to pray, lifted the darkness for him. Taking the advice to heart, Patrick prayed fervently to Mary, the Mother of Christ, for her intercession, and he experienced a miraculous recovery. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Congregation of the Holy Cross on 15 June 1941.

Feeling deep gratitude, he dedicated his life to telling all the world about the power of prayer and encouraged families everywhere to bring prayer into their homes. He had two especially famous mottos: "The family that prays together stays together" and "A world at prayer is a world at peace." Quickly he became known worldwide as "The Rosary Priest."

He was a Catholic media pioneer in the 1940s using radio and later television to produce popular programmes featuring Hollywood and Broadway stars and other celebrities to promote family prayer. He founded Holy Cross Family Ministries which includes Family Rosary, Family Theater Productions, Father Peyton Family Institute and Family Rosary International.

For decades, he produced faith-based, family radio, film and TV dramas featuring such stars as Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Gregory Peck, Rosalind Russell, Jimmy Stewart, Helen Hayes, Ronald Reagan, James Dean, Natalie Wood, Robert Young, Raymond Burr, Lucille Ball, Bob Newhart, Jack Benny, Loretta Young and Frank Sinatra. Not all of these were Catholic. His ministry produced over 600 radio and television programmes and 10,000 broadcasts. The crowd at the launch of one of his books was described at the time as "a fiesta of stars" because so many attended.

Father Peyton's fame spread around the world, and audiences in the millions flocked to his public prayer rallies. In 1952, Fr. Peyton's crusades drew overflow crowds of 75,000 to the Polo Grounds in New York, 83,000 to Wembley Stadium in London and 80,000 to a stadium in Melbourne, Australia. In 1961, some 250,000 people heard him at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Crowds at rallies the next year in Bogota, Colombia, were estimated at 400,000 to one million. In all, his appearances on six continents drew an estimated 27 million people.

He died on 3 June 1992 in Los Angeles, and two days later the New York Times published a lengthy obituary on him indicating the huge popularity he had in the United States.

The Fr Peyton Memorial Centre was officially opened and dedicated on 10 October 1998 in his native parish of Attymass. The Centre commemorates his life and apostolic work and is a place of respite, prayer and peace. It is highly respected by pilgrims and is a popular tourist attraction in North Mayo on the famous Great Atlantic Way. It has a small book shop which I'm happy to say stocks my book - The Legacy of Irish Missionaries Lives On.

Pray is the story of a tireless missionary, an unlikely hero, and one of history's greatest advocates for family prayer. Written by Matthew Donlan and Megan Harrington, directed by Jonathan Cipiti, and featuring an original score by Grant Fonda, PRAY was filmed in places where Fr Peyton lived and had an impact, including his home parish of Attymass, Co Mayo; Albany in New York; Hollywood where Family Theater Productions are located to this day; on Sunset Boulevard; and at Holy Cross Family Ministries' headquarters in North Easton, Massachusetts, home to the Father Peyton Center and the recently opened Museum of Family Prayer.

Head of Production at Family Theater Productions, Fr David Guffey CSC, also an executive producer on PRAY, said: "Christians of all denominations found Fr Patrick Peyton inspiring. We are so pleased the film we made to tell his story caught the attention of the people at the God Country Family Christian Film Festival. Very shortly, we should be able to give news about how others can see this film and experience the hope it brings."

(Matt Moran is a writer located in Cork. He is a native of near Attymass, Co Mayo and his mother was a cousin of Fr Peyton)


For further information and a trailer, see:

Tags: Matt Moran, Patrick Peyton, Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Gregory Peck, Rosalind Russell, Jimmy Stewart, Helen Hayes, Ronald Reagan, James Dean, Natalie Wood, Robert Young, Raymond Burr, Lucille Ball, Bob Newhart, Jack Benny, Loretta Young, Frank Sinatra

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