.- When Eddie Cotter Jr. was a youth minister in the diocese of Orlando, Florida, he had his students watch the 1989 film “Dead Poets Society.”
The movie stars the late and widely beloved Robin Williams, who plays an eccentric and unorthodox teacher that inspires his students to re-found a clandestine club called the “Dead Poets Society.” Members of the club meet in a cave to read and discuss poetry, including their own poems. In 1997, the film inspired Cotter’s youth group to found their own clandestine society.
“Following watching that film, a conversation was initiated by the teens, very enthusiastically, where they talked about, ‘Wow. Instead of learning about poets and writers as they did in the film, let’s learn about the lives of the saints who we don’t know a lot about.’”
Cotter’s students said they could recognize certain saints’ images in icons or statues, but beyond that, they did not know about their lives. “What were they like? How did they live? How did they die?” Cotter said.
That conversation inspired the founding of the “Dead Theologians Society”, a youth group format that has been used by parishes throughout the United States, now in its 23rd year.
The group thought the name “Dead Theologians Society” was apt not only because of the film, but because “we’re learning about people who are only dead by the world’s definition of dead, but they’re fully alive in Christ,” Cotter said.