‘Rudy’ Ruettiger aims to ‘shake down thunder’ for youth

Story and Photo By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald

Rudy Ruettiger, the subject of the 1993 movie “Rudy” about a young man who never gave up his dream to play football for the University of Notre Dame, will give a motivational talk July 12 at 7 p.m. at Visitation of Our Lady Church in Marrero.

“It took me a year to land him,” said Torie Winter, the coordinator of the parish’s Movie Night ministry. “He’s international and usually does larger venues. He packs a house.”

She said Ruettiger desires to reach youth in New Orleans during his visit, so students and youth groups are especially welcomed.

“My message is a message of hope,” Ruettiger said in an email describing his talk. “A message about believing in your dreams and never giving up!”

Her way of tithing

“It’s just me trying to do something for the community,” said Winter about her movie ministry which began in 2013 with the movie, “Mary of Nazareth.”

“I rented out AMC Theaters to show it to church parishes and even several Catholic schools – selling out of tickets, with 400 capacity seating rooms, time and time again,” Winter said.

After a successful run for 1 1/2 years, Winter obtained and screened the movies “Risen” followed by “Young Messiah” and then “Unprotected.” She said she tithes to pay for theater rental, movie rights and any cost associated with the ministry.

“The ministry is so important – it’s not just showing the movie,” she said. “It’s the congregating afterward – people don’t want to leave, and they want to talk about Mary, Jesus and what they are doing in their lives. … Families are going to church again together and praying the rosary after seeing the movie. It was quite astounding.”

Believing that Mary was behind her ministry, Winter prayed a novena about how to proceed.

“Mary kept telling me there was more” to the ministry, she said. While talking to her mom one day, her mom mentioned she was watching the movie “Secretariat.” That was her signal for the next movie.

“‘Secretariat’ was used as a tool to have people talk about God. No animal in our nation has made people talk about God, write in about God,” she said. Prior to a screening, Winter interviewed the horse’s jockey, Ron Turcotte, who rode Secretariat to the Triple Crown in 1973.

Now a student at Notre Dame Seminary’s Institute for Lay Ecclesial Ministry, a two-year pastoral leadership program, Winter said she was invited to show the movie “Risen” in the seminary’s Schulte Hall. She is working simultaneously on a master’s in theology and pastoral leadership at the seminary.

Pain became joy

Winter said her original intent with the movie ministry was born from pain experienced as a young girl who was abused by neighborhood boys. Escaping through inspirational movies was a factor that helped her move past her suffering. Inspirational movies also offered hope. Thinking it might help others, the movie ministry was born.

In 2017, Winter established a “Voice Outreach” sexual abuse ministry. She said she never told anyone about being abused until the trauma came to a head at age 40, when she became so paralyzed by fear that she could barely leave her home, thinking everyone was looking at her and knew what happened.

She originally scheduled in-person parish meetings. But, like herself, others were not comfortable meeting in person, so she started a Facebook page – VictoriaTWinter, author – where she blogs, and those suffering seek comfort. Several posts have received 4,000 visitors, she said.

Her strong Catholic faith since childhood also led her to reading the Bible for comfort, especially when bedridden during her pregnancy for her child, Brynn, now 19. She also has sought therapy through the archdiocese’s Catholic Counseling Services.

What also has helped her heal are journaling, self-help books, inspirational movies and penning several books herself, including “The Rope Puller,” “Three Fragments,” “Shooting From The Side,” “The Cupbearer of King David,” “Becoming Words” and “Little Girl’s Secret Closet.”

Her latest book, “Breaking Chains,” is a compilation of 30 posts she wrote on her blog paired with biblical readings that can be a 30-day devotional. It’s available locally at Barnes & Noble and on amazon.com.

She is currently combining the two ministries.

“We put the two together because they work so well together,” Winter said. “The movie ministry is all about movies that uplift and encourage, and that’s what I am trying to do through the abuse ministry – to try to encourage people to fight the fears they have,” she said. “That’s why I do the writings and do the movies. Everything is supposed to be encouraging.”

Winter also has made her movie ministry mobile – any person, parish or group who desires can contact her about a screening.

  “I am so blessed that this ministry is really catching on,” she said.

Hearing her story, Focus TV recently recorded her interview presentation prior to the movie screening of “Secretariat” and compiled a video on her ministry. It is “Secretariat … Horse of God” and aired on WLAE-TV.

“They interviewed me in person and also put a clip of the presentation that I gave at Notre Dame about the movie,” she said. Winter also has appeared on Catholic Community Radio.

Excited about Rudy

Because her ministry’s main message is to inspire people to never to give up – the same as Ruettiger – Winter said she worked for a year to bring Ruettiger here.

“I’m so excited to finally get him to come to us and have this movie ministry go to another level,” she said.

Tickets are $10 and available at Visitation of Our Lady or by mail or by the door. She will screen the movie “Rudy” July 5 at 7 p.m. at Visitation’s Padre Hall at pizza and movie night. To reach Winter, visit victoriawinter@nds.edu or call 237-2962.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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