Kathleen M. Curran '89
In the course of discerning a life committed to faith and justice, the road will inevitably take twists and turns. For Kathleen Curran, the road to becoming a Catholic lay missionary in Bolivia has involved much more than an equatorial crossing.
Kathleen’s Holy Cross career (which included a major in political science and junior year in London) led her to law school at the University of Detroit, where her intellectual and academic life continued to grow. Law review staff, moot court awards, dean’s scholarship, magna cum laude upon graduation. After clerking for a state supreme court justice, she landed a job as a commercial real estate attorney with a top-notch firm in Chicago. Fast-forward six years to her decision to take a one-month trip to South America—a few weeks immersed in an experience radically different from her days practicing law. That month away has turned, 10 years later, into a way of life and work that is astounding. Even to her.
“I am amazed,” Kathleen wrote recently to a Holy Cross classmate, “at how much Ignatian spirituality and my Jesuit education have shaped this project.”
And what a project it has become.
After deciding to stay in Bolivia where she was helping out in an orphanage run by the Salesian Missions, a worldwide order focused on education and training, Kathleen remains affiliated with the Salesians and on caring for and supporting the education of children and teenagers in rural areas and orphanages in Santa Cruz, La Paz, and Cochabamba. Over the years she has taught in the K through 12 school Colegio San Francisco Xavier in Okinawa; and facilitated the receipt of approximately $500,000 in donations for orphanages and schools.
Her work in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, centers on reversing statistics that perpetuate the nation’s poverty: in rural areas, only 14 percent of Bolivians finish high school and only three percent attend universities. Half a million children must work to support their families; 92,000 live in homes for orphaned, abandoned or disabled children; and 4,000 children struggle to survive on the streets where they face malnutrition and addiction. Girls not in school may hope to find domestic work, but more often than not, they are exploited economically, physically, emotionally and sexually.
In 2004, Kathleen co-founded and currently directs Casa Nuevo Horizonte, a boarding home for economically challenged young women who, with the help of donations, are studying at various Bolivian universities and institutes.
She also helped create a formal education mission called “Keep the Faith” and, for the past six years, the mission has provided supplies to rural schools and orphanages; financial assistance to keep more than 120 children in primary and secondary school; full scholarships for more than 40 young people to attend university or technical school; and support to numerous students who have graduated and are now working in careers in medicine, law, business, tourism and agriculture.
For her commitment to a spiritual mission, carried out in the name of love and justice; for following in the footsteps of Jesuit-trained educators who for centuries have provided educational opportunities where they were most needed and for building up God’s presence in our world by fighting the cycle of poverty, the College of the Holy Cross presents to Kathleen M. Curran the Sanctae Crucis Award.