The corner of La Peer Drive and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills was busy the evening of May 31 --- and not with its usual visitors.Dozens of priests and nuns, some of them wearing their long habits, hurried across the street, anxious to watch on the big screen a piece of their congregations’ battle for religious freedom.

“We need to make sure that we never take our religious freedom for granted,” remarked Archbishop José Gomez as he addressed a packed Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Samuel Goldwyn Theater during the premiere of “For Greater Glory,” a depiction of an anti-Catholic violent civil war in the Mexico of the 1920s, known as Cristero War (Cristiada, in Spanish).

Numerous priests and lay people were assassinated in the war, becoming martyrs who later were beatified and canonized by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. During the war, many nuns joined in providing food and medical support.

Many priests, nuns and lay people were welcomed as refugees in Los Angeles where they became founding members of local parishes. Among the refugees were Mother Maria Ines Teresa Arias (founder of the Poor Clare Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament) and Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, known as Mother Luisita (foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles).

“This movie was very important for us,” Carmelite Sister Regina Marie, former Mother General of the religious community in L.A., told The Tidings. For generations, she explained, the sisters have included the Cristero War in their formation. 

It was Archbishop John Cantwell who received Mother Luisita and other Carmelite Sisters in June 1927. Their first ministry was to receive and assist other refugee families.

Sister Regina Marie said the Cristero War and “freedom to live our religious life” is a valuable part of their formation. About 75 of the 120 Carmelite Sisters in L.A. attended the special screening.

Mother Luisita made sure that that part of history remained alive, said Sister Regina Marie, who was pleased that the movie reflects exactly what was told to them by the refugee sisters, including the extended violence. “This was not violence for violence’s sake,” she asserted. “It was violence for the sake of Christ.”

“We grew up knowing these stories,” she continued, revealing that one of the martyrs in the movie, Blessed Anacleto Gonzalez Flores (played by Eduardo Verastegui), known for his non-violent resistance, was the uncle of a Carmelite, who also passed along the story of the Cristeros

In his remarks, producer Pablo Barroso thanked Archbishop Gomez for “being very supportive since the beginning of this project” and offered the audience some advice.

“If something is in your heart, an inspiration,” he said, choking back tears, “you should try to accomplish it and do not be afraid.”

The founder and owner of the independent production company Dos Corazones Films, Barroso said making the film “has been a long journey.” It took three years to end the project, he told The Tidings, with much money and effort invested.

“’For Greater Glory’ is a strong film and it brings us a strong timely message,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Our religious liberties have been won by the blood of those who have gone before us. We need to honor their witness.”

The archbishop introduced one of those witnesses, Maria Meza, a longtime Resurrection Church (East L.A.) parishioner. 

“I’m so proud of my parents because they helped priests so they wouldn’t get killed,” Meza told the audience in Spanish. “I feel proud of my father who was very Catholic and he did a lot for his country, Mexico. He died saying, ‘Viva Cristo Rey (“Long Live Christ the King”) and the Virgin of Guadalupe!’” 

The crowd responded with the same chant, which was heard at the beginning and end of the special screening. 

Besides Verástegui, also present at the red-carpet premiere were cast members Andy Garcia (who plays Cristero leader General Enrique Gorostieta), Eva Longoria (Gorostieta’s wife Tulita), Mauricio Kuri (Blessed José Sanchez del Rio), Nestor Carbonell (Mayor Picazo), Santiago Cabrera (Father Vega), Karyme Lozano (Blessed José’s mother, Do√±a María del Río de Sánchez) and Alma Martinez (Mrs. Vargas).

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