Portraying the first saint of the 21st century is a daunting task, but it’s one actress Maria Vargo is humbled to take on because of the message it allows her to spread.
Vargo plays St. Faustina Kowalska in the one-woman play, “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy,” which will be performed Wednesday at St. Mary Catholic Church in DeKalb.
“Every time I portray her, I’m trying to have a deeper relationship with God,” Vargo said. “I’m trying to spread the message of Divine Mercy because it’s such a beautiful message of love and forgiveness.”
The play gives an account of St. Faustina, the first saint of the 21st century, after Pope John Paul II canonized her in April 2000. A Polish nun who lived from 1905 to 1938, she is revered as a visionary and the apostle of Divine Mercy.
She started having visions of Jesus in 1930, which she documented in her diary. When she was 25, Jesus appeared to Kowalska in a white robe with rays of white and red light emanating from near his heart. He told her to have his image painted with, “Jesus, I trust in you,” written at the bottom and asked her to hold a feast the Sunday after Easter, which is now known as the Sunday of Divine Mercy.
The show is the work of Washington-based St. Luke Productions, which aims to evangelize and renew the Christian culture through touring dramas and films. Tickets for the show cost $10 a person, or $45 for a family of five or more.
St. Luke Productions approached St. Mary about hosting the show, which is on a tour that started in October and will last more than a year.
As Lent comes to an end, the play gives the devout another opportunity to nurture their faith said Annalisa McMaster, the director of religious education for St. Mary.
“I think it’s good to do ordinary devotions, but this one stands out,” McMaster said. “People will be able not just to hear the message, but have it unfold right in front of them.”
The timing of the drama also is powerful because Pope John Paul will be declared a saint at the end of April, McMaster said.
“Faustina” is a one-woman show with a twist, said St. Luke Productions president and founder Leonardo Defilippis, who also directs the show. While Vargo is the only live actress in the production, there are subplots that occur with a dying man, modern woman and others that are projected onto a screen.
The 90-minute production features acting as well as singing.
Vargo, an actress based out of Los Angeles, had been praying for a role that would allow her to spread God’s message when the opportunity to play Faustina came about. She said she’s never done a show quite like it and she wasn’t sure about traveling, but now she believes the show was an answer to her prayer.
“I didn’t know how it would be received,” she said. “But when I see people’s faces and talk to them after the show I know I’m where I need to be right now.”
The show will resonate with anyone who has felt lost or hopeless, Defilippis said, adding that at the end, the audience will leave with a sense of healing and forgiveness.
“We want to bring people to a place of peace and understanding,” he said. “This show is really relevant to the ills of our times. It allows you to get out of yourself and say ‘I can help someone. I am a good person.’”
If you go
What: "Faustina: The Messenger of Divine Mercy"
Where: St. Mary Catholic Church, 329 Pine St., DeKalb
When: 6:30 p.m. April 9
Tickets: $10 a person or $45 for a family of five or more