By Carly York | Correspondent
“We believe in one God!” shouted internationally renowned Catholic speaker Chris Stefanick as the crowd before him echoed, “We believe in one God!”
“The force that created the entire universe is love. God is love, and he created all of space and time to put you in it. Spiritually, you are a huge deal! You are made in the ‘image and likeness of God’ because he wants to be in a love relationship with you.”
Photo Gallery: 'Reboot! Live!' in St. Leo the Great School
Such was Stefanick’s message as he presented his “Reboot! Live!” message of God and faith in everyday life to the more than 800 gathered April 11 in St. Leo the Great School gym, Lincroft. It was the second time in as many years that Stefanick visited the Diocese of Trenton.
“This one is for a friend,” Stefanick said, explaining that he wanted people who attended last year to be intentional about bringing a friend to this year’s event.
Mark Russoniello, pastoral associate for faith formation in St. Leo the Great Parish, said area parishes and schools wanted to bring Stefanick’s message back to the Diocese after last year’s enthusiastic response.
“In the combined programs both last year and this year, Chris Stefanick will have reached about 4,000 people with the message of the Gospel,” Russoniello said, explaining that Stefanick’s three-day visit to the Diocese this year included a stop in Lincroft’s Christian Brothers Academy as well as a Confirmation retreat in St. Leo the Great for area parishes and youth.
Father John Folchetti, parish pastor, said he was excited to host Stefanick’s program. “Chris is a dynamic speaker. He speaks to the young people on their terms.”
“The goal for these programs is to reach the future of the Church,” Father Folchetti continued. “We want to set the young people on fire and get them enthusiastically involved in their faith.”
From the rapt look of the multi-generational audience, “Reboot! Live!” seemed to live up to its goal.
“No matter how good any loving relationship is – even in marriage or children in relationship with their parents – that love gets too familiar, and we take it for granted,” Stefanick explained. “Often, our faith gets reduced to a good luck charm, or we put God in a box that is easy to manage.”
“Listen,” he continued. “If your God lets you do whatever you want, whenever you want, that God is probably you.”
“God’s love for you is bigger than your ‘but,’” he said. “Your divorce, that cancer, some big mistake you made is not your story. It is just a page. God’s love for you is a bigger story that carries these pages. That love of God is waiting here for us to receive him.”
‘Beyond the Surface of Faith’
Deirdre Senkewicz, vice principal of St. Leo the Great School, related to the theme of the big picture. She said she attended the event to support her students and recharge her faith.
“You can feel the electricity in the message. The love of Christ is fresh,” she said, adding that though there were similar themes in Stefanick’s talk from last year, “I am hearing it completely different because of where I am in my own life this year.”
The presentation was the first time Donna Baldino-Scally and her husband, Bob Scally, of St. Mary Parish, Deal, had ever heard Stefanick speak live, but they were familiar with his appearances on the Eternal World Television Network.
“We can’t hear the message of our faith enough,” Baldino-Scally said. “Chris has been all over the world, and his message and pictures of other Christians are inspiring to us.”
Father Jim Grogan, pastor in Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, said he had been hearing from his parishioners for months about the enthusiasm for Stefanick’s visit.
“We live in a Church that can be vibrant – when we notice it,” he said. “We need zealot people! An event like this helps people go beyond the surface of their faith and sets them on fire.”
Sophomore Emily Klotz and her sister, Alicia, an eighth-grader, both of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, attended the event with their mother.
“I got a different view on how to live,” Emily Klotz said.
Her sister agreed, saying, “He gives a different perspective on how to pray and look at things.”
Colleen and Joe Vecchio of Precious Blood Parish, Monmouth Beach, were new to Stefanick’s work.
“He is amazing! His message hits home that we should not lose faith,” Colleen Vecchio said.