MHz Networks continues its premiere week of foreign-language international programs with the critically-acclaimed and award-winning French drama, The Churchmen.
The Churchmen (Ainsi Soient-Ils, or Thy Will Be Done) follows five young men from very different backgrounds and with different motivations for leaving the lives they’ve known in order to train for the priesthood at Paris’ historic Capuchin Seminary. For each of them, there is a solitary and difficult journey ahead at this venerable institution, where discord between the seminary’s head priest and an ambitious Bishop could rock even the strongest of the faithful.
But before they begin their journeys in earnest, Father Fromenger (award-winner Jean-Luc Bideau, Détectives), in reflecting on the Gospel of Luke, asks these questions of them:
“Who are you, truly?
“What do seek at the Capuchin Seminary?
“Are you really ready to become a disciple of Jesus?”
A native of Brittany, a scout, and a guitarist, Yann Le Megueur (Julien Bouanich, A Burning Hot Summer) is the youngest, most idealistic, and most traditional of the aspiring priests, whose good heart and simple nature leave him open to perpetual disappointment.
Emmanuel Charrier (David Baiot, Plus belle la vie), a young black man, “needs Jesus” rather than a career in archaeology, so he leaves school in Lyon for the seminary in Paris. Here he hopes to get a handle on his depression, not confront his inner demons, which is paradoxical, given where he is…
Guillaume Morvan (Clément Manuel, Falco), who took on the role of head of his household in Orsay, owing to an irresponsible mother and teenage sister, is devoting himself to the Church to expand his love of humanity and to serve others. However, the love of all is sometimes in conflict with the love of one.
And from Versailles, entrepreneur’s son Raphaël Chanseaulme (Clément Roussier, Under the Rainbow) enters the seminary to escape the trappings of his family and wealth. But running away doesn’t easily rid him of the passions simmering just beneath the surface, or of the temptations around him.
Guiding them in their journeys is Father Fromenger, the free-spirited and charismatic, yet also temperamental and controversial, head of the Capuchin Seminary, where he has devoted his life for the past 20 years. Assisting him is his right-hand man, Father Bosco (Thierry Gimenez, Spiral), whose faith, tortured as it is at times, doesn’t diminish thanks to his trust in Father Fromenger… until he learns of his mentor’s imperfections. Speaking of…
Father Fromenger gets into a heated exchange with his antithesis, the authoritarian, calculating, and full-of-himself prelate that you love to hate: Monsignor Roman (Michel Duchaussoy, Braquo), president of the Bishops’ Conference of France. Unlike his brethren, he is both in and of this world, concerned more about pomp and ceremony than spiritual and metaphysical matters.
The verbal brawl begins, in effect, with the subject of the leaking church roof and empty church coffers. Father Bosco goes to meet with Monsignor Roman to request assistance for the roof repairs and to deliver an invitation to the seminary’s day of vocations, set by Father Fromenger for the 7th of November. As it turns out, in Monsignor Roman’s subsequent meeting with other priests (held to ensure his reelection), the group selects the same date to launch a day of action against poverty. (Clearly not a coincidence.)
So Bishop Roman goes to the seminary, promising repairs but also asking that the day of vocations be postponed. The head Capuchin flatly refuses, which sets off a flurry of harsh words about each other’s pride and Monsignor Roman’s ungodly ambition. This triggers an anxiety attack of sorts for Father Bosco, who is then saved by Father Fromenger’s young assistant, Sister Antonietta (Céline Cuignet, My Wife Is an Actress).
What of the priests-in-training? On their first evening at the seminary, following Father Fromenger’s welcome address, in which he stressed discernment in considering this difficult vocation, it was decided that the new arrivals would serve at Mass the next day. At breakfast, Emmanuel is recruited to work at Notre Dame du Bon Secours (Our Lady of Good Help), a home for single mothers-to-be, while things get, well, unbrotherly before Mass, when Yann is teased about his having brought his guitar.
Meanwhile, José Del Sarte (Samuel Jouy, Hard), recently released from prison in Toulouse, learns that the Saint-Cyprien seminary has denied his application, despite his having “met the Christ” while in jail for killing a Russian thug. For José, being a seminarian would help him make sense of and give meaning to his life. So he leaves for Paris and convinces Father Fromenger of his motivation to join the Capuchin order: he is willing to do anything to carry out the message of Christ in the world. After some hesitation, the Governing Board unanimously accepts his nomination.
Voilà, the series opener.
A two-time winner of the Sériemania Best Series Award and the Best Film Award winner at the International Catholic Film Festival, the French-language, English-subtitled The Churchmen premieres tonight, 27 April 2015, at 10 PM ET (following Don Matteo), on MHz Worldview and MHz Worldview Live.
Read more about MHz Choice here.