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Documentary to be screened in Omaha shows power of forgiveness

Father Rene Robert, a priest of the diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, had devoted his life to serving people cast aside by the rest of society. He was even regarded as a “living saint” in his tight-knit community of St. Augustine. But when he began helping ex-convicts after their release from prison, the people closest to him worried that he was putting his life at risk.

On April 12, 2016, when Father Rene missed a funeral service he’d planned to attend and stopped answering his cell phone, the town knew something was amiss. The local sheriff put his best detectives on the case and residents began searching for the beloved priest. It quickly became apparent that Father Rene was not just missing – someone had taken him against his will.

So begins the true story portrayed in the crime documentary, “Where There is Darkness,” a film that will enjoy limited screenings in Omaha next month. 

And the plot only gets better. Father Rene reaches out from beyond the grave to save the life of the man who murdered him. During the trial of suspect Steven Murray, a more than 20-year-old letter, written by Father Rene, was discovered, pleading for mercy on his killer’s behalf.

His letter, entitled “Declaration of Life” and signed in 1995, read: “Should I die as a result of a violent crime, I request that the person or persons found guilty of homicide for my killing not be subject to or put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstance, no matter how heinous their crime or how much I have suffered.” 

The movie will be screened July 8, 10, 12 and 14 at 7 p.m. at AMC Westroads theater in Omaha. 

Father Damien Wee, administrator of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Blair and coordinator of the screenings, believes the film’s message is applicable not only to Catholics, but to all Christians. 

“There are many Christian themes in the movie: seeing Christ in each person, serving others as you serve Christ, the power of forgiveness, the power of reconciliation,” he said.