By Kathryne A. Sparaco

Lights, camera, action!

Theater and theology came together to ignite the community of St. Francis in Binghamton at their parish mission Oct. 3-5 at the church.

The three-day mission, “Journey to Joy,” was led by Frank Runyeon. Runyeon starred for seven years as Steve Andropoulos on As The World Turns opposite Meg Ryan; now he travels all over the United States bringing the Gospel to life in one-man theatrical performances.

Runyeon’s mission is to bring people to an encounter with God and open their ears to whatever it is that God has to say to them. “We bring ourselves and our attention to movies and TV shows. I want people to bring that self here and get inside these stories a little bit more,” he said.

Runyeon performed Luke: Stories on the Road the first evening, and Sermon on the Mount on the second evening. In his performances, Runyeon hopes that people will hear the stories in a different way and ultimately, hear and be moved by the Holy Spirit.

“God isn’t over there. He is here. He is doing and saying so many things that we are missing in our daily lives,” he said. “People just need to hear it and be open to it.” On the last evening, Runyeon presented his popular Hollywood vs. Faith talk, urging people to recognize that what we see on television and social media is not the life-giving joy that we find from God, and is often opposite of what God teaches.

“Jesus is where the joy is,” Runyeon said. Father Timothy Taugher, pastor of St. Francis, offered the mission as a way to re-engage parishioners and renew their faith. “I wanted to get parishioners back to parish life,” Father Taugher said. “I thought Frank’s presentation and dramatization was the appropriate option.”

And just as the title of the Mission suggested, parishioners did leave the experience with a sense of renewed joy. “I left every evening with a feeling of joy, peace and understanding,” shared parishioner Mary Ann Russik.

In closing, Runyeon urged people to keep listening to God. “God does not force himself on us,” he said. “God is gentle. God is love. You have to be listening.”

Kathryne A. Sparaco is the Assistant to the Vicar General, Chancellor, Vicar of Religious and Synodal Planning and Director of Facilities for the Diocese of Syracuse.

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