By laughing at ourselves, we grow, change for better, says actress-writer

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Fordham University

By Beth Griffin

YORK (CNS) — Laughing at ourselves and being open to sharing our failures and
flaws within and beyond the community of faith is a powerful means to dispel
the myth that Catholics are ignorant or judgmental or exclusive in any way,
actress Jeannie Gaffigan told an audience in New York Oct 14.

comedy writer and producer of “The Jim Gaffigan Show” accepted the inaugural
Eloquentia Perfecta Award from Paulist Press and the Fordham University
Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education.

actress, who is the wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan and mother of their five
pre-teenage children, said her Catholic faith and Jesuit education inform and
inspire the scripts she co-writes for her husband’s comedy specials and his
series on the TV Land cable network.

said the couple tries, “in our own imperfect way, to present a household of
faith in one of the most culturally diverse places in our country.” The
television show is loosely based on their experiences working in the comedy
field and raising children in a two-bedroom apartment in New York.

show invites its audience on a journey through familiar conflicts in faith,
family and career and attempts to bring the entire community together in
showing ourselves as flawed characters that must rebound with resilience from
the hardships we all face in life,” Gaffigan said.

we laugh at ourselves, we can grow and change for the better,” she said. It is
a way to share what people have in common and is vital to the growth of the

said working on a small cable network allows them to depict a family whose
faith is central to its respect for, and interactions with, people they care
about despite enormous disagreements and differences. “We’re trying to do what
is good and keep a sense of humor and humility along the way,” she said.

likes a preachy story,” Gaffigan said. The process of resolving the dichotomy
between words and deeds can become a gentle teaching opportunity where they can
share their faith and “shed light on the silliness of the culture wars,” she

we are called to evangelize, it must be done creatively and subtly,” Gaffigan

two groups that established the Eloquentia Perfecta Award are celebrating
anniversaries in 2016. Fordham University was founded by the Jesuits 175 years
ago and Paulist Press is marking 150 years in the publishing business.

Perfecta” refers to a Jesuit educational tradition that values excellence in
writing and speaking with logical clarity.

Father Mark-David Janus, president and publisher of Paulist Press, told
Catholic News Service the award is intended to celebrate people in
communications who take their vocation seriously, live their faith life and can
serve as an inspiration to others.

University’s president, Jesuit Father Joseph M. McShane, said the Gaffigans
“are proudly and publicly Catholic. Their faith is a part of their identity and
shapes their creative work.”

said Jeannie’s humor is sly, gentle, illuminating of the human condition,
optimistic and very funny. “She renders family life with wit, intelligence, and
self-awareness. Her work allows people to reconnect with themselves in a way
that is at once entertaining and compassionate,” Father McShane said.

Colt Anderson, dean of the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education,
said Gaffigan’s humor is funny without being mean, and is never sappy, preachy
or moralistic, which is why it’s perfect for our time.

Eloquentia Perfecta Award also was given to an undergraduate to encourage
pursuit of excellence by a student who shows extraordinary promise, Father Janus said.

presented the inaugural award to Caitlin Sakdalan, a Fordham University junior
in the communication and media studies program. He said she hopes to be a
respected food connoisseur and have a television show on food, travel and

evening award presentation was followed the next day by a conference on
“Communication as Vocation: At the Intersection of Media, Faith and Culture.”
Father Janus said the event was intended to give students access to Catholic
professionals in the fields of broadcast, music, theater, film, video and

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