This distinguished award from Catholic Extension honors individuals who “radiate and reveal the light of Christ.”
The subject of one of the greatest Catholic films of 2022 has been nominated for a distinguished award. This year, Fr. Stuart Long was named a finalist for the Lumen Christi Awardan honor that comes from Catholic Extension, a national nonprofit that supports underfunded Catholic missions across the United States.
Lumen Christi Award
Each year Catholic Extension nominates outstanding Catholic individuals who “radiate and reveal the light of Christ present in the communities where they serve. The candidates to the Lumen Christi Prizeof which there were 40 candidates for the 2022 award, are submitted by their home diocese.
Father Stuart, whose nomination is posthumous, was one of seven people selected for the Lumen Christi Prize final. Each of these finalists has already won a $10,000 grant to support their ministries, but the prize winner will receive an additional $25,000. The parish that named the winner will subsequently receive an additional $25,000 to support the parish.
Father Stuart’s life story was really the stuff feature films are made of. An amateur boxer who just couldn’t break into the pros, Long had a difficult past that tended to put him at odds with the law. Pulling himself together, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature and writing and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.
Aleteia has already given an account of the events that led him to become a Catholic, and ultimately to turn to the priesthood. In Los Angeles, he met a girl who refused to date him because he was not Catholic. The ex-boxer entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), and it was on the day of his baptism that he suddenly felt called to enter the seminary.
This is where Long and Catholic Extension first crossed paths, as the organization actually supported his training as a seminarian. Unfortunately, it was near his ordination that he was diagnosed with inclusion body myositis.a terminal progressive muscle disorder similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Despite his diagnosis, Fr. Long was determined to live out the rest of his life as a priest. He would continue to use his remaining time tending to his new flock, by which he is remembered as an outstanding confessor and approachable priest. Catholic Extension recalls statement of faith he made during his ordination:
“I stand before you as a broken man. Barring a miracle, I will die of this disease, but I bear it for the cross of Christ, and we can all bear our crosses.
Influence and death
Father Stu continued his ministry even as his illness progressed. Catholic Extension recalls accepting visitors even though he used a wheelchair and had moved to a nursing home. There, the lines to see the crippled priest grew daily, but he saw them all. There was even a case where a woman with a complicated pregnancy delivered a healthy baby after being begged by the father. stu. Catholic Extension shared:
“Three Big Sky employees have converted to Catholicism. A woman, who met and was prayed to by Father Stu when told her unborn child would die in utero, miraculously gave birth to a healthy child Everyone was amazed except Father Stu. The parents named him the child’s godfather.
Father Stuart Long died in 2014, but since then his testimony has inspired many young men to explore the seminary. His story has now become popular thanks to the feature film, Prof. Stu, which stars Catholic actor Mark Whalberg in the lead roleas well as Mel Gibson as Fr. Stuart’s estranged father and Jacki Weaver as his mother.
The film was not appreciated by critics, because rotten tomatoes shows only 42% of 119 critical reviews. However, the public did not agree with this consensus, as more than 1,000 audience critics put Prof. Stu among some of the best movies ever made, with a 95% approval rating.
Read what Mark Whalberg had to say about the P. Stu story in an exclusive interview with Aleteia’s Cerith Gardiner.