Catholic Citizenship movie screening seeks to inspire youth

WESTON -- In facing the challenge of raising faith-filled children, it may seem like Catholic parents have few friends. Catholic Citizenship is making a renewed push to be an ally in bringing young people closer to Christ.

For their kickoff event, they will screen "God's Not Dead," a film about a Christian college student challenged by his atheist professor. The film's screenwriters, two outspoken Catholics, will lead a round-table discussion, which will also feature prominent local Catholics, including attorney Erika Bachiochi. Speakers will take questions, and participants will have the opportunity to address them individually in breakout sessions.

The event will take place at Regis College's Eleanor Welch Casey Theatre, 235 Wellesley Street in Weston on June 18 from 3-9 p.m. All are welcome to attend and information on attending the event is available 781-368-7889 or by visiting www.catholic-citizenship.org.

Event organizers hope to attract many high schoolers, college students and young adults and offer them encouragement.

Catholic Citizenship's new executive director, Agatha Bodwell of Sandwich, said she knows first-hand the challenge of graduating college with a degree and an intact faith.

"I went to college pro-life, I came out pro-choice and it took me 10 years to turn myself around again," she said. "Once you get to school, no matter how strong your faith is, you're going to be surrounded by people who are going to challenge it every day."

She added that young people's minds are moldable and that some professors actively discourage faith, pitting it against science, as if the two are incompatible. They may make it seem as if people who believe in the Bible and Christian values are stupid. They do not recognize that God as a valid intellectual pursuit.

These challenges are addressed directly in the film "God's Not Dead." The screenwriters know precisely how challenging it can be to integrate faith into all areas of life even in a hostile environment. Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, spoke over the phone from Hollywood, where neither Catholics nor God are well regarded. Solomon said, "If you can survive there, you can pretty much do it anywhere."

Both men said that for years they compartmentalized their faith lives and professional lives.

"We got broken," Solomon said. "We just couldn't do it anymore."

Konzelman said that at first, they decided to leave the movie business behind, but God had other plans.

"We made a decision to leave the industry, and the Lord said to us, 'No, that's not what I want from you. You're having an exceedingly tough time here, but there's a reason for that too, and I want you working for me,'" he said.

He added that God made his message to them crystal clear.

"We're guys from Jersey and New York. The Lord can't be very subtle and have it take any effect on us. He's hit us with a cinderblock a few times," Konzelman said.

The writers said that the next generation will also face hard choices in their professional and personal lives. They will need to discern between what they can tolerate and what they need to stand against. Media can be an ally in this pursuit.

Solomon said, "This is the business where one movie can change people's views on almost everything."

The power of media is well-known to Bodwell and her partner in planning this event, Carl Nelson from Wellesley. Over the past decade, Nelson has financially supported about half a dozen faith-based movies.

"My wife came to accept Jesus Christ because of a film. That became very personal to me. I saw that impact, and we went and got involved in films that proclaim Christ," he said.

Bodwell said her then-11-year-old daughter saw "God's Not Dead" last year and Bodwell noticed that the movie inspired her daughter to be more devout. Bodwell called the film "inspirational" and a "great tool for evangelization."

"It made a huge impact on my daughter's life," she said. "It just draws you into a closer relationship with the Lord."

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