Mark Wahlberg: rapper, actor, underwear model, producer, burger businessman … proselytizer?
The erstwhile hip-hop bad boy and longtime big-screen tough guy stopped by the Gold Coast headquarters of the Archdiocese of Chicago on Friday to help the church’s renewed effort to galvanize young adults toward their faith.
“I think the most important thing for me to do, as a person who needed guidance and who needed to refocus his faith, was to be an example,” Wahlberg said at a Friday press conference alongside Cardinal Blase Cupich.
The movie star was the featured speaker Friday night at (re)ENCOUNTER, an Archdiocese event at the UIC Pavilion billed as a night of faith-based discussion and live music to engage young people.
Cupich said statistics show 36 percent of millennials have no religious affiliation, and just 17 percent of those who identify as Catholic attend weekly Mass.
“It’s one thing to start programs and give grants and money. It’s another thing to actually be there and talk [to young people], so they know there’s somebody who’s been through the same things that they’re going through, to show they’re able to turn their lives around,” he said.
Wahlberg credited his Catholic faith with helping get his life on track during his adolescence, when he served time in prison for assault and battled substance abuse.
In a city racked by gang violence, he said his challenging Boston upbringing could help him relate to Chicago youth.
“I’ve never been shy about sharing my past and the poor decisions I made. I believe I can identify with them on a personal level,” Wahlberg said.
“We have a tendency to look at the wrong people as role models. For me, it was the cool guy on the corner with the pretty girl and a nice car, even though he was doing the wrong things. … Anytime I get to share my story and my experience on how I’m refocusing my faith, and make the impossible possible, I want to do that.”
Wahlberg said he sets aside 15 minutes every morning for Bible study.
“And nothing, whether it’s the Patriots or the Super Bowl, is going to discourage me from making Mass,” the noted Boston sports fanatic said.
Asked if he had ever considered asking for forgiveness for any of his movies, Wahlberg quipped:
“‘Boogie Nights’ is up there on top of the list.”