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New film tells the story of Helena's Father Stu

Sony Pictures/

The new film "Father Stu" is the true-life story of Helena priest Stuart Long, played by Academy Award nominee Mark Wahlberg.

The movie, which opens in theaters on April 13, covers Long’s early life — from his stints as an amateur boxer and a street fighter, to his time as a priest.

Long was described as a “tough character." He survived a near fatal motorcycle accident that led to his calling as a priest.

Father Stu was ordained at St. Helena Cathedral in 2007 along with his dear friend Father Bart Tolleson.

"He was very funny. He had a great sense of humor," Tolleson said. "We shared similar senses of humor. So I thought he was funny. So we laughed a lot and he could tell a really great joke and see the humor in many things."

Tolleson remembers his friend as tenacious and bold.

“He didn’t beat around the bush. He went right after things pretty typically," Tolleson said. "He was also very giving. He gave of his time.

"He made people feel important. He listened well."

Father Stu served as a priest in Browning and Anaconda before returning to Helena. He died in 2014 at age 50 from a rare autoimmune disease which mimics ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Father Tolleson believes Father Stu’s legacy is yet to be determined.

Certainly he had a profound effect on the Catholic population here in Helena, Montana," Tolleson said. "He challenged us with things we still think about today in terms in of how we live our faith, how we practice our faith and practice our relationship with God. How we treat one other and how we come to be friends with one another.

"I think part of his legacy will be that no person has ever beyond the reach of the love of God because Stu was beyond the far, far edge. “

Tolleson says despite being a priest for less than 5 years, Father Stu had an impact on many.

“For those who called him a friend — and he knew many, many people — but he was a good friend," Tolleson said. "He was someone that I just, as a friend, I very much valued his friendship and I really miss it today. I really miss him."

The movie has had several preview showings around Montana in early April and will open nationwide in theaters on April 13.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.