08:33 AM

Alumna Filmmaker Kidonakis ’09 Producing ‘Love God’s Will’

Catholic filmmaker Cimela Kidonakis '09Visual storyteller and alumna Cimela Kidonakis ’09 is a flourishing Catholic filmmaker working on her latest documentary titled “Love God’s Will,” the true story of Fr. Ryan Stawaisz and his example of surrender to God’s will even in times of great suffering. 

The founder of Palomita Films and Paloma Pilgrimages said, “Fr. Ryan was a beloved priest of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. He passed away in June 2021 at the age of 31. Though Fr. Ryan was a priest for only two years, he touched many, many hearts right up until the end.”

Fr. Ryan’s Story

His story is undeniably compelling. Fr. Ryan was first diagnosed with a tumor in his pelvis while he was studying at A&M. After surgery, he was in remission for nine years. A few months before his ordination, the rare cancer returned—presenting in his lungs.

"Love Gods Will" filmKidonakis’ film describes Fr. Ryan as a fantastic athlete, drummer and friend to all, who never let despair set in and lived every day for God. No matter how great his suffering was, he projected a “cheerful attitude and radiant smile.”

“While interviewing people for the project, I saw how people were moved by the way he embraced suffering and exemplified Jesus. He carried his cross in a way that people still talk about him years later. These are the kinds of stories I like to hear about and learn from.” 

Kidonakis Fell in Love with Filmmaking at UST

It was at UST—where she studied communications and video production—that the young moviemaker began to interview and ask meaningful questions.

“At UST, where my faith grew a lot, philosophy classes taught me the importance of asking deep questions. Now, I often go into interviews with that mindset, and I plan to continue sharing stories like this one through film.”

Her mindset has produced an impressive body of work thus far.

Catholic filmmakers: Garret McCall, Cimela Kidonakis '09, and Jessi HannapelExpanded ‘Love God’s Will’ Has Powerful Possibilities

Kidonakis and co-filmmakers, Jessi Hannapel and Garret McCall, started out to make a short film about this remarkable man who exemplified the themes of suffering well, the joys of the priesthood, and learning to love God’s will. In no time, however, the project expanded as they collected a virtual treasure trove of Fr. Ryan stories, testimonials, recorded homilies (during the COVID pandemic), and home videos from Fr. Ryan’s parents.

“They gave us a huge box of VHS tapes of home videos!” Kidonakis beamed. “There are so many gems in those tapes, and as storytellers, this assured us that we could put together something powerful having so many captured moments.”  

While initial funding for the short film was collected by Fr. Richard McNeillie, Director of Vocations and Ryan’s friend, the expanded project inspired the determined filmmakers to increase their fundraising goal.

How to Help

Kidonakis asks that you pray for the filmmakers and consider donating here on their crowdfund page to finish their impactful film about Fr. Ryan.

Also, she invites you to enjoy exclusive clips from the project and to watch Fr. Ryan’s heartwarming ordination ceremony.