About the Film

In the 1840s, a young man from an up-and-coming New York family began to have mystical experiences that were far beyond his own ability to explain.  As he began his search for spiritual answers, Isaac Hecker spent a significant amount of time with some of the major intellectual minds in the United States: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, George Ripley, and Orestes Brownson.  Yet as he continues to unpack the movements he experienced within his soul, Isaac became increasingly drawn to the Catholic Church, an entity that few saw as compatible with the American culture into which he was born.

While Isaac Hecker was not the first Catholic to live in America, his entry into the church and years of ministry reflected many of the tensions experiences by American Catholics today, specifically the tension between the American value of individualism and the Catholic tradition of collectivism.  Hecker himself would often find himself pulled between the two as he sought to integrate a larger American experience of Catholicism.  Just as important, however, is the way in which Isaac Hecker navigated the contentions between American democracy and the Catholic Church: his fidelity to the Holy Spirit.

Isaac Hecker: The First American Catholic is a film being produced by the Paulist Fathers that is set for completion in the Spring of 2016.  It will cover the major crisis’ of Isaac Hecker’s life: his conversion to Catholicism, the founding of the Paulist Fathers, the First Vatican Council, and the Americanism controversy.  It will also examine the tensions occurring in Europe during the 1800s as they affected the larger Catholic Church.  Finally, the film will conclude by looking at how the Second Vatican Council addressed many of the questions asked by Hecker one century after he lived.  

Along with voice actors, the documentary features interviews of Cardinal Edward Egan, Fr. Tom Rosica, Jay Dolan and Kathleen Sprows Cummins of Notre Dame, Paulist Father Dave Dwyer, as well as other historical and theological scholars.