Jim Wahlberg Sharing the Hope of Christ

Posted By: Dianne Towalski Catholic Media Blog,

 Jim Wahlberg, director, producer and founder and CEO of Wahl St. Productions, will be the master of ceremonies for this year’s Gabriel Awards at the upcoming CMA conference in Atlanta. As young man, presenting at an awards ceremony and sharing his story is something he never imagined he would be doing. “This is just another one of those things that just makes no sense,” Wahlberg said of hosting the Gabriels. “It’s so far from where I came from and it’s just another example of the blessings that God is putting in my life.” G

His Story... 

Growing up in Boston, one of nine siblings of the now famous Wahlberg family, he experienced adversity at a young age. At only 9 years old he experimented with drinking, which led to drugs and crime in his teens. Eventually, he found himself serving time in state prison. And it was there that an encounter with Mother Teresa, who was visiting the prison, changed his life. “She came to the prison for Mass and I didn’t know who she was, but I knew instantly when I was in her presence that I was in the presence of holiness,” Wahlberg said in an interview with Busted Halo. “For the first time in my life, I saw what true humility was.” To make a long story short, he was confirmed in prison at age 23. And since leaving prison in 1990, he has been using his talents and experiences to raise awareness about opioid addiction and share the hope found in Christ. 

His Journey Forward 

 His book, “The Big Hustle: A Boston Street Kid’s Story of Addiction and Redemption” was published in 2020. The book tells of his struggles with drug addiction and his redemption story. When he was approached to emcee the Gabriel Awards, Wahlberg said he thought it was a strange request for him. “Because some might say I might come across as slightly rough around the edges,” he said. “But then I thought, what an honor, what a great honor. I always try to keep things in perspective. This is just another one of those things where I say … It’s another example of our Lord taking what is ugly about somebody, and turning that into an asset.”

His Work 

In addition to his hosting duties, Wahlberg will present a screening of his new film, “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist,” which will be in theaters nationwide in early June. The movie embarks on a global journey to rediscover and revive the transformative power of the Eucharist, according to the Wahl St. Productions website. When the idea of making a film about the Eucharistic Revival was presented to him, Wahlberg was hesitant. “I was thinking, why does the Eucharist need to be revived?” he said. But Steve Greco, a permanent deacon and director of evangelization and formation for the Diocese of Orange, California, was able to talk him into it. “He’s the head of evangelization for Orange County, so he’s looking to evangelize,” Wahlberg said. “[He said] we have a limited amount of people, and then 70% of those people don’t believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is a problem, and we need to address it.” So, he agreed, he said. “We can make that movie, we can try to help unravel, if you will, the Eucharist for those who are already in the pews.”

Engaging in dialogue with notable Catholic figures, the film explores the biblical origins of the Eucharist and shares personal stories of individuals whose lives have been transformed by the Blessed Sacrament. He started the project thinking he needed to focus on Eucharistic miracles, he said. But one of the “notable Catholic figures” in the movie changed his mind. He got a call from Scott Hahn, a popular Catholic author and speaker. “Dr. Hahn said, ‘Tell me about your movie.’ And I told him about it, and I was spending a lot of time talking about eucharistic miracles,” Wahlberg said. “And he said, ‘I humbly disagree, I think instead of spending so much time on eucharistic miracles, we need to spend time on the miracle of the Eucharist.’“ After that conversation, Hahn agreed to be part of the project and helped make that transition he had talked about, from eucharistic miracles to the miracle of the Eucharist. “I probably would have gotten stuck spending 45 minutes of our limited time on screen trying to prove to people, hey, this is real,” Wahlberg said. Deacon Greco is the executive producer of the f ilm and a number of well-known Catholics make an appearance in the film in addition to Scott Hahn and Wahlberg, himself. They include Father Donald Calloway, Curtis Martin, Chris Stefanick, Father Robert Spitzer, and Bishop Andrew Cozzens, the chairman of the USCCB committee on evangelization and catechesis and chair of the National Eucharistic Revival. “We’re excited about the film, we’re excited about the timing of the film, and we feel like a lot of people are getting behind this film and are going to push this film,” Wahlberg said. “And I don’t put a lot of stock in dreams, but I had a crazy dream the other night that I was standing in the back of a packed theater, and somebody came up to me and said, ‘Yeah, they’re packed everywhere.’"

This article is adapted from the May 2024 edition of the Catholic Journalist.