Ham Lake parishioner brings divine mercy documentary to Andover theater

| Beth Blair | October 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

Last winter, Donna Zroka and other parishioners at the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake saw a movie trailer for “The Original Image of Divine Mercy.” The documentary traces the history of the painting that’s based on the description St. Faustina Kowalska recorded in her diary after receiving revelations from Jesus in the 1930s.

Intrigued about the film, the group researched its availability and discovered that the parish could rent the movie for five days at a cost of $300. Given the layout of the sanctuary with its abundant natural light, the film would have to be shown in the evening.

Between the cost and setting, the ideal scenario didn’t seem feasible. That’s when Zroka, 61, and the other parishioners added a request to a prayer book that God would somehow bring the film to the parish. The prayer book holds intentions for the Year of Mercy as well as the answered prayers as they are granted. Zroka said the key to answered prayers is asking, then letting go.

Springtime Productions

Springtime Productions

“Let God do the work,” she said.

In the meantime, another St. Paul parishioner, Kevin Bittner, 53, also saw the trailer for the documentary in a Facebook posting.

“After I watched the trailer a couple of times, I became interested in seeing the film and started searching for where it was playing,” Bittner said.

The search, though, was a dead end; the film wasn’t playing anywhere in Minnesota.

Like his fellow parishioners, after researching, Bittner received the same news, that the film was only available through a licensing agreement to bring it to a parish or other venue.

Unbeknown to Zroka, the prayer was being set into motion.

“I started looking at what could be done to bring the film here,” Bittner said. “I worked with the director of adult formation at St. Paul’s, Jona Winkelman, to see what dates might be available to bring the film to the church.”

But there was another challenge in showing the film at the parish.

“We really couldn’t find a date that would work at the church within the Year of Mercy, and that was my goal,” Bittner said. “I thought about letting the whole idea go, but then I would go back and watch the trailer again, and I would get this strong feeling that I was supposed to continue pursuing this. So, I started looking into alternative venues.”

Bittner learned he could rent the Andover Cinema, which holds 235 people, for a reasonable price. He’s hosting the film there at 9 a.m. Nov. 12.


If you go

“The Original Image of Divine Mercy” documentary

  • Andover Cinema, 1836 Bunker Lake Blvd. NW, Andover
  • Doors open at 8:30 a.m. with the film starting at 9 a.m., followed by a presentation from the director, Daniel diSilva.
  • Tickets will be sold at the door to the first 150 people for a suggested donation of $10.

More information


“Kevin was chosen to bring this gift to the parish in a much broader form, since now hundreds of people can see the film,” Zroka said. “It’s a beautiful gift to end the Year of Mercy.”

Father Jim Livingston, pastor at St. Paul, said Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy has attracted attention from Protestants as well.

“There is never a bad time to hear the story of St. Faustina and God’s desire to bring mercy to our world,” Father Livingston said, “but while we are still in this year of grace, it’s a great enrichment opportunity.”

The contact for licensing the film was the film’s director, Daniel diSilva. The timing was impeccable. DiSilva was going to be in Green Bay for a director’s cut that same week and asked if Bittner would like him to present in Andover.

“After a brief consideration, I felt that divine providence was at work, so it seemed like a no-brainer to say yes to that offer,” Bittner said. “The Director’s Cut Film Presentation is accompanied by a gallery of original artwork, holy relics and important artifacts that are relevant to the film, some of which are priceless. Mr. diSilva also brings an exact replica of the original image of divine mercy, which has been physically touched to the original image, making it a third-class relic.”

The film features well known Catholics including Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, author and activist George Weigel, comedian Jim Gaffigan and singer/actor Harry Connick Jr. Shortly after the painting was completed in Poland, the Soviet Union and Germany invaded the country in 1939, and the Church and the painting went underground. The original image was largely forgotten for a time.

Bittner hopes the film touches at least one person who doesn’t know Christ or who has been away from the Church. As for those who are familiar with divine mercy, he hopes the film draws them to an even deeper knowledge of God’s mercy.

“But ultimately, it’s not up to me; I’m just trying to make the opportunity available and not get in the way of how the Holy Spirit wants to work through the film and Mr. diSilva,” Bittner said.

A DVD release is scheduled for Nov. 20.

For more information about “The Original Image of Divine Mercy,” visit DivineMercyFilm.com.

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Category: Faith and Culture