Behind the Scenes of the Porch Series |
Meet Paul Duda, Director

Perhaps you’re familiar with the feeling; one minute you’re just listening to a song, watching a movie, reading a book, and the next you’re overwhelmed with the emotion, “Wow… this is about me.” It’s been said that “art is the language of the heart.” Art is a powerful way to connect with an audience, to share the beauty of story, and to remind people that they are not alone.

“I love movies,” says filmmaker Paul Duda. “Growing up, it made me feel connected; like, ‘I’m not the only one who feels like this.’ That’s why I wanted to get into it; because I wanted to be able to make that for somebody else.”

Paul and his wife, Jamie, started Francis + Louise Production Company in 2017 with a vision of sharing stories. Since childhood, Paul had been keenly aware of the power of storytelling through television and film, making him a perfect fit to work on our Eden Invitation Porch Series. The heart of the Porch Series is welcoming people into the lives of some of our community members through several short films, giving the opportunity to receive their stories and a glimpse into their journeys of integrating faith and sexuality.

“There’s a line in [one of the stories] where [the community member] says, ‘It seems like the Church is not interested in me talking about this part of myself,’” says Paul. “Catholicism is universal and we’re all called to holiness in some way. Yet, there are people out there who are living their faith and loving their faith, who are being asked to not to talk about a big part of their lives. This is part of their humanity, part of who they are.”

“What’s being born is this middle ground where people can talk about their experiences and live an integrated life with their faith, and not have to feel like they’re lying or keeping a dirty secret,” he continues. “Right now, there’s a lot of emphasis in media about representation. People living a more traditional sexual ethic, while also being honest about their experience of their sexual orientation or gender identity: that is incredibly rare. Being able to represent them is a huge opportunity. My hope for these projects is that somebody out there watches this and thinks, ‘I can follow the fullness of my faith and also be honest.’”

The Porch Series follows the lives of three members of our Eden Invitation community—all with unique vocations, hobbies, stories—who share the hope they have found in living an integrated life.

“It’s not easy to open yourself up like this,” says Paul. “The interviews we did were emotional… We were asking people big questions about their lives and they were so open and honest and willing to let the Spirit guide them in what they shared. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially when you know you’re going to be at the mercy of the internet at the end of it.”

“I’d ask anyone who reads this to keep them in your prayers,” he adds. “This is a testament to Eden Invitation and the support and love that this community gives these individuals, so they felt comfortable to share their stories in a public way and represent that other option.”

 

In recent years, visual storytelling has had a significant impact in the secular LGBT+ community. For those who have often suffered wounds of isolation and misunderstanding from their peers and loved ones, there is something particularly meaningful about hearing the story of someone else who shares your experience of sexual attraction and/or gender discordance. In many cases, people who were fighting battles of depression, loneliness, and despair alone find hope and solidarity, even if only through a screen.

For faithful Catholics with these experiences, the need is arguably even greater. Many who live in the tension of “both/and” in regards to their faith and sexuality feel a sense that they are truly alone in the path they have chosen. Because of this, Eden Invitation was particularly excited to share stories of community members through the Porch Series.

“For people who are coming from religion and feeling suppressed and alone, or as though their faith has failed them and they don’t have the space within their Catholic faith, I hope they would find camaraderie and realize that there is a safe space for them within the Church,” says Paul.

The Porch Series also hopes to reach members of the LGBT+ community who may have minimal experience of faith or religion but have found themselves experiencing a longing for something more. And, in addition to realizing they are not alone, they also have the opportunity to become part of a community that wants to support them.

“For people who are coming from a more secular space but longing for something bigger—maybe more than what they’ve found in their life currently—if they’re longing for religion, or God, or the Eucharist, or true union with Jesus, I hope they realize there’s a space for that,” says Paul. “I hope they feel a sense of belonging and connection.”

Paul encourages those who watch the stories shared through Eden Invitation’s Porch Series to approach the films with an open heart. He reminds us that, although our lives may be very different, there is something for each of us to learn from the journeys of others—especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Have a curious heart, that’s what I pray for,” says Paul. “There may be terms or language that you might be uncomfortable with. But these are people who really, truly love Jesus and who are doing their best to follow Him and the Catholic faith. The community that Eden Invitation is building is vital to their journey.”

At the end of the day, the Porch Series is about providing hope: hope for those who may feel isolated within the Church as well as for those who may feel as though they would not be welcomed by people of faith.

“The one thing I would want for anybody to know is ‘you’re not alone,’” Paul says. “Whatever experience you’re coming from… If you have this longing in your heart, a longing for God and religion and community, and you’re not finding it in the spaces you’re in, this space exists. This middle ground exists where you can connect with other people who have the same longing.”

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