By Reagan Scott
LINCOLN (SNR) - It’s not every day that an internationally renowned Catholic speaker and author visits Lincoln, and when Chris Stefanick spoke at St. Joseph Church Oct. 28, it was to a sold-out crowd of more than 1,000 people.
A former youth minister in East Los Angeles, a musician, and a father of six, Stefanick speaks at events across the country and around the world. He is currently on his “Reboot! Live!” tour, an experience devoted to encouraging people to apply the truth and beauty of the Gospel to their everyday lives.
“We invest in parishes for six months and invite them to do outreach, so every event is full,” Stefanick said. “It’s a far more effective event. Twenty percent of the people who attend haven’t been to church in years. We’re seeing lives change.”
For St. Joseph Parish, this event has been over a year in the making. Murphy Lierley, youth minister and director of faith formation for St. Joseph, was instrumental in getting Stefanick to come to Lincoln.
“I think the parish really jumps on the opportunity to grow in faith, and I hope it really acts as a catalyst for continued faith in the church,” Lierley said before the event. “John Paul II had a philosophy, ‘Jesus is the answer to which every human heart is a question’ and I think that this event is that answer and can really give them the Jesus that they’re looking for.”
The majority of the attendees at the event were from St. Joseph Parish, but Lierley estimated that there were members from every Lincoln parish in attendance. Sixty people from Hanover, Kan. drove an hour and a half to attend as well.
Father David Gayhart, assistant pastor at St. Joseph Church, hadn’t been at the parish for the early planning of Stefanick’s arrival, but he was excited to be a part of the event.
“We want to help revitalize the parish, which is what all parishes want, of course. If he can do that, even for some, it’s worth it, because faith is that important,” Gayhart said.
The event began with a song performed by musician and recording artist Jon Niven before Stefanick came out and spoke. He began by playing his electric guitar, which engaged the audience from the beginning.
He incorporated wit and humor into his approach, getting lots of laughs out of the large audience, but he was also serious, reminding those in attendance of the life they had been called to in Christ.
“This is not Grandma’s fairy tale, this is your story,” Stefanick said. “God became one of us to pay a price we could never pay. This whole Christian life is not about perfection, it’s about God’s love for you.”
Halfway through the event, Stefanick had his friend Ryan Lovett come forward to speak about his wife and her struggle with cancer, as well as her courage and adversity, despite the discouraging odds that she faces.
The reactions after the event were very positive, leaving the people feeling excited about their faith.
Lierley said, “I think Chris is such a good evangelizer because he meets people where they’re at. He draws people to Jesus.”
For others, Stefanick’s approach helped them to understand the teachings of the faith in a new light.
“The Bible was written like people spoke, and he basically interpreted it to modern terms, which I really liked,” said Catie Welty, a member of St. Joseph Parish and junior at Pius X High School in Lincoln.
The following day, Stefanick gave a chastity talk at Pius X High School, telling the students to avoid judging people for their worst sins, gossiping about others, and making moral decisions with their feelings.
“Our ability to love sets us apart from everything in creation. You and I are made in the image and likeness of God, who is love,” Stefanick said.
The response of the students and faculty of Pius was as enthusiastic as the one he had received the night before.
When asked about his favorite place to visit during his travels around the globe, Stefanick answered laughing, “Pius and Lincoln, because it’s so exotic and different.”
All joking aside, he said that his favorite place to visit had been Cebu in the Philippines.
“The culture is so Catholic there,” Stefanick said. “I spoke to 30,000 people in one week.”
Not everyone gets the chance to have a job like the one Stefanick does. For him, the most rewarding part of his job is seeing other people’s lives change. As for the large number of crowds he manages to draw, he knows that the Catholic faith is at work.
Stefanick said, “The world changes, but the truth of faith doesn’t. It’s the truth and beauty of Catholicism that we are made for. When we tap into the love for which God made us, people show up.”