GARDEN CITY—Father Andrew Trapp’s summer began with three words that aren’t normally part of his life as a Catholic priest: Lights, camera, action!
For three weeks in June, the priest spent his Thursdays on the set of “Little Red Wagon,” which is being filmed in Charleston. Father Trapp is parochial vicar at St. Michael Church in Garden City, and received permission from his pastor, Father Raymond Carlo, to take the time.
The movie tells the story of 12-year-old Zach Bonner of Florida, who in 2004 launched his own charity to help send supplies to children and families who lost their homes after Hurricane Charley, which devastated parts of the Tampa area. Zach pulled a wagon around his neighborhood, and went door-to-door asking for donations.
He later formed the Little Red Wagon Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children in distress. Currently the youth is walking across the country with his mother, Laurie Bonner, to raise funds for homeless children.
“Little Red Wagon” stars Chandler Canterbury as Zach and Anne Gunn as his mother. The film is directed by David Anspaugh, best known for “Hoosiers” and “Rudy,” and funded by the Philanthropy Project, which focuses on using the moving image to inspire every American to become a philanthropist.
“The purpose of the film is to use the moving image to inspire generosity,” said Michael Guillen, one of the film’s producers. “We hope people will come away inspired to do something for others. If you learn about the philanthropy that was accomplished by a 7-year-old, there’s really no excuse to not go out and do something yourself.”
Father Trapp’s presence stemmed from Guillen’s idea of having an on-set chaplain because of the film’s spiritual message.
“It’s not a Christian or faith-based film per se, but it’s a movie for everybody, and its values and message overall are embraced by the faith community,” Guillen said. “God just put that idea of having the chaplains into my head. For me it was a constant reminder that this movie has a transcendent message … that no matter who you are or your status in life, you can make a difference.”
Father Trapp was asked to represent the Diocese of Charleston. Other chaplains included Protestant and non-denominational Christian ministers and a rabbi.
The chaplains’ role, Father Trapp said, was simply to provide a “witness of presence” for the people working on the film. They watched the filming in progress, met the actors and the crew and prayed with anyone who requested it.
He said many of the cast and crew wanted to know about his vocation and his work. In turn, he learned about their lives and perspectives.
“A lot of our conversations ended up steering towards the things in life that really make one happy,” Father Trapp said. “We talked about how in some ways, it’s almost a blessing not to be the next Lindsay Lohan or a celebrity like that, because many of those people don’t seem very happy and their lives are totally screwed up.”
Father Trapp believes his visits to the set provided a good witness.
“Ministry doesn’t always have to be preaching or celebrating a Mass,” he said. “Sometimes it means just to be there and to be visible. Hopefully because I was there, they’ll have a good memory of a Catholic priest, even if they’re not Catholic. Maybe in the future, God might use that to help them to seek out a priest if they have problems.”