Father Rick Curry
Father Richard “Rick” Curry, SJ was known to say, “Happiness lies in serving, not being served.” He embodied that mission his whole life and continues to inspire others to follow his example. His legacy of service lives on at Dog Tag.
Father Curry’s service was accompanied by his warm demeanor, unmatched wit, and unyielding faith, both in his church and in the capacity of people to help each other despite our unique differences and experiences.
Born without his right forearm, Father Curry was well acquainted with the challenges and prejudices faced by individuals with disabilities. “Because of my arm, I was told I could not be a soldier. I could not be a priest. I could not be a doctor,” he says. Still, Father Curry earned a doctorate in Educational Theater from New York University, then became a priest at the age of 66, which required a special dispensation from the Vatican because canon law requires two hands to celebrate mass. He dedicated his final years to empowering veterans with service-connected disabilities.
Throughout his life, Father Curry not only transcended limitations associated with his missing forearm, but he also came to view his disability as a blessing that enabled him to better minister to people with disabilities.
In 1977, turned away from a commercial audition, then-Brother Curry decided to create a space for people with disabilities to freely pursue self-expression and storytelling through theatre. He founded the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped (NTWH) in New York City the very next day. He eventually expanded the program to a residential theatre school in Belfast, Maine, that grew to include a bakery program where Father Curry and his students baked and sold breads as part of an annual fundraiser.
Father Curry, who trained as a baker when he entered the Jesuit brotherhood and worked in Jesuit community kitchens, soon realized that the bakery program yielded far more than great breads and fundraising revenue; this annual initiative served as a vehicle for students to gain hard and soft skills, build confidence, and develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
After the terrorist attacks on September 11th, then-Brother Curry was called to Walter Reed to counsel men and women who returned home from combat with physical, mental, and emotional wounds. About this time, Father Curry says, “With the disabled, you need a guide dog, you need a wheelchair, and people get that...but you also need your spirit lifted. You need to make art. You need to tell your story. You need to create.”
Father Curry founded the Wounded Warriors Writers Program in 2003 to foster fulfillment and growth in service members returning with visible and invisible wounds of war.
When Father Curry met Constance “Connie” Milstein in 2013, they knew it wasn't by chance. United by their shared ethos of empowerment—providing a hand up, not a hand out—and calling to serve, together Connie and Father Curry founded Dog Tag to give veterans and military families the tools they need to thrive both personally and professionally after serving our nation.
Although Father Curry passed away in 2015, his legacy lives on in every cohort, every batch of baked goods, and every life touched by Dog Tag. Father Curry’s desire to empower even more veterans, spouses, and caregivers continues to drive our mission today, and is evidenced by the expansion of our fellowship program into the Chicagoland area.
Father Curry is the author of two cookbooks: The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking and The Secrets of Jesuit Soup Making. You can find both at our bakery or in our online shop.