This is the biographical story of America's only Roman Catholic saint: Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton (1774-1821). A very young Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager) plays Elizabeth.
It is difficult today to imagine a time when it was actually dangerous to be Roman Catholic in America, but when you consider that the new land was populated primarily with various factions of British and other western European Protestants, Roman Catholics were very much despised and even feared in this country, and would continued to be so, even as recently as the 1960's, when President Kennedy was elected. Elizabeth came from a well-to-do Protestant family, was happily married and very much in love with her husband, and was the mother of several children long before the seeds of her eventual conversion to Roman Catholicism were planted.
During a voyage to Italy, her husband takes ill and eventually dies. Rossano plays Philippo, the patriarch of the Italian family with whom Elizabeth recovers from the sudden death of her husband, and with whom she waits while she prepares for her return trip back to America alone, where her children await her return. It is this family, with their very strong Roman Catholic roots, faith and tradition, who first plant within her the urge to investigate the Catholic faith. Once back in America, as a result, her family and friends disown her, her home is burned, she is forced into poverty and both she and her children suffer greatly for her conversion. Yet the good she accomplishes serving the poor and providing education in the face of overwhelming odds is inspirational to anyone of any faith or denomination.
Rossano's role as Philippo is relatively brief, but intense: it is with his son that Elizabeth learns about the power and scope of faith; but it is also he who is compelled to sternly reprimand his son (who is married) for his apparent infatuation with Elizabeth. It is also he who warns her about the dangers of returning to America by boat, alone, until his daughter-in-law (a gullible innocent, if there ever was one) suggests that her husband accompany Elizabeth back to America, as it would be a journey guaranteed to help raise the family's business in sea trade. Philippo, having just needed to speak to his son about Elizabeth, is not at all comfortable with her suggestion ... but, short of explaining the real reason for his fears to his daughter-in-law, there is very little he can say to countermand her idea. His role is a mixture of severity and compassion, and the brief scenes of the family's devotions in the family chapel are very moving.
The remainder of the movie takes place back in America (with one later appearance by Philippo's son), and is an excellent historical rendering of the life of America's only Roman Catholic saint.
This film is available through AMAZON.com, by clicking here.
The film is also currently available through Critics Choice Video