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Wahlberg greets Pope John XXIII seminarians during film shoot

  • Mark Wahlberg posed with newly arrived seminarians and orientation leaders at Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Aug. 25. Pilot photo/courtesy Pope John XXIII Seminary
  • The crew sets up a shot for a scene in Mark Wahlberg’s upcoming film “Wonderland” in the parking lot of Pope John XXIII Seminary. Pilot photo/courtesy Pope John XXIII Seminary

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WESTON -- A man's first days at seminary can certainly be a memorable experience but, this year, newly arrived seminarians at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary got a chance to add something extra special to their scrapbooks -- a photo with Hollywood star and Dorchester native Mark Wahlberg.

Wahlberg took time out to meet and take photos with the 14 new seminarians -- the first arrivals on campus, along with the seminary's orientation committee -- while he was at the seminary Aug. 25 with his cast and crew to film two scenes for his upcoming Netflix film "Wonderland."

Peter Sheffer, a seminarian of the class of 2021 for the Diocese of Fall River, told the Pilot that the location manager had been looking for a parking lot to set up a green screen in an area that was both secluded and close to the Massachusetts Turnpike, where they had filmed another scene. The seminary, located just over two miles from the intersection of the Turnpike and I-95, fit the bill.

"Wonderland" is based on one of Robert B. Parker's novels about a Boston-based private detective named Spenser. Parker's novels had previously been adapted to a television show, "Spenser: For Hire," which ran from 1985 to 1988. The lead actor in the '80s series, Robert Urich, regularly attended Sunday Mass at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary.

The scenes filmed at the seminary featured Mark Wahlberg as Spenser and Winston Duke (known for his role as M'Baku in "Black Panther") as Spenser's friend, Hawk.

Sheffer said the cast and crew were "some of the kindest and most professional people I've ever met," and that they took a "vested interest" in the staff and students.

Wahlberg, a devout Catholic, made a point of speaking with seminary rector Father Brian Kiely and Father Stephen Linehan, the director of pastoral formation. Wahlberg assured them that, because the scenes were being filmed on Sunday, he had attended Mass on Saturday evening.

"We could not have a better representative of someone who lives a Christ-centered life in the spotlight," Sheffer said.

He said one of the new seminarians asked, "Who are you guys bringing in next year?" as though expecting that every orientation includes meeting a celebrity.

"It was such a positive experience," Sheffer added.

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