November 10, 2015 // Local

Catholic actress brings Sister Faustina and Divine Mercy message to life

Actress Maria Vargo plays the role of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the St. Luke production of “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy.” Tickets are available now for the Dec. 6, 7 and 8 shows in the diocese

By Kay Cozad

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend invite all to kick off the Jubilee Year of Mercy by attending “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy.” The diocese is offering shows on Saturday, Dec. 5, at St. Matthew Cathedral, South Bend, Sunday, Dec. 6, at Sacred Heart Parish, Warsaw, and Monday, Dec. 7, at the University of Saint Francis Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center, Fort Wayne. Tickets are $10 each, $5 for students and $25 for a family of three or more. Materials and resources for the Year of Mercy will be available for attendees before and after the show.

“Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy,” Saint Luke Productions’ newest one-woman live performance is based on the life and message of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), a Polish visionary whose personal encounters with Jesus have inspired a devotion to Christ’s Divine Mercy. A parallel modern story within the drama offers audiences a compelling personal connection to the current moral issues of the times. Starring professional actress Maria Vargo, the live drama includes technological artistry in the form of a majestic orchestral soundtrack, theatrical lighting and a video backdrop that sets the story in a historical, yet relevant context. This 90-minute show is suitable for ages 13 and up.

Today’s Catholic interviewed Maria Vargo about her faith, the performance itself and its impact on her life.

TC: Are you Catholic?

Vargo: Yes, I was baptized Catholic as a baby and raised in the faith. I had a deeper conversion, however, as an adult.

TC: What compelled you to portray Sister Faustina in the “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy” production?

Vargo: I have experienced God’s mercy in my own life. I always knew God was present in my life and that I loved Him, but I was not living a life that reflected that. Through God’s grace and mercy, I realized that I needed to truly give my whole self to God. I began to do this through my work as well, which led me to the opportunity to audition for this role. Initially, it was not St. Faustina that drew me but the opportunity to be a witness to God’s mercy and like St. Faustina, His messenger.

TC: Has this portrayal changed your life?

Vargo: Playing the role has definitely given me a deeper understanding of sacrifice and prayer. My own personal prayer life has changed. I see now that my sacrifices can make a difference and how to be specific in prayer and asking our Lord for my needs and the needs of others. It’s also a great joy to be able to play a character whose words you believe. Many times I pray my way through the show.

TC: As you prepared for this production, what about the saint’s life inspired you the most?

Vargo: She was so in love with Jesus. She would do anything for Him. This really challenged me to look at my own relationship with Jesus and see where I needed to go deeper.

TC: How has the message of Divine Mercy impacted your life?

Vargo: Divine Mercy saves my life every day. It is only through God’s Divine Mercy that I go on. Our Lord tells Faustina that mercy is His greatest attribute. That means that nothing we can do can totally separate us from God because He is mercy. He wants to pour out His mercy on us and I’ve received it first-hand, over and over.

TC: How has this one-person show challenged you professionally? Spiritually?

Vargo: Doing God’s work will always be met with opposition, and doing this show is doing God’s work. Therefore it’s not always easy, but the fruit is beautiful. It is challenging physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Yet, seeing people’s faces as they walk out, or hearing them tell me their life will be forever changed, makes it all worth it. We are called to a life that reflects God and I’m grateful to get to do that through this show.

TC: What do you hope audiences will take away from the “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy” production in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend?

Vargo: I pray that audiences will feel the great love and mercy that God has for them. May they understand how important it is to share this message with everyone they meet through words or actions.

Producer Leonardo Defilippis speaks abou tthe production and one-person shows

TC: Are you Catholic?

Defilippis: I am a cradle Catholic. However, I went through a period of time in the theater when I wasn’t practicing my faith. When I met an actress who became a friend, and I discovered that she was a heroin addict, I didn’t know how to help her. So I started to pray the rosary. This led me back into the Church, and I look on her as instrumental in my reconversion.

TC: How did you get involved in directing live religious productions?

Defilippis: When I was an actor at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival, I came up with the crazy idea of touring churches with a one-person show on the Gospel of Luke. This experiment, which I thought would only last a few months, launched a lifelong mission of producing and performing live and film dramas on the scriptures and the lives of the saints. At first, I performed all these dramas, but gradually we’ve incorporated other actors, like Maria Vargo in the role of “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy.” I really enjoy directing other talented actors, who also share the faith and want to evangelize. It’s a joy to see this work touching souls.

TC: How do you choose the characters for these productions?

Defilippis: Well, I certainly don’t plan these productions based on marketing research — in other words, which saint would have the widest appeal. It’s really a matter of creative and spiritual inspiration. In several cases — for instance, St. John of the Cross, St. Augustine, St. Thérèse and St. Francis — I’ve been inspired by an anniversary of the saint, celebrated throughout the Church. Sometimes it just works out that it’s what the Church needs at that time — I had no idea that we would celebrate the Year for Priests, with its patron, St. John Vianney, the same year I produced our live drama, “Vianney.”

TC: How does the state-of-the-art technology used impact the audience?

Defilippis: We’ve always incorporated professional musical soundtracks, and recorded voices of characters in our productions, but in recent years the use of video, projected on a large screen on stage, has opened up huge creative possibilities. Now we can incorporate backdrops of authentic and symbolic environments that change with the scene, and characters on the screen can interact with the actor on stage. This has had a profound impact on the audience’s experience. Visual imagery — a real and frightening presence of the devil, for example — gives the drama a dynamism that keeps people on the edge of their seats. You’ll see a powerful modern story on the screen, paralleling the life of St. Faustina, in “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy.”

TC: How is a one-person show different than a big production for the audience?

Defilippis: It’s much more intimate. When there are no other actors on stage, the performer interacts with the audience members, speaking directly to them and challenging them. It’s really a personal encounter with Christ and His saints that involves the audience in the drama in a unique and unforgettable manner. There is no barrier between the actor and those watching the play.

TC: Do these productions impact your faith life?

Defilippis: I have to say that the reason I do this work is that it is changing me. I have really grown to know intimately the saints I portray — they have become my friends and mentors. And more importantly, in living with the Word of God, memorizing it and proclaiming it over and over each night, I have experienced a profound knowledge of Jesus present and living in His Word.

TC: What do you hope audiences will take away from the “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy” production in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend?

Defilippis: For me, personally, the play makes me see that God is actually longing for me, and even the slightest movement towards Him will change my life and make me whole again. So many of us are deeply wounded and filled with guilt. We feel so unworthy, so deserving of misery and rejection. But if we could come away with one impression from this play, it would be hope. Nothing we do cannot be forgiven or healed.

“One thing alone is necessary: that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do all the rest.” — St. Faustina.

‘Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy’ tickets now available

Visit: for locations,
showtimes, trailer and additional information about the play.

Tune in to Redeemer Radio on Friday mornings for the opportunity to win tickets.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.