Thursday, 01 July 2010 14:49
Catholic conference Aug. 6-8 at Century II
By Heather Welch
Eduardo Verástegui, best known as producer and star of the movie Bella, a pro-life film about faith and triumph of the human spirit, will talk about how he shunned the glitz of the entertainment world and rediscovered his Catholic faith Aug. 6-8 at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference in the Century II Convention Center, Wichita.
Verástegui, the eldest of four, was born in a small town in northern Mexico into a farming family. He was raised a Catholic but was lukewarm about his faith.
“My faith was cultural only, and it was not the center of my life. I did not really know the faith, not because I couldn’t but because I chose not to learn it,” he said. “But, you can’t love what you don’t know.”
Verástegui moved to Mexico City when he was 18 to pursue modeling, landing work with Calvin Klein and others. Soon after, in 1994, he rose to fame as a member of the Mexican pop group, Kairo. In 1997, he began acting in Mexican telenovelas produced by Televisa. He was finding wealth and fame. Still, Verástegui was not at peace.
“I was struggling,” he said. “I was empty because I had nothing spiritually.”
That is when his mother began to pray for him. She was worried about her son and would call him in the middle of the night because she believed he was in a dangerous environment.
“She started going to prayer groups to pray for me,” said Verástegui.
In 2001 he moved to Miami and signed a recording contract as a solo artist with Universal Music Latino and recorded his first self-titled album. That same year he starred with Jennifer Lopez in her music video for the song, Ain’t It Funny, and two years later, in 2003, Verástegui was chosen as the lead character in the Latin comedy Chasing Papi. It was then his life began to change.
Before filming commenced on Chasing Papi, Verástegui met an English teacher on a train and began taking voice-coaching lessons from her to improve his English pronunciation. The coach was a devout Catholic, and in the course of their conversations he re-discovered his faith and resolved to change his lifestyle.
“She began asking me things, simple but very profound things, like: What was my purpose? What talents did I have and what motivates me? Who do I live for and who do I die for? It opened my eyes,” he said.
Verástegui then went to see a priest who gave him guidance and suggested spiritual reading.
“My favorite was Rome Sweet Home, by Scott Hahn,” he said. “That one made the biggest impact on me and helped to grow my love of the Eucharist and Mass. I learned there is nothing more beautiful than those.”
So, at age 28, he began praying the rosary, going to Confession regularly and making retreats.
“God was becoming the center of my life!” he said.
Verástegui said he did not have a “conversion” because he had always believed in God.
“I thought I was a good Catholic because I went to Mass once a year. I thanked God. I prayed the Our Father sometimes,” he said. “You don’t advance in the faith like that. I was completely blind. I didn’t know what I thought I did.”
It was then that he made a faith-filled promise. He decided to set his standards high.
“I would only choose projects that were positive and that made a difference, and I asked God to give me the grace to help me fulfill that promise,” said Verástegui. “I wanted only what God wanted of me.”
For four years, he said he turned down many projects. He lost a lot of money, but he had peace and joy in his heart.
“An actor has control over the message, and I took control,” he said.
He was then advised by a priest friend to open a production company which he named Metanoía Films. He deemed the mission of the company to be making films that matter. His business partner then began putting his heart and soul into the first project, Bella. Soon after, both he and Verástegui gained an audience with then Pope John Paul II and they told him about the production company and asked the pope to pray for them.
“He gave us his blessing,” said Verástegui.
They had no money for the film, but just ten days after that meeting a family from Philadelphia financially backed the project and they shot it in 33 days.
“It was a miracle if you ask me,” Verástegui said. “We made sacrifices. Everything, from the directing and writing, the talent, the colors, the cinematography, the time it took, the love story which was a real love of sacrificing for another, the family that gave money, the music and the friendship, was a miracle. It was a perfect example of what comes from the heart goes to the heart.”
The company now has several projects in the works, including a short film titled Butterfly Circus which is already gathering media buzz. Verástegui has also founded a non-profit organization called Manto De Guadalupe which is dedicated to helping those living in extreme poverty in third world countries and to opening medical centers around the world, the first one in the center of ten abortion clinics in a Latino community in downtown Los Angeles. The L.A. clinic will offer free assistance through a woman’s pregnancy and for the first year for women and their babies. Verástegui said he was inspired by Mother Theresa to delve into this type of work and that each of us can have the same impact in our communities.
“I hope people can understand all are created for a mission, one that nobody can do but you. It is up to you to work for it and work for the benefit of others,” said Verástegui. “Or, you can choose selfishness, and if you do, you will eventually end up hurting people and destroying yourself. You won’t go wrong if you use your talents for God and for others.”
Want to hear Eduardo’s testimony?
Eduardo Verástegui will speak at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference at 8:15 pm, Friday, Aug. 6, and Saturday at 8:30 and 9:45 am. To register, go to catholicfamilyconference.org, call (316) 618-9787 or email