Radio Show

Jim Wahlberg on Faith, Mother Teresa, and Overcoming Addiction


Jim Wahlberg, director, producer, and Executive Director of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, chats with Father Dave about his upcoming autobiography and short film, and the role Mother Teresa played in his faith. 

Jim shares how a priest changed his life. “I have a priest that stepped in my life at a particular moment, and really saved my life and turned it around. I was in state prison in Massachusetts. My life had really taken some interesting turns … As soon as I picked up that first drink things just took off. The prison chaplain, Fr. Jim, just happened to come to me and say, ‘Hey, I’m looking for somebody to be the custodian of the chapel. I need somebody to clean up, sweep, and mop the floors.’ My first thought was this is going to be great. He’s an easy mark, right? I was thinking, ‘I’ll get the phone, I’ll get cigarettes, I’ll get coffee, I’ll have a quiet place to get away from the craziness.’ I thought I was hustling him, but ultimately he was hustling me.”

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“A couple of weeks into the job, he told me he was going to need me to come after the vigil Mass on Saturdays to clean up. He said, ‘You’re going to be here anyway. Why don’t you just come to Mass each Saturday?’ A few weeks later he told me we had a very special visitor coming to the prison. And I said, ‘Oh, that’s great. Who is it, Father?’ And he said ‘Mother Teresa’. I said, “Father, that’s great! Who is Mother Teresa?’ 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. For the first time in my life, I saw what true humility was. The Cardinal had this big chair and he had a fancy chair for Mother Teresa and she refused to sit in it. She stayed and knelt with the prisoners on the floor of the prison instead. That changed my life … Immediately after that, I went to Father and said, ‘I want to make my Confirmation.’ So I got confirmed at 23 years old in state prison.” 

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Jim also discusses his upcoming short film, “What About the Kids,” about how addiction affects children, and touches on addiction and isolation. “The thing about recovery that I’ve always heard is ‘Don’t isolate, stay in contact.’ We want to connect with people face to face, right? And then the world says, ‘Everybody isolate.’ Work, we’re shutting it down. Everybody’s going home. I’m a person that could potentially be vulnerable to that isolation … Technology has not always been one of my favorite things because I think it separates us from personal contact, but in this instance, it’s good. I can go to Mass anywhere I want in the world. I can go to recovery meetings. I can connect with other human beings all over the world now.” Jim encourages people to use this time to reach out to people they haven’t spoken to in awhile and check in to offer some encouragement. 

“One thing that I have come to understand is this: Only God can take a scoundrel like me and take all of my shortcomings, my deficits, my sin, everything that’s bad about me, and turn all of that into assets to glorify him. Only God can do that. He can use all of that because my story has depth and weight to reach another person that may have walked this road that I’ve been on, or might be heading in that direction.”

You can find out more about Jim’s journey of faith in his upcoming autobiography, “The Big Hustle,” now available for preorder.