What does it mean to have a “heart to heart” conversation? For many, it refers to a sense of truth and openness in dialogue with another; a raw honesty often based in one’s faith or spirituality.
“Heart to Heart” is the name of a new interview series produced by the US Province video team; the team is made up primarily of members of the formation community at Sacred Heart Monastery.
Begun in March, Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, has served as the series’ first interviewer, inviting a variety of guests –– including SCJs, bishops, and lay people who are expert in their fields –– to have “heart to heart” conversations about faith, spirituality and current events.
The videos are generally less than 15 minutes and cover topics such as “The Gospel of Inclusion” with Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago, the ministry of “Intentional Presence” with Fr. Frank Wittouck, SCJ, spirituality with Fr. John Czyzynski, SCJ (who says that “God is crazy about us!”) and antisemitism with Bonnie Shafrin, director of the Lux Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. Future topics include cross-cultural ministry and the Islamic faith.
“We chose the title ‘Heart to Heart’ with the hope that the people we interview will give us their honest answers on a deep level regarding issues related to their vocation, ministry and faith,” said Fr. Vien. “With these dialogues, our viewers can see how God works mysteriously –– and not-so-mysteriously –– in all of our lives.” Organizers hope that the guests’ personal stories touch viewers’ hearts.
“At a basic level, the title ‘Heart to Heart’ also makes sense because it is an expression of who we are as Priests of the Sacred Heart,” continued Fr. Vien. “These videos are a way not only to spark conversations, but also to share more about our religious community with those who might not know us, especially people discerning a vocation.”
When asked about favorite moments from the interviews, Fr. Vien cited several.
“In my interview with Fr. John Czyzynski he said that he experienced God’s love, God’s image in his parents,” said Fr. Vien. “In subsequent interviews, I see the truth of that statement. God works in and through people.
“Bonnie Shafrin, director of the Lux Center, shared her experience of being called a ‘Jesus-killer’ when she was just six years old, and that her friends’ parents would not allow their children to play with her because of her family’s Jewish faith. It was heartbreaking for me to hear that.
“I like the way Bishop Joseph Perry connected the African-American experience of slavery to the Israelites’ experience of oppression in Egypt, and how God was personally involved in their liberation.”
Fr. Vien said that he has enjoyed interviewing fellow SCJs, learning stories about them first-hand that he had never heard before, such as the story of Fr. Frank Wittouck unexpectedly dangling from a helicopter, or of Fr. Jim Walters being challenged by a Native American when speaking the Lakota language.
Although it is his face that is in front of the camera right now, Fr. Vien emphasizes that the interviews are definitely a team effort. “There is a lot of work that goes into each of the videos,” he said. “Just setting up the scene and adjusting the lighting and sound all takes time.” And after that comes significant work in front of the computer, editing. “I am grateful to our video team; everyone contributes toward the production of the interviews.”