Father Richard “Rick” Curry, S.J., who founded the National Theater Workshop of the Handicapped in Manhattan, and who served as a Jesuit brother for 47 years before being ordained a priest, died Dec. 19 in the Jesuit Infirmary at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia after a long illness. He was 72.
Father Curry, a Philadelphia native, was born without a right forearm.
He founded the National Theater Workshop of the Handicapped in Manhattan in 1977 and later in Belfast, Maine. He adapted the workshop format in 2002 to give a voice to wounded veterans recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2014, he co-founded the Dog Tag Bakery in Washington, D.C., which gave jobs to veterans and their spouses.
He wrote two cookbooks, “The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking” and “The Secrets of Jesuit Soupmaking: A Year of Our Soups.”
He was a professor of Catholic studies and theater at Georgetown University.
“Disability is a gift,” said then-Brother Curry in a 2007 interview with Catholic News Service. “I truly believe that my arm is a blessing. It’s demeaning to think that the Lord would place us in a situation where there is not a great blessing,” he said.
He entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1961 and professed final vows in 1968. After obtaining special permission from Rome to become a priest (Canon law requires two hands to offer Mass), he studied for the priesthood at the Washington Theological Union and was ordained in 2009.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from St. Joseph’s College, a master’s in theater from Villanova University and a doctorate in educational theater from New York University.
Father Curry received the Distinguished Service Award of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities in 1987, and 25 honorary degrees from universities and colleges, including Fordham University.
He is survived by his sister, Sister Denise Curry, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. A Funeral Mass was to be offered Jan. 2 at Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C. Burial was to follow at the Jesuit Cemetery in Wernersville, Pa.
Catholic News Service and Catholic New York contributed to this report.