Inspiration, collaboration brings Stefanick to Merrill

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Chris Stefanick speaks to a sold-out crowd in the auditorium of Merrill High School. The nationally known speaker, founder of Real Life Catholic, whose mission it is to “ignite a bold, courageous faith in the heart of every Catholic in America,” shared his message with more than 90,000 people last year. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

More than 750 people attended Reboot Live with national speaker Chris Stefanick Nov. 12 at Merrill High School. The gathering, with a crowd slightly larger than the auditorium’s capacity, was a long time in the making, fruit of seeds planted from an event headlined by Stefanick in Spooner in the fall of 2015.

Mike Bub, CRE at Holy Rosary in Medford, sent 10 people from their religious education program to the Spooner Reboot. The group came back inspired and suggested their parish should host one in the future.

In August 2018, at the Diocesan Catechetical Leadership Conference in Rice, Lake, Bub consulted with some who helped organize the Spooner event. He asked whether, looking back, hosting the event had been worth the effort.

They said yes without hesitation. It was at that conference that Bub approached Joe Velie and Dcn. Jim Arndt, who work at St. Francis Xavier parish in Merrill, about cohosting the event. With the support of their pastors, planning started soon after. Merrill High School’s auditorium was deemed the best site, with all the necessary audio equipment and lighting included.

“Each parish formed a core team that was responsible for promoting the event in their parish,” Bub said.

An event coordinator was assigned from Real Life Catholic, Stefanick’s organization, who was “an excellent resource for giving us advice, encouragement, direction and resources to promote the event,” Bub noted.
Arndt added that “a slew of volunteers” came together to make the event a reality.

Velie and Bub reached out to the religious education leaders in the Superior diocese, and a number of parishes did bring groups or high school students to the event. They also promoted it in the La Crosse and Green Bay dioceses.
“I feel Joe, Dcn. Jim and I worked very well together,” Bub commented. “As the event got closer, we were in contact weekly. The last few weeks, we were in contact almost daily.”

Volunteers from both parishes were busy with setup and clean-up on the day of the event. Holy Rosary provided free transportation to Merrill, 35 miles west, and filled four buses and one large van.

Arndt said, “Chris Stefanick was incredible … He made himself available for pictures and autographs for about an hour after the event.”

He added the feedback so far has been very positive.

Musician Martin Doman provided music for part of the program, which lasted more than two hours, with a fifteen minute break. The sold-out crowd included all ages from middle school to senior citizens. Both parish pastors, Fr. Patrick McConnell and Fr. Chris Kemp, were also in attendance.

“Having St. Francis Xavier and Holy Rosary co-host worked out better than I expected,” Bub concluded.

“Together we were able to sell out the event and hopefully get people excited about growing their faith.”

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