Stories From Main Street: NJ Priest Fulfills Dream Of Becoming Filmmaker

Sean Adams
September 22, 2019 - 4:00 pm
Fr Stephen Fichter and Kathe Carson

Sean Adams/WCBS 880

WYCKOFF, N.J. (WCBS 880) — A deep desire to serve God and his people inspired a New Jersey priest to become a filmmaker.

Father Stephen Fichter, a pastor at St. Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic Church in Wyckoff, had dreamed of making a movie for years.

Roughly 20 years ago, the pastor began writing a movie script about three young friends who enter the seminary together while living in Rome, and that film will soon come to life on the big screen.

“I was living in Rome and I was finishing my studies, about to get ordained, and I could see them back then – 20 years ago – that the number of priests were declining and whenever I looked at any films that depicted priest, they weren’t always very positive images that were there and the only positive movies seem to be like, ‘The bells of St Mary's,’ or ‘Going My Way,’ old like black and white films,” Fichter said. “So, the idea came to me that it would be great to try to make a modern movie that would be appealing to the current generation, of perhaps discerning a call to the priesthood.”

As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams says, it may have been divine providence that while in Rome, Fichter received guidance from a famous director.

“I had the great fortune of meeting with Franco Zeffirelli, the great Italian filmmaker, through a friend of a friend. I sent him my script and I was able to get an appointment with him,” the pastor said. “He invited me to come over, it was a Sunday afternoon, and he said, ‘I read it,’ he did a really wonderful job, however he said instead of making the life of one person thinking about being a priest, he said, ‘why don’t you make it the story of three people thinking about becoming a priest, maybe each one will have a different path.’”

The title, “Trinity’s Triumph,” was born that day, but it took years upon years to develop the characters and the story.

Trinity's Triumph
Ramy Mam

Fichter says he often drew from his own experiences for inspiration.

“I myself went through my own crisis, I thought at one state maybe I would leave the priesthood and get married. It's just such a big commitment to celibacy,” he explains.

He tells Adams that he turned to his co-writer, Kathe Carson, for help. She then went on a mission to explore the people behind the clerical collars.

“They are very human people and have the struggles and issues and, you know, things that they need to work out in their lives,” she says.

The film follows three friends – Joe, Tom and Mike – as they enter the seminary under the guidance of their mentor, an older monsignor.

“Each one of them winds up kind of taking a different path. One of the three winds up leaving the seminary and, at the beginning, no one understands why he's leaving the seminary,” Fichter says. “It’s kind of a story almost like the ‘Three Musketeers’ kind of meets the seminary.”

Trinity's Triumph
Ramy Mam

While the story focuses on their struggles as humans, Father Fichter knew he had to address the church sex abuse scandal, but he did it in a way that does not overshadow the story of friendship.

“We were able to show how that 99% of the priest who have never done that, and you are good and faithful man – albeit with all of our imperfections – that, how did we react to it,” he explains.

The independent film is due out in January 2020 and if it does well, Fichter has a few other projects in mind,  

He tells WCBS 880: “We even like to turn it into possibly a television series or Netflix series.”