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Inside NCR

Art imitating life

It has been suggested that St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in New York, a Jesuit parish noted for its active, involved laity, is fertile breeding ground for producers of our favorite television show, “Nothing Sacred.”

Wonder no more. While producers have insisted that the series reflects a variety of experiences in a variety of places, the conflict developing before our very eyes in recent episodes suggests that, indeed, the New York parish is rich material.

Jesuit Fr. Bill Cain, a producer and script writer for “Nothing Sacred,” has been personally involved in a dispute at Xavier pitting angry and vocal parishioners against the pastor after he fired a popular nun. Cain was among speakers supporting the nun at a large parish protest in October. In real life, there are no winners so far. The pastor at Xavier has resigned; the nun is still fired.

Will Sister Maureen (Mo) of St. Thomas Church in “Nothing Sacred” be forced out? “If Mo goes, we all go,” Father Ray warned a new, conservative priest on Jan. 17, in a preview of the Jan. 24 episode.

Stay tuned. While in real life she (that is, actress Ann Dowd) is pregnant -- hardly a suitable state for a nun -- we’re told there are no plans to plot her out of the show. Careful camera work will conceal her expanding waistline.

As last week’s show made clear, however, things will not go easily for her. A new director of religious education is moving in -- none other than Jennifer Beals of “Flashdance” fame.

Viewers who find themselves torn on Saturday evenings between “Nothing Sacred” and other weekend frivolities will get a reprieve in February. ABC is taking the show off the air during the February sweeps (when network ratings are calculated). Father Ray and company will return in March.

In the Jan. 9 issue we solicited readers’ top-20 choices of 20th Century Greats, while leaving it to each individual to determine and describe what makes for greatness in the first place.

There already has been an encouraging response -- enough to inspire us to push back the deadline to the end of February. Your choices could nudge the chosen people in the direction of eventual sainthood (when some future pope hands that prerogative back to the people) or at least keep alive a little longer some fond memories of special people.

Our sources tell us Fr. Tissa Balasuriya has not lost his sense of humor (story, Condemned priest is restored to church). When he recited the Profession of Faith of Paul VI for the Reconciliation Group of 10 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, he insisted on using inclusive language and excluded all sexist language. And afterwards, he pointed out to RG10 that there is no mention of the Holy Spirit in the “profession.” So, tongue in cheek, he asked the RG10 if this meant that they -- and Paul VI -- denied the Holy Spirit.

National Catholic Reporter, January 30, 1998