John Banovich

Award-winning filmmaker finds God in the wild

Voices Jan. 12, 2019

Filmmaker John Banovich says he sees God in the moose, mountain goats, and the tiny Catholic churches in Canada's more remote areas. (Photos courtesy of John Banovich)

Feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in day-to-day life can be challenging, with all of the noise and distractions. Some people make “quiet time” at home in the evening, go for walks, or visit a chapel to create a better environment to be able to listen to Our Lord. I am extremely blessed to be able to leave the traffic and congestion and venture to remote areas for my work.

As a natural history director/cinematographer, I have spent most of my professional career filming Canada’s outdoors. It was not where I thought my life would take me, but God had a different path and I am grateful. I consider it a gift to experience so much of this amazing country that many people will never get to see. His creation is simply miraculous! There is purpose and order for everything. A calmness and peace hangs over it.

This is where I find the Holy Spirit, present and alive: among mountains, trees, grasslands, lakes, and wildlife. In many cases, I see Our Lord’s creation untouched by the hands of man. Here I am able to slow down, without a cellphone or computer, and surrender myself to his gifts.

Many times, while waiting for an animal to saunter into view, I will read the Bible. Sometimes, I become aware of a warm wind that brushes across my face. It is in those moments, while deep in the Gospel of John or the Book of Revelation, I literally feel the Holy Spirit present. In some cases, those are the times I have captured incredible imagery of moose, mountain goats, or the rare white grizzly.

A rare white grizzly. Sometimes incredible images present themselves along with a feeling that the Holy Spirit is present.  (Photo by John Banovich)

It is impossible to deny the existence of God when faced with this overwhelming beauty, power, and majesty. Science may lead us to certain theories, but only Our Lord’s creative hand can bring us to a conclusion.

While on the road, I sometimes drive two or three hours out of my way to find a church for Mass. Unlike many parishes I have attended in Greater Vancouver, with a full congregation, these services are sparsely attended, often with only two or three parishioners.

A brother or Eucharistic minister leads the liturgy and everyone else assists. I have been asked more than once if I play an instrument, if I am new to the area, or if I can help out next weekend. It is quite the opposite experience from what many of us have grown accustomed to.

I encourage Catholics to seek out these quaint communities and support struggling parishes. There is an amazing historic log cabin church called Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, located in Burwash Landing, Yukon, right off the Alaska Highway.

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, a historic log cabin church in Burwash Landing, Yukon.

A little closer to home is St. John the Baptist Church in Lillooet, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Anahim Lake, or Holy Name of Mary in Bella Coola. (The latter two are within the Archdiocese of Vancouver).

Wherever your travels take you, there is always a charming Catholic church along the way and the Holy Spirit all around you. Enjoy his gifts!

John Banovich is an award-winning filmmaker and a member of Precious Blood Parish in Surrey. More samples of his natural history work can be viewed at 

John Banovich’s “quiet time” can lead him away from traffic and cellphones and toward a photographic encounter with a mountain goat. (Photo by John Banovich)