On February 25th, 1999, The Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Father James Callan and the parishioners of Corpus Christi Church in Rochester, NY. Covered by Media nationwide, the excommunication was portrayed as the latest struggle of progressive Catholics against the more conservative Church authorities. Growing from 200 to more than 3,000 parishioners in less than a decade, Corpus Christi became home to an impressive range of social justice programs, including a health care center, a halfway house for former prisoners, a home for recovering addicts, a hospice, and a daycare center. What got Callan and the church into trouble were the practices that went far beyond the norm in Roman Catholicism; blessing homosexual unions, allowing non Catholics to receive communion during mass and allowing his pastoral associate, Mary Ramerman, to wear priestlike vestments and help officiate in the celebration of the Eucharist.
This paper discusses the making of the documentary, Spiritus, by Matthew Spaull to fulfill his thesis requirement in order to receive his MFA in film & animation from The Rochester Institute of Technology. This paper takes us from how he learned about this story to the making of the film 15 years later. Matthew navigates not only why he did this, how he did this, but also the challenges that he faced along the way. The paper concludes with the reactions and feedback during the various screenings this film was put through and the awards it has won up until this point.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Documentary films--Production and direction; Corpus Christi Church (Rochester, N.Y.)--History; Spiritus Christi Church (Rochester, N.Y.)--History; Excommunication--Catholic Church
Film and Animation (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Film and Animation (CIAS)
Spaull, Matthew, "Spiritus" (2015). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus