Stonehill’s Hollywood Priest
July 01, 2010
Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C.
In the Golden Era of Hollywood, there was at least one priest identified as the "Hollywood Priest." If anyone deserves the moniker in the 21st century, it's Fr. Willy Raymond. The Holy Cross priest was born in Maine-the eighth of 12 children-educated in Montreal, and now serves as the director of Hollywood Theater Productions, the organization founded by legendary Hollywood priest Fr. Patrick Peyton. He's been spearheading Legatus' efforts to build a Hollywood chapter for the past year.
Tell me about your call to the priesthood.
In the fourth grade I was able to become an altar boy, and that really was the inspiration. From that time on I felt called to that work. We were blessed with very good and inspiring priests when I was growing up in the parish. That made a big difference.
Why did you choose the Holy Cross Fathers?
I was on my way to study in Montreal as a diocesan priest at the beginning of my third year of college. My brother was driving and for some reason I said, "I'm not going through with this, turn around." When I got home, I asked my parish priest if there were Holy Cross priests in the States; I knew some in Canada. He said they were at Notre Dame and Stonehill College. The Holy Cross community attracted me because of the communal nature and the simple lives that they lived - and they just seemed filled with joy.
Tell me about Family Theater.
It's a continuation of Fr. Peyton's ministry. He realized that he could reach millions of people through radio, so he started the Family Rosary Crusade. Also in 1947, he started Family Theater Productions. He had a weekly radio drama with some major Hollywood personalities.
Today we produce radio programs, television and film programs. We also run an international student film competition for students called Angelus, which may be the highest profile thing that we do right now. We also have a national billboard campaign with the message that "the family that prays together stays together" and "a world at prayer is a world at peace."
How did you get involved with Legatus?
Just over a year ago, I got a letter from Cardinal [Roger] Mahony saying that they were starting a chapter and that he was appointing me to be the chaplain for the first five years. Then I was contacted by Tim Busch. We've been working with his staff to develop a chapter here in Hollywood that is specific to the entertainment industry.
What impact has this experience had on you?
I'm very impressed at the dedication of the Legatus members and staff. I know in my heart that Legatus is much needed in Hollywood. We have a lot of Catholic sub-groups and individuals, but there's no organized fashion to bring the leadership in the Catholic community together in the entertainment industry. Legatus can really help do that.
We have some very senior Catholic people in the entertainment industry, and I'm hoping that with time we'll be able to draw more of them into Legatus. But we need prayers right now - and a lot of hard work.
What do you do in your spare time?
I see at least one feature movie a week, which is really important for the work that I'm doing. I try to get to the gym a couple times a week, and I have a duty day at St. Monica's Parish on Thursdays, which gets me out of the office. I take emergency calls and speak to people that want to talk to a priest. It might not sound like a day off, but it's a nice change of pace.
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