Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of Month Date, 2008
A father recounts his rollercoaster life
Secure and Uncertain: A Father’s Storyby Raymond F. Currie. Winnipeg: Anderson House Press, 2008.
Review by TIMOTHY HARTNAGEL
He regrets neither his years in the Franciscans nor his decision to resign.
From 1967 to 1972 Currie was permitted to pursue doctoral studies in sociology at Fordham University. Already he was experiencing some doubts regarding his faith; and he candidly describes his graduate student life apart from his religious community. In hindsight he recognized his neglect of prayer and meditation and claims not to have a sense of a personal relationship with the Divine, the expectation of which he somewhat surprisingly states was naïve.
It was during this time that he quickly became friends with his future wife Charlene, a religious sister who was also a sociology graduate student. The ferment created by Vatican II, the intellectual stimulation of graduate studies, and the exciting social and cultural life of New York all helped create intense relationships among his cohort of graduate students.
Currie now recognizes how little he understood that in allowing himself to become so close to Charlene while still in the priesthood he was laying the groundwork for a major life shift. Their separation at the completion of their graduate studies was difficult, made more so by the sense that their time in New York had been the most exciting of their lives.
Currie returned to Manitoba to begin his academic career, a time of personal turmoil regarding his future as a priest and Franciscan. His decision to obtain laicization was a culmination of his doubts about his faith, the lack of personal bonds with his confreres, and his love for Charlene, resulting in their marriage in 1975. He regrets neither his years in the Franciscans nor his decision to resign.
Two chapters are devoted to his academic career of teaching, research and university administration. While as a fellow sociologist (full disclosure -- I’ve met Ray Currie once or twice, but mainly know of him by reputation) I found these chapters informative, most readers will be more interested in the two chapters focusing upon his family and personal life.
The first — titled Suffering with our Children — is a moving discussion of his and Charlene’s parenting of two adopted children, both of whom turned out to suffer from severe mental disabilities. As the seriousness of their respective disabilities became clearer, family life became extremely stressful and filled with struggles, some of which resulted from dealings with social service agencies and the legal system.
In the midst of these difficulties Charlene suffered a stroke and an operation for cancer; and Currie’s brother John, a diocesan priest, died. Currie’s candid reflections on these struggles, and the other events of his “secure and uncertain” life story, present an inspiring message of unconditional love and trust.
(Timothy F. Hartnagel is professor emeritus, department of sociology, University of Alberta.)
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