Bishop's 'Extraordinary Life' Subject of O'Keefe's Latest Film

Bishop’s ‘Extraordinary Life’ Subject of O’Keefe’s Latest Film

“His life and the story just grew on me,” says Creighton professor John O’Keefe, PhD, of the focus of his latest documentary film project — the Most Rev. Vincent McCauley, a foundational leader and compassionate missionary in the Roman Catholic Church in the mid-20th century.

Bishop Vince: A Monumental Life tells the captivating story of Fr. McCauley, a Council Bluffs, Iowa, native who attended Creighton University and eventually became the first bishop of the Diocese of Fort Portal in southwestern Uganda.

The documentary started as a request from members of McCauley’s family who approached the administration in the College of Arts and Sciences to see if Creighton would be interested in telling the bishop’s story.

O’Keefe, who holds the A.F. Jacobson Chair in Communications and is a professor of historical theology at Creighton, seemed a natural fit. He had visited Uganda multiple times, was an accomplished filmmaker (he produced and directed Tokimane, a 2013 documentary on a diocese in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and created the Center for Catholic Thought at Creighton. In the winter of 2014, O’Keefe began initial interviews for the film.

McCauley, who was born in 1906, enrolled at Creighton in 1924 and later transferred to the University of Notre Dame, from which he took his priestly vows and graduated. He began his missionary work in 1936 with a posting to Bengal (now Bangladesh), where he stayed until he was overcome by a series of illnesses and nearly died. After his recuperation, he took a job raising funds for Holy Cross missions around the world.

“But he wanted to be back in the field,” O’Keefe said. “And by the mid-1950s, the pope had said that it was the job of the Church to start sending missionaries into the developing world. Holy Cross sent a number of its members around and McCauley went to Uganda. He convinced his superiors they should open a mission in Uganda.”

McCauley also left his superiors little doubt as to who should run the mission.

Out of the mission, eventually a new diocese was carved out around Fort Portal and, in 1961, McCauley became the diocese’s inaugural bishop. He spent another decade developing men and women to serve the diocese and tending to the needs of refugees from neighboring nations. He promoted education and worked to bind up wounds left from decades of colonial oppression.

In 2006, 24 years after McCauley’s death, the Diocese of Fort Portal began the push to canonize the bishop. While advocating sainthood is not a central thrust of O’Keefe’s documentary, the filmmaker says he finds McCauley deserving.

“I think it would be cool,” O’Keefe said. “One thing you hear a lot about in the process to sainthood is that a person lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. I think McCauley led an extraordinary life doing a lot of remarkable things.”

The roughly 30-minute documentary premiered at Creighton in September. Watch the documentary here.