Category: Inspirational

Catholic Star Mark Wahlberg Shares His Faith in Chicago

As a former rapper and underwear model, who has battled drug addiction, and is a convicted felon who spent time in jail as a teen, Catholic Mark Wahlberg knows more than many about the power of faith and forgiveness.

On Friday, Oct. 20, the 46-year-old actor and producer joined Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 at the UIC Pavilion in the Windy City for the Chicago Archdiocese’s (re)ENCOUNTER event, designed to draw young adults into the Catholic faith.

After his time in prison, Wahlberg turned to his parish priest for help getting back on the straight and narrow, but it took a few years to extricate himself from that life. It also took time for Wahlberg to totally turn around his showbiz choices and devote himself to his faith.

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, speaking prior to the (re)ENCOUNTER  event, Wahlberg said:

 I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I’ve made some poor choices in my past.

In particular, he’s not especially proud of his role in the 1997 feature film “Boogie Nights,” in which he played a 1970s high-school dropout drawn into the porn industry. Chicago Inc. asked Wahlberg if he’d ever prayed for forgiveness for a particular movie, and he said:

 “Boogie Nights” is up there at the top of the list.

Regarding his troubled past, Wahlberg said:

I’ve never been shy about sharing my past and the bad decisions I’ve made and being affiliated with gangs, being incarcerated, so absolutely I think they can identify with me on a personal level, and that’s why I’ve continued to try to do as much as I can to help young people.

It’s one thing to give money, or to start programs, but to be there and be able to talk to them, and tell them there is someone who has been through the same things they are going through and was able to turn their life around, and turn it into a big positive. That’s always important.

Now living in Los Angeles, Wahlberg — whose brother, Donnie Wahlberg, stars in CBS’ “Blue Bloods” — is a husband and father of two daughters and two sons.

Here are a couple of clips related to the event — one of a press conference, and the other from the event itself.

And if you have the time, click here for the full video of the event, as streamed by CatholicChicago.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Catholic in College — We Can Help With That

trinity-college-dublinIt’s fall, you’ve sent your Catholic kids off to — or back to — college. And many, if not most, of those young folks will be heading to something other than a faithful Catholic institution.

Unfortunately, a fair number of those kids will come home at Thanksgiving or Christmas or next summer, either having fallen off from the practice of their faith or abandoning it altogether. That can strain relationships in the family and provide a poor example to younger siblings, who can’t understand why a brother or sister doesn’t want to go to Mass, rails against the Church, starts expounding radically different beliefs, or just gives up on God.

It’s a hard world out there for serious Catholics, and secular college campuses may be among the toughest places around. But there are rays of hope. I have Millennial friends who returned to their faith at secular colleges, with the help of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionaries and Newman Centers, campus Catholic ministries named in honor of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

There’s also help in the literary and digital world.

Yesterday, Oct. 9, the National Catholic Register published a column by Aurora Griffin, a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard graduate who wrote the 2016 book, “How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard: 40 Tips for Faithful College Students,” which probably should be put in the hands of any Catholic collegian.

In her column, Griffin cites catechesis from her father, the witness of her parents’ marriage and weekly Mass attendance (no matter what). You can read the whole thing here; below find an excerpt.

If you do, and you live in the sacraments, grace will overflow from your life and touch everyone around you, including your children. That’s the supernatural benefit. There’s also a natural benefit. Children value authenticity. When you tell your kids not to smoke, and then sneak outside for a cigarette, they internalize it. When you say that your faith is important to you, you have to live a life that backs it up. There is nothing more compelling, on a human level, than the witness of a saint.

So how do you keep your kids Catholic in college? Be the saint that you were meant to be. It’s the simple formula that the Church has held throughout the ages and the narrow path on which we all must begin again every day.

She’s also written for Catholic World Report on keeping her faith at Oxford University; and here’s an interview with the U.K. Catholic Herald:

I had assumed that Harvard is a very secular environment, so this last remark surprised me. Aurora explains that “it was not a Catholic place, but part of the joy for me was feeling like a bit of a rebel. If Harvard has an ideology as an institution, it is secular.” She adds that “As a Catholic, I experienced very little pushback, except when I was defending the Church’s stance on abortion. When I wrote pro-life articles, for example, I neither expected nor received much support.”

And here she is discussing the subject with our friends at CatholicTV, a couple of times:

There’s also help from other sources, including peers such as the members of the New Catholic Generation YouTube Channel:

On the front lines of all this is Father Mike Schmitz, who aside from his YouTube stardom with Ascension Press, is the chaplain for Newman Catholic Campus Ministries at the University of Minnesota Duluth (a secular state school), and the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth.

Here’s an interview he did this past spring with CatholicTV:

This past January, nearly 13,000 college students, FOCUS missionaries, campus chaplains, alumni, benefactors and sponsors converged on San Antonio, Texas, for SEEK2017, FOCUS’ biennial national conference.

FOCUS’ YouTube channel offers lots of excerpts from the SEEK2017, including a lot from Fr. Schmitz. Click here for the whole playlist, and below find a clip (with the voice of Fr. Schmitz):

Click here and here for two more articles from young people on how to hold to the Faith in college.

I remember going to a special Latin Mass on Jan. 31, 2016, at the Our Savior Chapel at the Caruso Catholic Center at USC. I thought the subdeacon assisting the priests must be a seminarian, as he was so focused and flawless. But when I spoke to him afterward, I discovered he was just a student. He said he wasn’t really into his faith when he came to USC, but when the crush of collegiate life hit him, he discovered he needed Jesus, and that led him to Our Savior.

(That’s him at center, kneeling at the bottom of the steps.)

So, it can happen (and BTW, last time I saw him, he was assisting at another Mass and still going strong).

Image: Trinity College Dublin (Wikimedia Commons)

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Roma Downey, Mark Burnett and MGM Launch Lightworkers.com to “Make the World a Better Place”

Back in July, “Touched by an Angel” star turned producer Roma Downey announced that her LightWorkers brand would be launching a new platform, featuring “original video series, compelling editorial and thoughtfully curated content,” intended to uplift and entertain.

Here’s the video, shot at Downey and Burnett’s Malibu home:

Now, it’s here (actually, click here).

So, what’s it all about?

From my inbox:

LightWorkers.com has a robust offering of emotional, shareable and impactful content that highlights entertainment, lifestyle, faith and family. The content, social media and real-life activations aim to offer visitors achievable ways to make positive changes in their communities, both online and off. It will also create new advertising and sponsorship opportunities for brands, including video franchise sponsorship, custom branded videos and original branded series that align with a shared mission of doing good.

LightWorkers.com already has a hit with “37 Seconds of Good News” which spotlights ordinary people doing extraordinary things in this world. Originally launched on social media, the series has already surpassed 21 million views on Facebook. LightWorkers.com will also showcase a wide range of content from new and established personalities, including bestselling author Michelle McKinney Hammond telling it like it is in advice series “Tough But Fair”; Brooklyn Wagner, who brings her blunt and boisterously random perspective to “Welcome to Brooklyn”; and Julianna Strickland and Natasha Feldman who’ll take your thoughtful gift-giving game to the next level with “Giftable.” There are also moving profiles of athletes and influencers in our premium docuseries “I Struggle. I Rise.” and celebrity interviews with friends of the LightWorkers family – Van Morrison, Jeff Probst, Cindy Crawford, Ali Landry, Niecy Nash, Brooke Burke and more – opening up like never before about how they’ve persevered through challenges in their own lives.

“LightWorkers has sparked a movement on social media, where we’ve been able to engage across different platforms sharing positive messages of hope and encouragement. We need these inspirational messages now more than ever,” said Downey, President of LightWorkers Media. “My motto has always been that it’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. My hope is that LightWorkers.com will invite others to do the same, inspiring them to shine their own light within their communities to remind us that there are good people doing extraordinary things everywhere.”

Talking to the Los Angeles Times, Downey explained how the idea began — and can’t we all relate to her answer?

Downey said she came up with the the idea for LightWorkers.com after being overwhelmed by negative stories while watching the news. The former “Touched by an Angel” star wanted to create a site to highlight people who were doing good in the world, she said. The company started testing the idea with 37-second videos highlighting heartwarming stories, such as a community in India that set up a fridge offering free food to the poor. Those clips garnered more than 20 million views, bolstering the company’s confidence in the concept.

“I have worked on big epic productions, and I believe this is the future,” Downey said. “I’m very excited to be ahead of the curve on this.”

So, congratulations from all of us at Family Theater Productions to Downey, Burnett and everyone at LightWorkers. As Downey says in the introductory video, “Be a LightWorker, and shine a light. Together, we can make the world a better place.”

Image: Courtesy LightWorkers/MGM

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Amen! FTP’s ‘Down From the Mountaintop’ Wins Two 2017 Telly Awards

Since 1979, the Telly Awards have honored outstanding productions, whether they’re on broadcast TV, cable or, now, digital and streaming platforms. Family Theater Productions is honored to have taken home two Telly Awards for 2017, for our short film, “Down From the Mountaintop.”

More than 500 industry professionals judged from over 13,000 entries from all 50 U.S. states and other countries.

“Down from the Mountaintop” received two Bronze Awards, one for Religious/Spiritual TV Show, and the other for Charitable Non-Profit TV Show.

Based on scripture, “Down from the Mountaintop” tells the story of Adam, shy teen who hears God’s call but is disappointed when others don’t share his enthusiasm for his newfound spirituality. The faith film relates to The Transfiguration, when the Disciples witnessed Christ’s transformation into radiant glory and wanted to bask in that glow forever.

“Down from the Mountaintop” stars Alex Miller as Adam, and Paulina Cerrilla as Cristina, a recurring role in Family Theater Productions movies for the young actress. She also sings lead vocals in the Christian rock song “You’re the Author of My Life,” which is featured in the new film.

Available on DVD (click here), “Down from the Mountaintop” is produced in English, dubbed in Spanish, and subtitled in French and Portuguese on one DVD, and includes a multi-lingual study guide.

Asked for comment, writer/director Father David Guffey, C.S.C. — also Family Theater’s head of production, said:

I am so grateful for the Telly Award for the short film I wrote and directed, “Down from the Mountaintop.”

Over my years as a Holy Cross priest I have witnessed so many people return home after a powerful retreat experience only to find that their family and friends do not understand. This is the story we tell in the film. What do you do the Monday after a spiritual high?

It was a great pleasure to work with Alex Miller, a brilliant young actor who plays Adam the main character, along with the incredible Paulina Cerrilla, who acts and also sings an original song.

My colleague Tony Sands [at right below] produced the film and Jeff Clark, our director of photography, captured some beautiful shots.

With this film, Family Theater proved ourselves as a team and helped us launch our new digital series, “Catholic Central,” and set in motion the development of feature films.

At Family Theater, we believe in story as entertainment but also as a way to look deeper into life.  To look deeper into life is eventually to find God.

Miller and Cerilla joined us at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California, earlier this year, and were a big hit with the parents and young people who’ve enjoyed the film.

As soon as news hit Twitter, FTP’s former head, Father Willy Raymond — promoted to president of Holy Cross Family Ministries, our parent organization — sent congratulations.

 

As Father Guffey mentioned, we have a Web series, “Catholic Central,” coming out this fall. Go to CatholicCentral.com to see a trailer and sign up for updates; click here to learn more about this fun, fast-paced series about the Faith.

Image: Courtesy Family Theater Productions/Kate O’Hare

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

 

Dads, Tell Your Kids a Joke — It Could Be a Memory Forever

It’s National Tell a Joke Day, so why should that matter to dads?

My dad, who passed away last November at the age of 91, was know for puns and limericks (as any waitress who served him found out). Just thinking of them makes me smile. Today’s kids are no different.

Today, the Ad Council released a video showing kids relating the silly jokes their dads told them, and then snuggling with their fathers. You’ll laugh … and maybe tear up a bit.

Below is the full press release from the Ad Council, plus links …

A Message to Dads across America: Take time to be a dad today

According to an Ad Council survey, 86% of dads spend more time with their children today than their own fathers did with them. However, a majority of dads (7 out of 10) also reported that they could use tips on how to be a better parent. To inspire and support fathers everywhere, the Ad Council, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse have launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) to encourage dads to recognize the critical role fathers play in their children’s lives through something as simple as a dad joke. The TV spots feature kids re-telling jokes their dads shared with them, highlighting that even the smallest moments fathers spend with their children can have the biggest difference in their children’s lives.

More On Fatherhood Involvement:

These PSAs are reaching out to all fathers to inspire and support men in their commitment to responsible fatherhood. The PSAs communicate to fathers that their presence is essential to their children’s well-being. The tagline “Take time to be a dad today” is part of an ongoing effort to encourage dads to play an active role in their children’s lives. The campaign also serves as a resource for fathers by providing the information they need to become more involved with their kids.
Click here to learn more: http://po.st/Fatherhood
Subscribe for Ad Council’s latest PSAs: http://po.st/SubscribeAdCouncil

Of course, dads can always turn in prayer to St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, for support and consolation. He’s there to listen!

Images: Courtesy the Ad Council

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Jeannie Gaffigan Updates Her Life After Surgery to Remove Brain Tumor

On April 18, Jeannie Gaffigan, wife and creative partner of comedian Jim Gaffigan, underwent a nine-hour surgery to remove a tumor wrapped around her brain stem.

Recovery for the 47-year-old Catholic mother of five has been difficult. She suffered aspiration pneumonia in the hospital, that landed her in the ICU for two weeks. Because of the surgery, her throat was paralyzed and she has had a temporary tracheotomy and a feeding tube.

Gaffigan and her husband have said that the ordeal has reaffirmed their faith and taught their children about being compassionate.

Now, through People magazine, Gaffigan has given an update on her condition. She still has the feeding tube, but she’s progressed to taking food by mouth, and has worked her way up to purees. The tracheotomy has been removed, and she can now breathe without an oxygen tank.

Read the whole thing here, but below is an excerpt from her essay.

As my cranial nerves start to come back to life, I have found a new appreciation for everything. Every moment is a gift from God.

My love for my [five children] which seemed boundless before has multiplied a thousand fold as has my love for Jim. The marriage vow “in sickness and in health” became more than just words, and I am inspired every day by the strength and courage of the man who held everything together through this hurricane brought on by the brain tumor.

I dodged a bullet and my life will never be the same. Don’t wait for the hurricane to hang on to your family and friends and to find the blessings and the glory in every detail. Do it now.

Image: Twitter/Wikipedia

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.