Sheila Grove

ERIE — Ben Daghir from St. Mary Parish in St. Marys, Pa., had an idea that has led to the creation of a 17-video series about the windows in the chapel at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. Ben, third-year theology, and a group of his fellow seminarians — including his twin brother, Luke, first-year theology, — pooled their talent, know-how and creativity to venture into video evangelization.

The video project team is pictured at the seminary:
(back row from left) James Gebhart from the Diocese
of Wilmington, Del.; Brian Norris from the Diocese of
Altoona-Johnstown, Pa.; John Callahan from the
Diocese of Buffalo; (front row from left) Ben Daghir of
the Diocese of Erie, Pa.; Brendan Foley of the Diocese
of Syracuse, N.Y.; and Luke Daghir of the Diocese of
Erie, Pa.       Photo/Yen Tran 

          The name of the series, For the Glory of the Father, comes from a prayer, written by the founder of the Society of Saint Sulpice, the order that founded the seminary, and prayed weekly in the chapel. It features prominently in the series and inspires its message. 

          In a letter that accompanies the videos on the seminary website, Ben points to inspiration from Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron’s videos as challenging the group to “get it right.” Their budget was shoestring, but their ingenuity compensated and allowed them to aspire to high-quality photography, video, sound and lighting. With that — and group chats to provide examples of ideas for perspective and problem solving — they used today’s technology to augment the age-old role of stained-glass windows in storytelling.

          The Daghir brothers shared their enthusiasm for their project and evangelization through media in a conversation with the Diocese of EriE-News.

          “There’s something beautiful about this approach to evangelization It provides people the opportunity to share — to be an evangelist. It also can lead to conversation. That’s something beautiful, motivating and authentic,” says Ben. 

          One of the videos features Pope St. John Paul’s perspective on art and beauty which resonates with Luke.

          “This project helped me to appreciate the beauty found in Catholic churches. When I walk into a church now, I take time to see the artwork and it helps me in prayer. Beauty lifts the soul,” he added.

          The videos feature a brief reflection by a seminarian on the scriptural theme of a stained-glass window in St. Mary’s Chapel — the heart of the historic seminary — followed by a ministerial reflection provided by a priest faculty member. Scenes from the picturesque grounds accompanied by stirring music add to the inspiration of the series. 

Creativity led to improvised methods for getting the 
lighting just right.                   Photo/Yen Tran  

          An explanation of a statue of Mary that has special significance to the Sulpician Fathers, is featured in one video, and a performance by the seminary schola in the chapel, in another. The final video is a reflection on priesthood given by Father Phillip Brown, P.S.S., president and rector of the seminary and university.

          "One of my favorite videos,” says Ben, “includes our seminarian Wang Wei from China and Archbishop William Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. They reflect on the moment of Pentecost. It’s a beautiful reflection and shows the magnitude of our Catholic faith. What struck me most is that Archbishop Lori is the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and Wang Wei is from the other side of the world. Together they are sharing the good news. This video series features seminarians from across the globe: China, Buffalo, Columbia, Brazil, Scranton, Cameroon, Syracuse, Baltimore, etc."

          Luke pointed out that “priest alumni are likely to reminisce about the window near the spot where they prayed daily during their seminary days.” Many alumni return for visits, but for those unable to for circumstances including COVID-related travel restrictions, a virtual visit could be particularly appealing.

          Luke is hopeful that “people will turn their eyes to the stained-glass windows in their glass windows in their parish churches and be inspired to imitate our project.”

Ben and Luke Daghir film the segment that features
the seminary schola.      Photo/Yen Tran

          As the windows portray notable events throughout the life and ministry of Jesus, the series offers inspiration for prayer and reflection any time of year. The Last Supper, crucifixion and resurrection windows, featured in videos 12-14, are particularly timely as the church looks soon to Holy Week.

          The dedication and talents of these seminarians are hopeful signs of the gifts they will share as priests in dioceses across the world.