By Celine Klosterman
Rich Curran wants Catholic youths to realize the truth he discovered during an unplanned life journey – if you enter the vocation God’s calling you to, the rest of your life will benefit.
“Whether you become a doctor, teacher or something else, if you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, you’ll become a better spouse, parent and friend,” he said.
A promising hockey player turned youth minister and national speaker, Curran will work to show students from southeast Iowa how embracing their calling to discipleship can impact others. He’ll serve as keynote speaker at the Davenport Diocese’s high school youth rally Oct. 27 in Coralville.
The rally, like the many other Catholic gatherings he speaks at each year, is an event he never imagined himself presenting at more than 25 years ago. The Chicago native had enrolled at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota on a hockey scholarship, and a career in professional hockey seemed possible. But his sophomore year, a sledding accident left him with four crushed lumbar vertebrae and forced him to retire from athletics.
“At first you spend lots of time playing the ‘what if’ game,” Curran recalled. “Years later, you realize you were being led somewhere new.”
As college progressed, he applied and was accepted into law school. But after graduation, he deferred admission for a year in order to volunteer as a counselor and outreach worker for abused and neglected children with Catholic Charities in the inner city of Minneapolis.
“I began to see that I might be a good lawyer, but not a great lawyer, and what I was really good at was working with young people,” Curran said. “My ability to talk about challenges, like my sledding accident, and overcoming them was a good fit for kids from that environment.”
So on one visit home to Chicago, he decided to pursue a job working with teenagers. “My mom had heard that a parish in Plainfield, Ill., was looking for a youth minister. I had never heard of that because our parishes didn’t have one when I was growing up.” But he drove an hour to the church to meet with the pastor. “Call it the work of the Holy Spirit: by the time I got home, the pastor had called to offer me the job.”
Curran spent nine years at that church, then took a job as director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., in 2004. In both roles, he accepted requests to speak at Catholic conferences and retreats. As the number of invitations grew and positive feedback flowed in, he said, “I realized this was my part I could offer to the body of Christ.”
So after leaving his job in Green Bay in 2008, he and his wife, Cortney, made a “leap of faith” and decided he’d take his speaking ministry full-time, he said. He launched Parish Success Group, which offers keynotes, workshops and consulting services for teenagers, parents, youth workers and school staff.
Now holding master’s degrees in pastoral ministry and education, the resident of Appleton, Wis., described his vocation as an “unbelievable blessing.” Though traveling away from his wife and two sons is hard, he said he enjoys seeing how people change after his presentations. “Often they share a piece of their story with me. That’s a privilege.”
At the Davenport Diocese’s rally, “I want youths to show up and put some skin in the game. I want them to walk out and understand that because of who they are and whose they are, they hold the capacity to affect people’s lives in a positive way.” If students can implement a few concrete suggestions he’ll share, they’ll more closely follow the path of discipleship, Curran said. “Then the rest of the diocese needs to continue supporting these students on their journey after they come home. If they do that, our young people will be just fine.”
The Diocese of Davenport’s 2013 high school youth rally will take place Sunday, Oct. 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Coralville Marriott. “Save the Sinner, Save the World” is the theme. The day includes two keynote presentations from Rich Curran, breakout sessions, Mass with Bishop Martin Amos, presentation of the diocesan outstanding youth and adult recognitions, games and music. For more information or to register, contact your parish’s director of religious education or youth ministry leader.
Schedule of the day:
9:15 a.m.: Check-in and gathering
9:45 a.m.: Opening session and opening prayer
10:30 a.m.: Keynote session 1
11:30: Breakout round 1
12:20 p.m: Lunch
1:15 p.m.: Breakout round 2
2:15 p.m.: Keynote session 2
3 p.m.: Youth and adult recognitions
3:45 p.m.: Preparation for Mass
4 p.m. Mass with Bishop Martin Amos
5:30 p.m.: End