CHULA VISTA — The promotional materials for REBOOT describe it as “a life-changing event.”
That’s a bold statement, but one about which Chris Stefanick, an internationally known Catholic speaker, author and TV host, is very much in earnest.
REBOOT, which features two dynamic talks by Stefanick, has been held at parishes throughout the country. On Wednesday, May 9, it will be coming to St. Rose of Lima Parish in Chula Vista. It will take place from 7-9:30 p.m.
Stefanick told The Southern Cross that regular date nights are important to his marriage and that REBOOT serves a similar purpose for attendees in their relationship with God.
“The faith is a love story,” he explained, referencing something Pope Francis has said. “Kind of like marriage, when you forget the context that it’s a love story, all you’re left with” are “rules, regulations, burdensome obligations.”
Many people in the world see Catholicism through such a legalistic lens, he said. As a result, Catholics often find themselves on the defensive, rather than proudly sharing the Gospel message — “the best news ever” — which is “profoundly beautiful” when seen in its proper context and has the power to “make everyday life better.”
Stefanick said REBOOT is all about “refocusing us on that love story” and showing attendees “how to live it out in practical ways every day.”
This is a message that even committed Catholics benefit from hearing, he said, because everyone needs spiritual renewal from time to time.
Through REBOOT events, Stefanick said, he spoke to about 85,000 people last year. In 2017, about 25 events were held throughout the United States, in Canada and even one in Scotland. This year, events are scheduled to take place in another 31 cities.
Though the flyers for the upcoming event in Chula Vista feature his name and likeness, Stefanick said, “I don’t see this as Chris Stefanick giving a talk. I see this as a way to work with parishes.”
He said the parishes hosting REBOOT events can “leverage” his work as an evangelist into accomplishing their own mission “to invite the world to the love of Jesus Christ.” Pastors have told him that 70 percent of the attendees at some past REBOOT events were people they didn’t regularly see at their parish. He has also heard reports of parish small groups doubling in size after one of these events.
Eddie Gates, a member of the parish council at St. Rose of Lima Parish, spearheaded the effort to bring REBOOT to his parish.
Gates told The Southern Cross that he had met Stefanick more than six years ago at the Steubenville San Diego youth conference, where Gates was a chaperone and Stefanick was one of the speakers. He remembers approaching Stefanick after his talk, introducing himself and promising that he would invite Stefanick to speak at his parish someday.
“What attracted me to Chris was his love of Christ and how cool he was in his message,” Gates said. “His approach is full of joy and love of the Catholic faith.”
Stefanick said REBOOT is “the flagship initiative” of his ministry, Real Life Catholic, which produces Catholic media content, including radio spots, short videos, and an eponymous TV show.
He said his ministry work was influenced by a transformative experience as an eighth-grader on a retreat that his parents had forced him to attend. It wasn’t just what the speakers on stage had said, he explained, but the vibrant faith of his fellow retreatants that touched him.
“The first Christians called themselves ‘the living ones,’ and I realized when I was with them [at the retreat] that I was dead inside and I wanted what they had,” Stefanick recalled.
“I remember the joy of the Lord on their faces,” he said of the Christians at that retreat. “They weren’t professional speakers or priests. They were just Christians living out who they were.”
Since then, Stefanick knew that he wanted to go into ministry. Following his graduation from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1998, he immediately became involved with parish youth ministry in East Los Angeles. Subsequently, he would hold ministry positions under various U.S. bishops before launching Real Life Catholic and dedicating himself to the organization full-time.
His roots were in youth ministry. But, as represented by REBOOT, his current work is multigenerational. He can look out into an audience in which junior high kids sit next to their parents and grandparents, and all three age groups are moved toward laughter or tears by the same things.
Stefanick’s message includes a call to action.
“We all have to do our part,” he said of Catholics. “There’s a billion of us in the world. If we all start doing our part, the world changes. And our part is sharing the love of God in our words and in our actions.”
To those who might be considering attending his upcoming REBOOT, he said, “You may have wondered what’s a good entryway to get a family member, friend, neighbor engaged in the faith. Well, here’s your opportunity! Please don’t let it pass by.”
For more information or to purchase tickets ($22/person), call (619) 427-0320 or visit RealLifeCatholic.com/reboot.
The Southern Cross