Pro-life leaders from around the Diocese of Phoenix were treated to a preview Dec. 13 of “Gimme Shelter,” a film that chronicles the story of Apple Bailey, a young girl who flees from her drug-addicted, prostitute mother and seeks help from her biological father.
After a few days in his home, she reveals she is pregnant. Her father and his wife schedule an abortion, and Apple flees again.
This time, a priest — played by James Earl Jones — helps her find refuge in a home run by a deeply spiritual woman who shows her unconditional love.
With Jones as the stalwart priest, Brendan Fraser as the biological father, Rosario Dawson as the chillingly evil mother and Vanessa Hudgens as the edgy, pregnant teen, the cast of “Gimme Shelter” holds audiences captive.
Opens in theaters Jan. 24
The movie is based on the real-life story of Kathy DiFiore, a New Jersey woman who herself was once homeless after fleeing an abusive husband. DiFiore’s five Several Sources shelters in New Jersey have helped thousands of women give birth.
DiFiore visited the Diocese of Phoenix last month along with Ronald Kraus, the producer of “Gimme Shelter,” for the screening as well as an interview on “The Bishop’s Hour” on Immaculate Heart Radio 1310 AM.
Kraus, who spent a year living in one of DiFiore’s shelters in order to be able to write the script, said the experience was “difficult emotionally, mentally and spiritually.”
His stint in the shelter was voluntary, he said, but nonetheless a lonely experience. “You get to the bottom before you get lifted up,” Kraus said. “That’s what Kathy does — she lifts these young women up and puts them back on their feet.”
DiFiore took in her first teen mother in 1981. By 1984, she had welcomed several more and was fined $10,000 by the State of New Jersey for operating an illegal boarding house. Undaunted, DiFiore sought help from Mother Teresa. The governor of New Jersey relented and DiFiore’s shelters have flourished. Her website, severalsourcesfd.org, states that 20,000 babies have been saved through the shelters. Three U.S. presidents and the United Nations have honored DiFiore’s work.
DiFiore said that after walking out of the abusive marriage with nothing but her purse, she drew comfort from the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. “The words eased my suffering and helped heal my heart,” DiFiore said. She began to study the life of St. Francis and learned that he lived his life around Matthew 25. “When I was homeless you took me in, when I was in prison, you visited me,” DiFiore said. “So I set up a little grid so that I could do all the things in Matthew 25 so that by the time I am being judged by Jesus, I would have little checkmarks on all those.”
Both Kraus and DiFiore hope the movie will focus attention on the plight of the homeless and move viewers to action.
“Perhaps it will inspire other people to open up shelters or to acts of kindness,” Kraus said. “I met a lot of these women who were changing the face of homelessness. These are women who had been housewives and had normal jobs and lost their jobs or were abused like Kathy and are out on the streets.”
Christine Accurso, director of 1st Way Pregnancy Center, said the film brought her to tears.
“I thought it was very true to life, not just from the shelter perspective but for the women we serve at 1st Way,” Accurso said. “That’s the reason I cried — it broke my heart to see their faces. The movie was phenomenal.”
Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, endorsed the film Dec. 24.
“The remarkable narrative of ‘Gimme Shelter’ expresses a powerful reality and the heroic love of a mother for her unborn child,” Bishop Carrasco de Paua said. “Out of rejection shines the courageous beauty of a mother’s love, and out of tragedy, shines hope.”