Among the memorable people I've met working at 60 Minutes these past 24 years, Father (then Brother) Rick Curry ranks at the top of the list.
60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft first met Rick at a New York dinner party -- Brother Rick was the kind of Jesuit who found himself invited to dinner parties with media and publishing types. Steve found him to be a fascinating character and asked associate producer Kay Lim and me to meet Rick and see what we thought.
What can you think about a one-armed, bread-baking cookbook author and actor with a PhD in theater, who developed a training program for disabled performers that included baking lessons? Ever practical, Curry thought baking would offer a paying trade for his aspiring stars. He was witty, occasionally irreverent and thoroughly a Jesuit, sophisticated and worldly-wise in his spirituality.
The only thing our story didn't have was Rick Curry. He was interested in 60 Minutes doing a piece about his National Theater Workshop of the Handicapped, but wanted nothing to do with a 60 Minutes story about Rick Curry. It was a long, slow process to convince the Jesuit brother that the best way to tell the story of the workshop was to tell the story of its founder. He was a hard sell, but eventually, and reluctantly, agreed to let us focus on him and his extraordinary work. Brother Rick Curry was a natural for 60 Minutes. He was part Ignatius and part Barnum - a spiritual showman with a sense of humor. His approach to his disability (as he'd call it) was refreshing and inspiring.
We stayed in contact sporadically over the years as his life and mission evolved. He would come by the 60 Minutes offices around Christmastime with some breads for us, always with the suggestion for a story about some good cause. He made it a point to know our families and ask about what they were up to.
He moved from Manhattan to Georgetown and began working with wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. He also joined the Georgetown faculty and, true to form, opened a bakery to benefit his wounded warriors.
Rick was well into his sixties when he sought ordination to the priesthood. Rick told me some of the Catholic vets he worked with asked to make confessions and receive absolution. He set about becoming a priest, in the Curry-like way, with the help of a Jesuit Cardinal and a Jesuit theologian who would have agreed on little else beyond Rick's suitability for ordination. Despite the disability that would have once excluded him from the priesthood, the Jesuit brother became a Jesuit priest six years ago.
Father Curry's approach to his disability never changed. It wasn't a good thing or a bad thing. As he told Steve Kroft during our interview, "'That's a creature, that's indifferent.' All depends how you use it. All depends how you use it."
Rick Curry used it well because he used it for good.