The Richard A. McGarrity, SJ, lecture series hosted by the Wisconsin Province of Jesuits recently featured Jesuit Father Rick Curry, a noted author, actor, teacher and baker. The breakfast program focused on how the community can better support veterans who are returning to society and the workforce.
Known to many throughout the Jesuit world, Curry is the founder of the National Theater Workshop of the Handicapped (NTWH) and is the director of the Academy for Veterans at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. In 2003, NTWH offered a new program called the Wounded Warriors Writers Workshop, and his vocation took on yet another dimension.
“The program taught the dramatic monologue to recently returning disabled veterans from both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Working in small groups with talented young writing teachers, these valiant men and women struggled artistically to tell their stories in a format where they could later act them out on stage,” Curry said. “We were delighted that the arts could play such a significant role in the healing of these heroic Americans. The experience of writing and acting out their story opened the floodgates of emotions and this led many who participated in the writers program to seek further help and counseling.”
After more than 40 years as a Jesuit brother, Curry felt encouraged to seek priesthood whereby he could work “not only artistically with the wounded warriors but sacramentally as well.” Curry’s ability to become a priest took special permission from the Vatican because he was born with only one arm, and Canon Law requires two hands to celebrate Mass. It is a challenge he considers a gift, because it provides an automatic bond with disabled veterans.
With advances in modern medicine, soldiers are returning from war, but many are casualties just the same, whether in body, mind or both, Curry said.
“Imagine a young man whose body has been severed at the waist,” Curry said. “He’s lost so much, but he’s alive. Just 19, he needs to rethink what he will do with the rest of his life. We will lose many more men and women than the fatality charts show if we do not step up for them. I urge everyone to use his or her imagination to identify ways he or she can provide support to our veterans with disabilities and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. A lot of people can do much more than they think.”