The Detroit News
Dec. 21 – 27, 1980
By Douglas Heller
News Special Writer
True stories often seem to have more impact than fiction.
Consequently, many writers and producers turn to real life in order to find good dramatic stories.
The latest example is A Time for Miracles, airing tonight as an ABC Theatre presentation at 9 o’clock on Channels 7 and 24.
A Time for Miracles is based on the true story of Elizabeth Bayley Seton (played by Kate Mulgrew), a woman who became America’s first native born saint, and was also instrumental in starting the parochial school system in the United States.
The story is not just that simple, however.
Miss Seton first went from being a wealthy society belle — the happy wife of a New York businessman and the mother of five children — before founding the American Sisters of Charity and the first free American Catholic day school (from which parochial schools developed) and the first Catholic orphanage, staffed by nuns.
Her life is set on this course by the tragic death of her husband, William, leaving her alone in Italy, where the family had traveled in their search for a cure to his tuberculosis.
There, the young widow and one of her children encounter William’s old-time friends, the Fillichi family, and experience Catholicism through them for the first time.
Though married, Antonio Fillichi and Seton are attracted to each other, but neither will violate the laws of God or social convention. The friendship they build lasts for their lifetimes, and Fillichi escorts Seton back to America, where she establishes a school for children.
Increasingly drawn to Catholicism, she decides to convert — despite the fact that she loses friend, family and school because of her unpopular faith.
Following this the first American Catholic bishop, John Carroll (played by Lorne Greene), chooses her as the instrument of his dream, that of educating Catholic Americans.
Despite seemingly insurmountable odds and great personal tragedies, she goes on to achieve the tasks given her and to provide inspiration to millions of people.
Actress Mulgrew, months after the location shooting in Savannah, Ga., had been completed, called the project “my best work ever.”
Mulgrew recalled how she learned of Mother Sewn at an early age.
“I’m one of eight children,” she said, “so my mother would say to us, ‘I hope you know that Elizabeth Bayley Seton had five children and she was a saint. So I want you to look at me and know that.”
When certain parallels to Seton and Mulgrew’s early life are pointed out, Mulgrew agreed.
“Only on the most simplistic levels,” she said, “tragedy (Mother Seton lost her husband and several of her children; Mulgrew has suffered the death of her two sisters), spiritual conversion to some degree, and the ability to perceive.”
Jean-Pierre Aumont, Rossano Brazzi, John Forsythe, Jean LeClerc and Leonard Mann also star in the international cast.
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