A Memorial Mass is scheduled Aug. 30, 10 a.m., at Holy Angels, Arcadia, for Fr. Stuart Long, 50, who died June 9 in Helena, Montana after a long illness. Father Long joined Holy Angels through the RCIA and was a longtime parishioner there before becoming a priest.
Father Long felt a call to the priesthood as he was baptized in 1994 at Holy Angels by Msgr. Norm Priebe, and he decided to teach religion at Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills for three years (97/98-99/00) before entering the seminary. A former boxer during his college years at Carroll College in Helena, Father Long also coached wrestling at Alemany.
He had originally moved to Los Angeles intent on breaking into movies after a boxing injury requiring reconstructive jaw surgery nipped his planned career as a prizefighter in the bud. Though he made some commercials and had a few bit parts, he eventually took a position with the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, where he rose to become manager, a position he held for seven years.
Riding his motorcycle home from the museum one evening, he was struck by a car, then run over by another. This close brush with death was a turning point in his life, prompting an exploration of religious faith that ultimately led to his baptism as a Roman Catholic.
He later earned a master’s degree in philosophy at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and received his priestly formation for the Diocese of Helena at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. He was ordained a priest on Dec. 14, 2007, at the Cathedral of St. Helena.
While a seminarian at Mount Angel, Father Long underwent surgery to remove a tumor discovered on his hip. He was diagnosed with inclusion body myositis, an extremely rare autoimmune disease that mimics the symptoms of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) for which there is no cure. By the time of his ordination, he was walking with the aid of crutches. According to his friends, he found his great love serving as a priest, administering the sacraments and counseling his flock.
As his illness weakened him, the Diocese of Helena brought him home in 2010, where he took up a new life and ministry at Big Sky Care Center. Now using a power chair, and with the tireless assistance of his dad, Bill, Father Long ministered throughout Helena’s parishes. He became a beloved priest, confessor and friend to countless people. He once remarked that his infirmity was the best thing that ever happened to him, because it allowed him to shed the pride he had felt for most of his life. He is survived by his parents, Bill and Kathleen Long; siblings Jennifer, Scott (Kathy) and Amy (Tom) from Corona; and many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.