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'Wizard of Oz' provides themes of comfort and faith for Moore parish after May 2013 tornadoes

“Wizard of Oz” movie provides themes of comfort and faith for Moore parish recovering from the May 2013 tornadoes.
by Carla Hinton Modified: March 22, 2014 at 11:00 am •  Published: March 22, 2014

Auntie Em: “Now Dorothy, will you stop imagining things. You always get yourself into a fret over nothing. Now you just help us out today and find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble.”

Dorothy: “Some place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be.”

From the movie

“The Wizard of Oz”

— A beloved movie featuring a tornado as a key plot element recently served as the premise of faith sessions in a city ravaged by such a storm a little less than a year ago.

Film clips from “The Wizard of Oz,” faux yellow bricks and a priest dressed in a blue gingham shirt and red shoes helped convey the theme of the “Over the Rainbow Into the Kingdom” Lenten mission at St. Andrew Catholic Church, 805 NW 5.

The Rev. Jack Feehily, pastor, said about 50 members of the St. Andrew parish lost their homes during the fatal May 20 twister.

Feehily said many people are on the road to recovery, and the “Over the Rainbow” series was a way to aid in that process.

“The goal is just to continue to help people move into recovery, beyond some of the terrible experiences that they had, especially the kids who are fearful of storms now,” Feehily said.

Sessions were held during the day for elementary-age children who were out on spring break, and an evening session was held for youths. Adults met over several evenings. On Wednesday, the children performed a short play for parishioners who are older and those who cannot typically attend church services due to illness.

Feehily said he hoped the series would help convey the strength and comfort that often comes from Christian faith and fellowship.

“It’s about belonging to a community that believes that God is going to see us through, regardless of the situation,” he said.

“We are one body, one body in Christ, and we do not stand alone.”

Comfort amid storms

The Rev. Nathan Castle, the priest who created the “Over the Rainbow” series, said he has loved “The Wizard of Oz” all his life because it is “one of those timeless fables.”

Castle, a Texas native who is pastor of the Catholic Community at Stanford University, said he wrote a book called “And Toto Too,” about the spiritual themes in “The Wizard of Oz.” The idea to present some of those faith lessons through church gatherings came after the deadly May 2011 tornado in Joplin, Mo., he said.

Castle said the “Over the Rainbow” sessions, presented by him and his team called Good Dog Outreach, seemed to resonate with Joplin residents who participated in them last year.

Castle said the book by Frank Baum and the iconic movie based on it include universal themes, including feeling abandoned, feeling unloved and running away, as well as the need for courage, companionship and a sense of belonging or home.

During the opening session Sunday night, people broke into small groups divided by categories such as the Munchkins or flying monkeys.

Castle said his goal was to get people together to talk from the heart about the May tornadoes and other concerns. Trouble, as Dorothy found in “The Wizard of Oz,” finds everyone at some point in life, but the Lord is there to bring comfort to face the storms of life, Castle said.

“She may only be 10 years old, but she knows that there isn’t anyplace on Earth where there isn’t any trouble,” Castle said.

‘All in the same swirl’

One of the week’s participants, St. Andrew parishioner Sherry Bussa, of Moore, shared her memory of conquering her phobia of cellars in order to help a neighbor into one where they rode out the May 20 tornado together. Another participant, Paula Dirck, of Newcastle, said the movie clip that showed Dorothy in the cyclone gave her chills because of the May 2013 tornadoes.

Cathryn Castle, Nathan Castle’s sister and a member of his Good Dog Outreach team, said it was important to realize that everyone in the community was affected by the tornadoes in some way, just as the everyday troubles that concern individuals affect others as well.

“The point is everybody is in this. We’re all in the same cyclone together. It doesn’t matter whether you were first tier, second tier or third tier affected. Everybody’s got their own storm going on. It doesn’t matter the severity — we’re all in the same swirl,” she said.

Nathan Castle agreed as he urged parishioners to talk about their experiences and then try to find a way to cast those cares to the Lord.

“I want you to be lighter, freer, to store new thoughts and new hope,” he said.