Film exploring friendship between St. John Paul II, Ronald Reagan to premiere Friday in Orchard Lake
Mar 13, 2019
Creators of 'The Divine Plan' documentary to take questions after Friday, Saturday screenings at Polish Catholic campus
ORCHARD LAKE — Two incredibly powerful men and one plan to instill peace in the world to end the Cold War are the subject of a new film to debut this weekend at the Orchard Lake Schools.
The new documentary film on the relationship between Pope St. John Paul II and former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, “The Divine Plan,” will have its Michigan premiere this weekend at the Shrine Chapel of Our Lady of Orchard Lake in the presence of the film’s maker and historian.
The film details events involving the pope and the president, who appear to be an unlikely pair on the surface, yet are brought together as by assassination attempts, KGB scheming, CIA intrigue and the end to the Soviet Union, according to filmmaker/creator Robert Orlando.
Orlando said the comparison of the two men is interesting — one drew his influence from the moral pulpit and the other a powerful man with a military backing — working together to end the Cold War.
“It’s a cautionary tale,” Orlando told Detroit Catholic from his Princeton, N.J., studio. It warns of the importance of morality and freedom in our country.
Joe Serwach, vice president of St John Paul II, Be Not Afraid Foundation, based on the Orchard Lake Schools campus, was instrumental in bringing the movie to the campus.
“I’ve spent most of my life as a writer, but I fell in love with the John Paul/Ronald Reagan story while leading a 2010 trip to Poland and have been learning everything I can about their story ever since,” Serwach said.
Since that trip, Serwach has tried to grow Catholic causes, especially those connected to St. John Paul.
When he came across a link to “The Divine Plan” movie, he contacted Orlando to ask whether the movie premiere could be shown in Michigan at the Orchard Lake Schools, which has a strong Polish history and was the host to then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla in 1969 and again in 1976. Less than two years later, Cardinal Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II.
“You feel John Paul’s spirit is there — you feel it everywhere on the campus,” Serwach added. “It’s just the perfect place to bring the film.”
Fr. Miroslaw Krol, chancellor of the Orchard Lake Schools, was happy to facilitate the film’s premiere on the campus as it marks the 50th anniversary of John Paul II’s stay. The pope, he said, is often referred to as “the Father of Orchard Lake.”
“This is a story of how men like you and I from different worlds, talents and lifestyles, a Pole and an American, were both shot and miraculously survived (just 44 days apart) and how they became convinced God saved them for a reason,” Fr. Krol wrote in the campus' newsletter highlighting the premiere. “Their Divine Plan toppled an evil system, which killed 100 million victims.”
Orlando said the film also touches on Polish solidarity and is perfectly suited for the Polish- and Catholic-oriented venue as its Michigan premiere. It is also a chance to test the market before releasing the film.
Orlando was intrigued by the story of the relationship between the two men after reading the book A Pope and A President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, by Paul Kengor.
Kengor later became the historical consultant for “The Divine Plan.”
After reading Kengor’s book, it left questions “eating at me,” Orlando said, adding his love of investigating and intrigue lead him on the path to more research for a documentary. He read dozens of other books and spoke to people who had close contact with the men.
“I knew enough about the background and I wanted to know the truth about whether the pope and Reagan had a clandestine meeting,” Orlando said.
His research revealed an incredible story, he said.
The documentary interviews many prominent Catholic figures, among them Bishop Robert Barron and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Kengor, who also was interviewed for the movie, is a college professor and a Catholic convert who had been studying the Cold War and the end of communism. He first wrote a book called God and Ronald Reagan.
Kengor said he was surprised at the attention he received about his books, especially from Protestants interested in learning more about the pope and Catholics drawn to learning about Reagan.
“I think people will really like (the movie),” Kengor said. “I was really impressed by the high quality of it.”
Both Orlando and Kengor will be at the premiere taking questions from the audience after both screenings.
“The Divine Plan” book co-authored by Orlando and Kengor is expected to be released in June 2019.
Attend the premiere
The Michigan movie premiere of “The Divine Plan” takes place this Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at the Shrine Chapel of Our Lady of Orchard Lake. Tickets are $10, which includes questions and answers with the film creators. Click here to order.
For more information about the film: wwwthedivineplanmovie.com.