Pope John seminarians create video to promote Holy Hours for Life

WESTON -- Each January, coinciding with the national March for Life, dozens of parishes across the archdiocese hold Holy Hours with pro-life themes. This year, three seminarians from Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, a national seminary for late-life vocations, used their creative abilities to raise awareness and encourage participation in these prayerful events.

Seminarians Gregory Dougherty from the Diocese of Venice, Gregory Zingler from the Archdiocese of Washington, and Giris Azize from the Archdiocese of Boston were assigned to work in the archdiocese's pro-life ministries in September 2022. When Marianne Luthin, director of the Pro-Life Office, came to talk with them about what their pastoral assignments would entail, she asked if they had any ideas they wanted to contribute. Zingler, who as a Washington resident had been asked to coordinate the seminary's trip to the March for Life, suggested making a video to promote the Holy Hours for Life coming up in January 2023.

The Holy Hours are sponsored by Boston Deacons for Life, in collaboration with the Office of Diaconal Life and the Pro-Life Office. This year will mark the 15th year that the Holy Hours have been offered.

Azize, Dougherty, and Zingler recounted their process of making the promotional video during a group interview in December 2022.

Zingler wrote a script, and Dougherty turned it into a kind of storyline that could also be a prayer. They wanted the video to depict pro-life activity but also focus on the Eucharist in the monstrance. Zingler and Luthin both advocated for widening the vision of the video to focus not only on the child in the womb but also on healing after abortion.

"There's a significant number of women who have been harmed by abortion, who are in the pews and need healing, and so we wanted to be able to reach them as well," Dougherty explained.

He said they were "intentional" about the music they selected for the video.

"We wanted to do our best to slow it down and allow people to enter into the video as a prayer, and also an invitation to them to respond and participate in the Holy Hours for Life," he said.

Azize put the clips together. He used some of his own footage, but they also sought and received permission to use footage from the Knights of Columbus Supreme Office's video library. Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley also makes an appearance, talking about Jesus' presence in the Eucharist.

Luthin said that when she saw the video for the first time, she was "transfixed."

"Not only did it communicate a profound sense of the transcendent power of the Eucharist, it also joyfully welcomed all to be part of the Holy Hours for Life at their parishes," she said.

Azize said they hope that when people see the video, they will encourage each other to attend a Holy Hour.

Part of Azize's motivation for pro-life work comes from a personal experience. When he was married, he and his wife were encouraged to abort a child with medical issues, who they were told would not survive birth. Instead, they continued the pregnancy, and their daughter, Alexandra Christine, was born alive and lived for three days before passing away. Azize's YouTube channel features a video about her, as well as the Holy Hour for Life 2023 video.

Looking back on the process of making the promotional video, Azize gave God the credit, as well as the intercession of the Blessed Mother. He said that he, Dougherty, and Zingler were provided with the information they needed at the time when they needed it.

"At the end, it's the Lord's hand working through all of us," he said.

Luthin said that although the video was created for the Holy Hours for Life, it could be used throughout the year.

"I can't begin to count how many pro-life videos I've watched over the years. None of them had the inspiration and beauty that these seminarians created," she said.

The Holy Hour for Life 2023 video can be viewed on YouTube at youtube.com/watch?v=C5Gj_NkXeWU. The list of Holy Hours for Life locations and times can be found at bostoncatholic.org/pro-life-office/holy-hour-life.