CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 17 . . . . April 26, 2002
Sister Kay is a candid documentary about one woman's quest to transform the Catholic Church's attitude toward Judaism. It is more than a biographical portrayal of Kay MacDonald as an inspiring leader of all Catholic nuns. The film widens its scope by examining Sister Kay's life in terms of her struggle to end the Church's tenet of attempting to convert Jews to Christianity. As the story of her religious life unfolds, the viewing audience is also presented with the historical unfolding of the Catholic Church's intolerance of the Jewish people since Pope Innocent III in the thirteenth century. This parallel passage documents the evolution of the Catholic Church during the twentieth century.
Sister Kay openly addresses the Catholic Church's anti-Semitic views. The tone of the film is not one of reproach but rather of acknowledgment that the silence regarding the atrocities of the Holocaust was facilitated by the attitude of Christian religions toward Jews. This documentary shows how the impetus of Vatican II presented Sister Kay with the challenge of major changes in religious life. This challenge inspired Sister Kay in her struggle to transform the Church's former philosophy on Jews.
The variety of filming techniques adds interest and supplies momentum to this documentary. The featuring of conversations with theologians, academics, friends and members both of the Catholic and Jewish communities provides varying viewpoints and balance. The viewers travels from the Canadian Prairies to Rome, to the Middle East conflict in Jerusalem. The shots of historical paintings shows the threads of anti-Semitism that culminate in the horrific film footage of the Holocaust. At the same time, the portrayal of the Catholic Church's evolution into the twentieth century does not minimize the story of the courage and vision of Sister Kay MacDonald. Throughout the film, the various personal interviews with her show her strong beliefs, her love of people and her determination. She becomes real.
Sister Kay is a film for people of all ages to view. It portrays an inspiring leader who dreams to advance reconciliation among people of different religions. It shows historically that religious institutions have been responsible for bigotry. At the same time, it reveals that religious tolerance can bridge the gulf of history. Sister Kay can be an excellent vehicle for discussion on racism, ecumenism and the need for religious tolerance to address the continued problems we face today.
Foster is a teacher-librarian/enrichment facilitator at Oakenwald School
in Winnipeg, MB.
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