Final Vows Marks Fr. Curran’s Acceptance to Society of JesusMay 11, 2015

“Welcome home.”

Those were the words from the Very Rev. Ronald Mercier, S.J., provincial of the U.S. Central and Southern Province, to the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J., at the end of the May 2 Mass at St. Francis Xavier during which the president of Rockhurst University solemnly professed his final vows and was fully incorporated into the Society of Jesus.

For Fr. Curran, the words had a special significance.          

“For me, it’s given new meaning to what I’ve preached so many times, which is no matter where one goes in life, God is already there waiting for us,” he said.

Asked how long the journey to this point had been, he answers over 30 years. It’s a path that led him first to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, the order into which he was ordained in 1984. He served with the Oblates in a variety of different roles throughout the United States, including at several Salesian schools, as the associate vice president for university relations and assistant to the president at Regis University in Denver, and, since 2006, as the president at Rockhurst University.

At different points during that time, Fr. Curran said he contemplated entrance to the Society of Jesus. He was no stranger to the Jesuit order, having earned two degrees from Jesuit institutions, and said he felt a strong connection to the order’s mission and values. So he began the process of discernment. The answer he found was that joining the Society would give him an opportunity to grow closer to God.

Along the way, he said he had words of encouragement from countless people, including Rockhurst University students, with whom he chose to celebrate his first Mass as a Jesuit on Sunday, May 3, at St. Francis Xavier.

Already known for concluding Mass with his humorous, anecdotal “true stories,” the students showed their appreciation and support by giving Fr. Curran a few “true stories” of their own during that first service — but these note cards were not necessarily new material.

“It was all these stories about the individual encounters that they’ve had with me,” he said. “I think what I heard that night was ‘we really appreciate you being in our lives, we want to be in yours. As you’ve done this journey we’ve journeyed with you.’ I was just blown away by it; I was very, very touched.”

In fact, Fr. Curran said that was the prevailing emotion, even after the weekend’s ceremonies and activities were over.  He thanked everyone — from the members of his family to the friends from all over the country to those from Rockhurst and his peers from different religious communities — for playing a part by coming to the Mass or supporting him in the process. He said it was a sign that as much as the road to become a member of the Society of Jesus had been a solitary one, it’s also something shared with the community around him.

“The journey continues, but this is a significant moment in what has been a long road to this point,” he said. “And it really brought us together to celebrate the journey to this moment, which will continue with a new name, a new group, and a new commissioning.”

Invoking the term Ignatius used to describe himself —“pilgrim” — in late June Fr. Curran will conclude his journey to the Society, taking on the 500-mile walk of the Camino de Santiago, a traditional pilgrimage that begins in France and ends in Galicia, Spain.

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