First Parish Movie Theater in US Dedicated


at Holy Spirit Parish, Fremont, CA 

Dedicated February 8, 2009

(The first movie theater at a Catholic parish in the USA as far as I have been able to determine.)

This posting has photos of the theater, dedication, and an interview I had with Deacon Bill Drobick, the visionary pastoral leader, who led the capital campaign and designed this unique religious education center that includes a movie theater that provides a “space” for faith and life to meet. The Valley Theater is not an auditorium; it looks and feels just like a theater; the floor is slanted, chairs secured to the floor (the “chairs” are theater seats from Sauder. ) desousacover

 DeSousa House, Holy Spirit Parish, Fremont, CA

A Multiplex of Religious Education Classrooms (8), Offices (4),  Library,Gathering/Meeting Room and the 

135-seat The Valley Theater 


The film for the 5th Sunday of the Year as presented in Lights, Camera, Faith: A Movie Lectionary, Cycle B (by Peter Malone, MSC and Rose Pacatte, FSP) Pauline Books & Media was “Patch Adams”, directed by Tom Shadyac, about a real life doctor who believes, “You treat a disease, you win, you loose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome. ” Stars Robin Williams. The Gospel was Mark 1:29-39 about the beginning of Jesus’ healing ministry. img_00031Deacon Bill’s wife Joni Drobick and granddaughter Amber collect movie “tickets”. The parish decided to give out numbered tickets to make sure there will be room for everyone who wants to come and so they won’t “overbook” the facility. 

srx20813091Sister Rose, Deacon Bill Drobik and Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, Fr. Matthew Vallenkal.

 srx2081310Sisters Hosea, Donna, Armanda, and Rose at the blessing and dedication of the DeSousa Multiplex at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont, CA on February 8, 2009. Srs Donna and Armanda are from our community in Redwood City, CA. Sr. Hosea and I were in the “area” for the Diocese of Santa Rosa’s Catechetical Conference the day before.

We were so very pleased to be part of what I think is a prophetic moment for evangelization, and ongoing faith formation: using contemporary film to bridge faith and life.

 ribbon_cuttingBishop Emeritus Reverend John Stephen Cummins (1977 – 2003) of Oakland, CA, was the main celebrant of the Sunday Mass on February 8, 2009 and blessed the DeSousa House Multiplex after. 

img_0012About 75 people attended the first screening at The Valley Theater (named for the foundation that gave the grant) on February 8.


My Interview with Deacon Bill Drobick



SR: What year did the project begin?

DB: The project began in 2001.  Holy Spirit School needed space, wanted mine (three classrooms under the church.) Our pastor at that time, Fr. Moran, said I could design a new building if I ran a capital campaign.  Eight years later…

SR: You said several times this weekend that Lights, Camera, Faith: A Movie Lectionary (by Peter Malone, MSC and Rose Pacatte, FSP, Pauline Books & Media) is what convinced the diocesan building commission to approve the theater. Which volume was it?

DB: I think I used Lights, Camera, Faith: A Movie Lectionary Cycle C.  Yep, it was for the 9th Sunday of the Year.  I remember because I often used the movie for that Sunday “The Green Mile” as my example.  Tom Hanks is from Oakland, and this Chicago boy, me, sometimes has street smarts to offer convincing motivation!

What really convinced them [to build the theater and allow seats that would be permanently fixed to the floor) was the connection I was able to show them between the liturgy, scripture readings (here Luke 7:1-10) and the movies through Lights, Camera, Faith: A Movie Lectionary. That’s what really did it.

SR: How would you describe your vision for the DeSousa House/Multiplex?

DB: My vision for the Center came from problem-solving as a fairly new Director of Religious Education (DRE).  I started here in 1997, and could honestly say my own kids helped me see what was boring about confirmation classes, etc.  Add to that the toughest audience being junior high, which I taught.  Media saved me!  Fr. Michael Scully, OFM, Cap., was my “John the Baptist” for movies.  His series of “The Message of Film” became my favorite part of junior high catechesis.  Then I got some snippets (clips) from “Edge TV” (now defunct) and a Catholic high school series called “youth2youth” to spice up my large group classes. 

        All DREs will get lots of students for First Holy Communions, but when you can attract and keep middle grade/jr. high/high school confirmation classes packed, you know you are onto something.  So this experience of this most exciting and growing catecheses is what drove the vision at first. 

SR: And for grown-ups?

DB: Then I saw where adults had virtually nothing and poor RCIA had to watch videos on a tiny wall mounted tube TV.  So the adults were  actually icing on the cake for me, but cemented the diocesan review committee’s decision to approve our project, I think.


(Each classroom has a flat screen TV/monitor with a computer connection; DVD’s can be played from a central station or in a specific classroom by a laptop connection. Streaming video is also available in each classroom.)


SR: How would you describe the grant foundation’s reasons for giving you the money for this project?

DB: My sense of the Valley Foundation was that they were not at first inclined to invest in our project, because we had a large plant with lots of buildings already.  It took an inside view and my passion for media to convince them that I had a different vision for catechetical ministry.  At least this is what my telephone conversations and grant application follow-up highlighted.  They were also persuaded by the fact the parish had made significant pledges toward this building before they were asked.

SR: How long have you been a permanent deacon?

DB: I was ordained a permanent deacon in 1995 by Bishop Cummins.  On Feb. 25th, I will celebrate my fourteenth anniversary.  If I can say this, its the longest I worked for anybody in my life!  My wife, Joni, is an angel. She is a registered nurse and taught this deacon how to be a care-giver and pastorallysensitive … and I spent 25 years in corporate tax, meeting with the IRS everyday! 

SR: Other than the issue of permanently fixing the chairs to the floor, were there any other challenges you faced with making the theater a key part of this building project?

 DB: The only other resistance to the theater was the size I originally hoped for–350.  They thought I was crazy.  Probably was.  Anyway, too big a room to leave empty for any length of time was their thought, I think.

 SR: How will you address and include the various “audiences” in the parish, diverse ages and interests, attitude toward film/media, and so forth?

 DB: I will mail you a “trifold” I am working on with the media offerings I am planning.  First, Pauline Friday nights from the Lights, Camera, Faithseries  once a month.  Second, Monthly “Brown Bag Wednesdays”, a lunchtime offering from the “Footprints of God” series by Ignatius Press.  These are a combo travelogue/teaching walk through the Holy Land.  (By the way, a priest in Chicago is starting a HiDef series similar to this.) Third, about every six weeks, we will have an Ignatian Weekend religious movie.  We are starting with John Paul II with Jon Voight, then Paul, then a new Clare and Francis movie they are just releasing this week.  Check out Ignatius Press Movie Nights to see a clip of Clare’s vows and young Francis cutting her hair.  I was just in Assisi about a year and a half ago, and saw her hair still there in a glass box!  But back to your question: RCIA will show the movie “Joshua” early in their journey, then “Romero” later on.  I am discussing with the RCIA  deacon, Steve Taylor about other opportunities.  As far as general faith formation, we will upgrade our scope and sequence (curricula) to include a selection of large group classes/movies.  Jr. High will continue to do some Christian music videos/lyric study as part of my sneaky way to teach about moral decision-making.

SR: Did you get any feedback from the first screening?

DB: The best quote I got from the movie screening: “When’s the next movie?”  I told them to come to church on Feb. 21-22 to hear my homily.  By the way, audio files our homilies are available at our church website.  Holy Spirit Parish Fremont, CA 

SR: A final thought?

DB: We are off to a great start, and I appreciate your support.  I mentioned to the pastor about having the 2010 National Film Retreat  here and he seemed open to it!


To see the initial screening program please visit The Valley Theater Screening Program.


You can order the Lights, Camera, Faith Movie Lectionary Series by clicking on this link. Although it may seem that Cycle B is not available, it has just been reprinted! You can also order by phone 1-800-836-9723 or sending an email to








(Coming in 2010: Lights, Camera, Faith: Beatitudes & Deadly Sins)


Please note: Deacon Bill wisely obtained a license to screen these films from the Church Video License Company. This is recommended for all faith communities. This license covers most studios and having one will keep us all legal and respectful of intellectual property/copyright laws and rights. (See my posting on Fair Use on this blog if you have any questions about screening films.)


Photos by Deacon Richard Yee, Holy Spirit Parish and Sr. Rose.


Contact Deacon Bill Drobick at

1 Comment

  1. […] an earlier post, Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont, CA (Diocese of Oakland) has a 135-seat theater (see Holy Spirit Parish Fremont, CA). Deacon Bill Drabik attended a press screening for Star Trek a few days ago and sent me his […]

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