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September 2008

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“Bella” star shares connections with the Norbertine community

When actor Eduardo Verástegui spoke after a free public screening of his latest movie in the Walter Theatre, his audience discovered there was more to the actor than his film career and his role in the critically acclaimed indie production “Bella.”

Verástegui shares a close relationship with the Norbertine community in Santa Anna, Calif., not far from Hollywood, where he attends Mass daily at the Norbertine Abbey of St. Michael’s and makes an annual retreat.

Verástegui said he knew he was visiting a college named St. Norbert this summer, but it was not until he saw the Rev. Jim Baraniak, O.Praem., ’88 in his white Norbertine habit that it dawned on him that this particular college was, in fact, a Norbertine foundation. “I immediately felt at home,” he said.

Verástegui had not always been so in touch with his faith, he explained. He remembered a time when he felt he had been using his talents in a superficial way, and, for a while, had lost his perspective.

“Whatever you do, whether you like it or not, you affect what other people think,” he told his audience. But he said that it was only recently that he had focused his acting and singing career on causes that best reflected his faith, family and Latino culture. Verástegui shared that his goal was to portray a Latino as an “everyday hero, not a science fiction hero.”

In an effort to move away from stereotypical portrayals of Latinos and women, the actor started his own production company. “Bella” is part of Verástegui’s mission to make a difference. Made with “a little money and a lot of heart,” the film has been praised for its profound message and life-affirming theme. Verástegui calls it “a meaningful, special, beautiful, big labor of love.”

Viewers will note the number of Norbertines listed in the credits to the film. Verástegui said his relationship with the Norbertine fathers had been of paramount importance. “Everything I do right now, it comes from them,” he said. “They are my angels.”

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