Charlie Currie SJ: A Jesuit Who Loved Like Jesus Loved
BY ISN STAFF | January 14, 2018
The following is a transcription of the homily shared by Fr. Robert Currie, S.J., at the funeral mass of his brother Fr. Charlie Currie, S.J., who passed away on January 4, 2019. The funeral mass occurred on January 12, 2019, at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Basically, very simply, amidst Charlie’s seemingly endless commitments, he simply did his best to love as Jesus loved.
Charlie was a great brother.
An incredibly loyal friend.
A loving uncle.
Totally committed to justice and equality nationally and internationally, especially equality among women and men.
Charlie was all these things but most of all he was a “Jesuit.”
When I say “Jesuit” I don’t mean somebody who simply writes “SJ” after his name. Lots of us do that. Charlie was a “Jesuit” in the sense that as we understand it in Nicaragua and the rest of Latin America—he was a companion and a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. He loved us as Jesus loves us. It didn’t matter the color of our skin, what language we spoke, or what religion we may have or not have, how much money we made—none of that mattered. He simply loved us as we are. He loved us as Jesus loves us.
Ignatius wanted his followers to be open and to relate to the whole world but always from the perspective of the victims in this world, those who suffer or are excluded. He wanted to be able to deal with the powerful of this world but to be friends and companions of the victims. That was Charlie Currie.
One day he was meeting with a president or a prime minister and the next day he was sleeping on a cot in a distant village in Nicaragua or somewhere else. The Beatitudes were for Charlie what they were for Jesus—a program of life. It is no coincidence that the same Beatitudes expressed and lived by Jesus coincide with the vision of Mary, his mother, expressed in what we call today the Magnificat—the conversation Mary had with her cousin Elizabeth. Just as Jesus learned from his mother, a deep commitment to the liberation of his people, so Charlie learned from the many extraordinary women with whom he worked, a deep commitment to equality and a passionate drive to work and organize for justice both near and far.
How many people, especially women, have experienced in Charlie a person who: listened to them?; who grasped their reality?; who valued their experience?; and who was raised to do everything possible to accompany them on their life’s journey? Kathleen Frank, has it expressed it this way — “he was someone who always believed in others and gave them wings to fly.”
Georgetown University professor, president of two Jesuit universities, coordinator of the Association and Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and at the same time friend and companion to campesinos in the villages of Nicaragua and El Salvador and African refugees. Sharing their lives of struggle, enjoying their meals of rice and beans, and most importantly fighting for their liberation, freedom, and a life without harass.
Charlie Currie was a “Jesuit.” His spirit remains—The spirit of his and our other brother, Jesus of Nazareth. Just as Jesus loved to hang out with his friends around the table to celebrate, no one loved to celebrate with friends and family like Charlie. As a matter of fact, as many of you can say or have experiences, Charlie never missed an opportunity to celebrate. Whether it be Christmas or Thanksgiving, weddings or baptisms, or simply gathering with co-workers after a day of work. Shared meals and celebrations were for Charlie as they were for Jesus an essential part of the vision he had to make our world more human. Sometimes when we speak of Jesuits, we think of their long tradition of education but that is a limited version of Ignatius and Jesus’s vision of humanizing reality.
Never has this vision of Jesus and Ignatius been more crucial than in today’s world that is so often dehumanizing. No one understood this vision better than Charlie. Whether it be a simple conversation at the end of the day or a sparring session based on a political or social crisis or in the midst of a family tragedy, Charlie was always a humanizing presence. He always took all of us seriously. He always listened to us as if we were the most important person sitting in front of him. How many of those who worked with Charlie over years would say ‘he always had my back.’ Michael Sheeran, the AJCU’s current president put it this way, “Charlie spotted potential. His confidence in you made all the difference.”
Charlie was a very intelligent person because he listened, and he took others seriously, not because they were more important or especially intelligent, or influential or powerful, simply because he listened. Often poor, hungry, doubted, weeping, mourning, or even the excluded. Charlie was a “Jesuit,” a companion of Jesus. He did his best to love as Jesus loved.
In addition to his many other gifts, Charlie was a great storyteller simply because he was a good listener. He shared with us experiences that he had learned from so many others around the world. And the world, as we all know, Charlie’s world went far beyond his family and the Society of Jesus. His world included academia, it included the struggle for civil and basic human rights at home and abroad. It included the struggle of women for equality at all levels. It included the struggle of students and youth in general, to convert their dreams into the reality of fairness, equality, and peace. It included the struggle of the marginalized and excluded of Central America and Africa, for justice in the face of an international that excludes 80% of the world’s population. In all of this Charlie was faithful to another aspect of Ignatius’s vision. While challenging those responsible for injustice, inequality, and violence around the world Charlie always was a source of consolation for the victims and also those struggling to alleviate or eliminate that injustice, inequality, and violence.
His confidence and optimism always gave us new energy. The Jesuit commitment to humanizing reality was the permanent driving force in all he did. While Charlie’s world went far beyond his family and the Society of Jesus, his commitments were always based on his love for family, friends, and his Jesuit brothers.
Charlie always boasted that he never felt more proud than when he walked at the side of our sister Gert. His love for his brothers, nieces, and nephews and their children was profound. And his love for the Society no less. In his final days, what we all lived together with Charlie’s friends around the world was an extraordinary witness to this triple love—friends, family, the Society of Jesus. Who better to inspire Charlie than Charlie himself? The words he used just six months ago to describe Robert F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, and I quote, “he was one who challenged all of us to do our very best. May we share the magnanimity of his being. May we be the source of the energy and creativity in the pursuit of the ideals that he worked so hard for, to make real in our broken world. May we share his compassion for the poor, the oppressed, the forgotten. And may we share his humble ability to bring women and men together in equality.”
Charlie was such an extraordinary brother, uncle, friend, and coworker. Totally committed to justice and equality among women near and far. Charlie was all these things but most of all, Charlie was “Jesuit.” A “campanero de Jesus.”
Fr. Charlie Currie, S.J., was co-catalyst of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice and a founding board member of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. You can read more about his contributions to the Ignatian family here.
I was a student at Wheeling 76 to 80 and had the extreme honor to be blessed and even played round of golf with Fr and my Dad.He knew,my name and just was one of God’s special people.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon the Reverend Charlie.