Looking Back in Amazement at 2011

It’s hard to believe that Pax et Bonum Communications will soon begin it’s second year of life. This first year has been truly amazing. The first year of a non-profit’s existence is a crucially important time, a time when survival is pretty much a day-to-day struggle, a time in which we truly have to prove the reason for our existence. Often during this first full year I felt our extinction was lurking just around the corner.

But by God’s bountiful grace and the unselfish help of many generous supporters, we have survived this first year. Starting from scratch, we set up an editing room and are now close to completing our first film, Mud Pies & Kites, which hopefully will be ready for distribution in late February. Set in Haiti and filmed over the course of nine visits to the tormented and impoverished nation, Mud Pies & Kites is, I truly believe, the most powerful film I have ever made. The film is a visual meditation on compassion; essentially, it consists of a series of reflections on the nature and importance of compassion, which is, of course, a central part of all religions. Next week, the musical score for part one of the film will be performed and recorded by a choir and musicians in Dublin, Ireland. They offered their talents as a gift to the suffering people of Haiti. The cost of producing of Mud Pies & Kites was covered by 17 sponsors from 12 states, including two priests and a Catholic college. I am extremely grateful for their financial support. The prologue of the film has been posted on the Pax et Bonum Channel on YouTube. Here is a link:

http://www.youtube.com/user/PeBcomm?feature=mhee

It is my sincere hope that the film will help Fr. Tom Hagan and Hands Together in their heroic work of educating 8,000 kids and feeding over 1,000 elderly in the oldest, largest and worst slum in Port-au-Prince.

During 2010 I gave eight “poverty and prayer” presentations in churches and schools in California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. The response to those presentations was very positive. Here are three reactions, which are typical of many:

“‘Thank you’ is inadequate to express my appreciation and gratitude to you. Your presentations exceeded my hopes and expectations for your visit. I continue to hear – both from students and others present – how the images you shared are imprinted on their minds and hearts and how meeting the people whose stories you have recorded makes all the difference in grasping what poverty really means. Like the Hebrew prophets, you tell it as it is! Hard to hear and impossible to forget!”

“Your film presentation…moved me to the core. I remember sitting in my car outside just crying and crying. I am not sure who I was crying for or what I was crying about. I just knew I needed to cry. I was sobbing actually. I didn’t want to speak to anyone because I needed time to absorb what I had just witnessed and, besides, there were no words to describe what I had witnessed and felt in my heart.”

“Mr. Straub’s presentation was the best that I have seen in my twenty-eight years at Aquinas [high school in Rochester, NY]. Heart-wrenching and hopeful, his film clips and stories commanded the full attention of everyone in the auditorium. What we witnessed was a clear example of what it means to live the gospel. His life and his work raise our awareness of the plight of the poor and remind us of our Christian responsibility to respond. Mr. Straub changes lives–the lives of the poor he serves and the lives of audiences inspired to do the same.”

“I know the students enjoyed spending time with you. You are a profound inspiration to them. It is fabulous for them to hear another perspective from a producer and a man of deep faith. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

In 2012, I already have speaking engagements booked in Chicago, Rochester, New York, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Bloomington, Illinois. Pax et Bonum Communications offers these multi-media presentations free of charge and would welcome an opportunity to visit your church or school. While the primary purpose of our ministry to produce (for free) films that will help individuals and nonprofit organizations who are truly emulating Christ’s self-emptying love in their service to the poor raise funding for their work, and equally important part of our work is offering educational presentations to churches and schools to create awareness of the bitter plight of the poor and marginalized and offer suggestions on how to effect systemic change.

On January 14, 2012, I will leave for Nairobi, Kenya to begin work on a new film about the dreadful plight of the refugees fleeing violence and starvation is Somalia and other East African nations. I will visit one refugee camp in the north, but the focus of the film will be on the “urban” refugees who are living in the shadows of Nairobi. I will also visit a Jesuit priest working with orphans with AIDS living in the massive Kibera slum, considered to be the most terrible slum in Africa. I will be in Kenya for two weeks. Thanks to the generosity of a donor in Detroit, the airfare and a new camera has been paid for; when I return I’ll begin raising funds to cover the cost of editing and manufacturing the film. On the more distant horizon are films set in Peru and Jamaica.

Among the press coverage we received this year, tops on the list was a story that appeared in the June 1st edition of the Catholic Herald, which is published in London, England. The article listed ten Catholics doing amazing work. Much to my surprise and bewilderment, I was number one on the list. The story mentioned the Haiti film.

Despite all those very encouraging and impressive accomplishments, we have much work to do in order for us to grow Pax et Bonum Communications to the point of sustainability. We are urgently seeking monthly donors to our unique ministry. No amount is too small. Please help us to continue to serve the poor through the power of film.

The Board of Trustees and the staff of Pax et Bonum Communications wishes you an abundance of blessings in the New Year, a new year in which we all grow in our ability to incarnate God’s love and mercy as we continually strive, despite our flaws and failures, to live the beatitudes more fully. Please forward this blog posting to your family and friends, and encourage them to take a look at the prologue of Mud Pies & Kites.

Peace and blessings,

Gerry Straub

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