In January 2005, Fr. Don Woznicki, a Chicago Archdiocesan priest (ordained May 18, 2002), with the assistance of Rev. Al Tremari, SJC (Society of St. John Cantius), incorporated in Illinois the non-for profit organization called Visio Pacis (Vision of Peace). Fr. Woznicki (Fr. Don) believed that one of Visio Pacis’ main guiding principles must be that true reform of the entertainment industry will come not through product and people replacement in the industry, nor negative boycotts, but through transforming the products and people through outreach initiatives. These outreach initiatives were to be pastoral in character (serve the people), leading the people in the industry and all who experience entertainment media to the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ. Fr. Don believed that one of Visio Pacis’ main objectives was to provide the Catholic Church with an organized and unified approach to mobilizing its market to engage entertainment media that reflect a spirit of truth, beauty, and goodness.
An earlier conception of Visio Pacis began in 1998. Fr. Don Woznicki (before ordination, while in pre-theological studies, and the winter before entering the major seminary (University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary) and friend Robert Kasper sat down in a coffee shop in Chicago to develop a mission statement to address how the Catholic Church could help better serve the entertainment industry, namely, through relationships rather than negative reactive and "watchdog" approaches.
Fr. Don developed this mission through increasing his involvement in outreach ministries to the entertainment industry. He worked in Los Angeles from 1998 - 2002 while on break from his seminary studies and formation to gain knowledge and an appreciation (formation) of the entertainment industry. During these years, Woznicki worked as a Production Assistant [soap opera - Sunset Beach (NBC), commercials - Mattel, Honda, Toyota] and in talent roles [Honda and Toyota]. Woznicki also spent time developing relationships with interdenominational Christian and Catholic organizations ministering in the entertainment industry (e.g., Inter-Mission, Act One, Inc.: Writing and Executive Programs, Family Theater, Paulist Productions, Humanitas Award, Angelus Student Film Festival Awards).
In June of 2002, with the support of Francis Cardinal George (Archbishop of Chicago) and Rev. John Canary (Rector of Mundelein Seminary), Fr. Don was able to collaborate with Barbara Nicolosi (Director, Act One, Inc.) to offer an Act One, Inc. month long workshop for screenwriters at Loyola University [Act One - Chicago and Catholic New World]. In 2003, Fr. Don became Chaplain to Act One: Writing for Hollywood (part of Act One, Inc.). Fr. Don kept his contacts with various other Catholic and non-Catholic Christian outreach ministries in Hollywood on a part-time basis as he balanced his time with his duties as an Associate Pastor and a brief stint as Administrator of St. Norbert Parish in Northbrook, IL. (Chicago suburb).
The Key Event that Inspired New Ethos
A key media event would inspire Fr. Woznicki to establish the Visio Pacis mission, now called New Ethos. In 2004, Icon Productions invited Fr. Woznicki to a pre-screening of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, being held for Francis Cardinal George and other faith-based leaders in Chicago. After seeing the film, it became clear to Fr. Don Woznicki what the Church should be doing - namely, mobilizing its flock to see and experience this film in the movie theaters. He envisioned that a successful “movie theater” experience, particularly if the film did well in the box office, would significantly impact evangelization initiatives and the Hollywood industry. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church was too apprehensive and fragmented in its efforts to mobilize an identifiable Catholic market sector. The Catholic Church could not be linked to any measurable impact on the box office that Hollywood executives could recognize, other than the Evangelical Christians. This missed opportunity for the Catholic Church has inspired and energized Fr. Don to develop New Ethos as a respected and recognized Catholic apostolate to address this potential. New Ethos to date has been a reflection of the collaborative inspirations of many Catholic-Christians working for a "new ethos" in entertainment media.
Beginning to put New Ethos into Practice:
In 2005, Fr. Don assembled the initial Board of Directors for New Ethos, Fr. Al Tremari (Vice President) and Charles W. Foster (Treasurer). Kathleen O'Brien provided the legal assistance to help the Board attain its incorporation (Illinois - October 2005) and 501c(3) status (January 2006). Fr. Don continued to develop the business plan From 2005 through 2007 while acting as Associate Pastor at St. Norbert Parish (Northbrook, IL.).
In 2007, Fr. Don hired the assistance of T.J. Berden (student a Loyola U. Chicago) to help fine-tune the business plan, and organize a Chicago pilot test project for New Ethos with the film BELLA (PG-13), a Metanoia film production “A New Ethos Selection”. New Ethos, in conjunction with Capstone Films, facilitated two advanced screenings at AMC Theaters in Chicago with packed audiences. BELLA evoked standing ovations on both occasions. This significantly helped Metanoia Films plan their future marketing strategy. The lead actor, Eduardo Verastegui, was on hand on both occasions as well, to give a faith-filled testimony to an awed audience.
In 2007, with the assistance of T.J. Berden, New Ethos collaborated with Lionsgate for its film TRADE, "A New Ethos Selection," a hard and powerful film on the evils of sex trafficking (Rated-R). New Ethos helped facilitate two advanced screenings for TRADE at the MPAA Screening Room in Washington D.C. (fall of 2006) for over 100 Catholic and NGO leaders who work to end human trafficking.
New Ethos Begins a New Chapter in Los Angeles (Hollywood)!
On December 25, 2007, Fr. Don's assignment as Associate Pastor at St. Norbert came to an end. He sought permission from his bishop, Francis Cardinal George to go to Los Angeles, entertainment capital of the world, to establish New Ethos' base of operations.
On January 4, 2008, Fr. Don arrived in LA and with the generosity of Fr. Willie Raymond, C.S.C. (Director, Family theater Productions), New Ethos established its temporary office at Family Theater Productions, 7201 Sunset Boulevard, W. Hollywood, California. Fr. Willie Raymond as since been elected to New Ethos' Board of Directors as its Vice President.
In January 2009, Fr. Don was assigned Associate Pastor of The Church of St. Mary (Lake Forest, IL), while still serving as Chair of the Board and Executive Director of New Ethos. He continues to travel between Chicago and Los Angeles to develop the mission of creating a "new Ethos" in entertainment. New Ethos has several volunteers and part-time help still in the Los Angeles area to continue operations there while Fr. Don develops the Chicago office.
Predecessors to New Ethos
Beginning in the 1930s, the Legion of Decency, recognized by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical, Vigilanti Cura (1936) successfully influenced a significant segment of the consumer market to boycott morally offensive films. The Legion’s success was due in large part to a unified Catholic voice on what constituted morally unobjectionable, objectionable, or condemned films. The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), Inter-Mirifica and Pope Pius XII (Miranda Prorsus) called for a more positive approach to influencing the media.
The Church has always realized the importance of this relationship, given the power media has over culture, e.g., Vigilanti Cura (1936) and Miranda Prorsus (1958), but a new a more effective approach was needed. Vatican II laid the foundation for a renewed relationship between the Church and culture, specifically artists. For one, the Church has indicated that there needs to be more positive encouragement for entertainment media that excels in virtue, culture, and art: “[t]he production and screening of films which provide wholesome entertainment and are worthwhile culturally and artistically should be promoted and effectively guaranteed, especially films destined for the young.” [Inter-Mirifica]. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Office for Film and Broadcasting has brought a more sophisticated understanding of the art of film production to this relationship. This Office reviews and classifies most newly released major films as to their acceptability of content, and level of maturity recommended for viewing specific acceptable films.
Several other Catholic organizations exist to provide product for the entertainment market or serve as outreach to those in the industry, CIMA for one. Many of these organizations in the United States belong to an Association of Catholics in the Media, Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals (CACAP). CACAP is an association of writers, producers, directors, educators, technicians, program distributors, media talent, administrators, marketers, students, and directors of communication for a diocese, religious community, health care or educational institution. CACAP also is comprised of publishers, Internet professionals, or persons in organizations with shared interests and goals as members.
CACAP is part of the global network, called SIGNIS, [Erik, here is link to SIGNIS] World Catholic Association for Communication. SIGNIS is a non-governmental organization that includes members from 140 countries. As the "World Catholic Association for Communication", it brings together radio, television, cinema, video, media education, Internet, and new technology professionals. SIGNIS was created in November 2001 from the merger between two organizations (Unda, for radio and television; and OCIC, for cinema and audiovisual) that were both created in 1928. Its very diversified programmes cover fields such as the promotion of films or television programmes (juries at important festivals: Cannes, Berlin, Monte Carlo, Venice, Ouagadougou...), the creation of radio, video, and television studios, production and distribution of programmes, supplying specialized equipment, and training professionals.
SIGNIS has consultative statutes with UNESCO, Ecosoc (United Nations in Geneva and New York), the Council of Europe. SIGNIS is officially recognized by the Vatican as a Catholic organization for communication.
New Ethos is a member of SIGNIS and CACAP and currently is working to gain the recognition of all Catholic outreach ministries and production ministries in the communications field.