Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson are starring in an upcoming faith-based movie titled “Stu,” a biopic on the life of a man who was a boxer, actor, museum manager, and ultimately an ordained Catholic priest.
The main character in the film, Father Stuart Long, was affectionately known as “Father Stu,” hence the movie title.
Wahlberg began working on the project two years following the passing of Father Stu in 2014. The upcoming feature was financed in part by Wahlberg himself and is currently in post production.
Wahlberg plays the lead role, and Gibson plays the part of Father Stu’s dad, Bill Long.
It makes all the sense in the world for Wahlberg to pursue a faith-oriented project. He once told Parade Magazine that faith was “the most important part” of his life.
In reference to this faith, he stated, “I don’t try to push it on anybody and I don’t try to hide it.”
Father Stu’s real life story is an awe-inspiring one.
Although he himself was not Catholic, but rather an agnostic, he nevertheless attended a Catholic institution called Carroll College.
At one point he took up the sport of boxing and was adept enough at it to win the Montana Golden Gloves championship. However, as a result of a jaw injury that he suffered, he was forced to abandon the sport.
He ended up moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and was able to secure work as a movie extra and also did some advertisement spots.
It wasn’t long before he became disenchanted with the entertainment industry and decided to change direction. He began working at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, where he eventually rose to managerial level.
His chosen mode of transportation to and from work happened to be a motorcycle. One day while traveling home he collided with a car and was thrown headfirst into another vehicle in an adjacent lane.
It was there at the hospital that he would have a deeply profound religious experience, which would alter the course of his life forever.
Although at one point in life he had fallen in love with a Catholic Christian woman, as so frequently happens things would turn out quite differently than expected.
Once baptized in the Catholic faith, he began to feel a strong spiritual pull that would ultimately lead him to a priestly vocation. He took the necessary steps to pursue this calling.
While studying at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, he was forced to undergo surgery to remove a tumor in his hip region. It was determined that he had a rare autoimmune disease called “inclusion body myositis,” which is an inflammatory degenerative muscle condition that causes weakening of the body’s musculature, similar to ALS.
Sadly, there is no effective course of treatment for the disease. By the time of his ordination in December 2007, due to the severity of his symptoms, he was already reliant on crutches to assist him in walking.
The cross he was carrying would become the blessing that would end up enhancing his pastoral capabilities.
As a cleric, Father Stu was simply remarkable.
He served as a priest for six short years, but the impression left on all those who were fortunate enough to be shepherded by him would be an indelible one.
Bishop George Thomas, now at the Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada, was the bishop of Helena, Montana at the time, where Father Stu was serving as a priest.
Bishop Thomas recalls that Father Stu’s liturgy services were “deeply moving.”
The bishop describes the progression of the disease as well as the toll it took on Father Stu’s health and ability to perform his priestly duties.
He shares the story of a Mass for the students at Carroll College at which Father Stu presided, where the good father “was so weak at this stage that as he reads the Words of Institution [or Consecration] during the Mass, one of the students would take his hand and help lift up the Host.”
While in a rehabilitation facility, Father Stu took it upon himself to become a sort of in-house pastor. People would line up outside his room, waiting for the opportunity to seek his counsel or to receive the sacrament of absolution.
Participating in what would be the last Easter Vigil of his life, his condition was so weakened that attendance was only possible via a gurney. But there was no way he was going to miss the high holy day.
It turns out that Father Stu had another reason for being there, though – his most fervent prayers were about to be answered.
With tears running down his face, he watched as his own mother and father were baptized into his beloved faith.
Six years ago Wahlberg contacted Bishop Thomas to learn about Father Stu’s life and obtain the bishop’s approval for the project.
Bishop Thomas recounts the moment.
The actor’s words were short and sweet: “The Church has been through so much; I would like to do something beautiful for the Church.”