CURRAN — A place of prayer, meditation and solitude was blessed last month by Bishop David Ricken. The Curran Spirituality Center, located on Country Road KB, five miles east of Denmark, is open to all. The mission of the center is simple, said Fr. Bill O’Brien, who transformed farm land on his family’s property to create this holy place.
“No membership, no dues. That’s what I tell everybody,” he said. “Whoever comes in, comes in.”
The center, which was completed in the fall of 2015, has attracted faithful from near and far. Visitors from outside Wisconsin, including Arkansas and a Jesuit priest from Creighton University in Nebraska, have signed the guestbook in the chapel. Center hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, said Fr. O’Brien, but the amount of daylight serves as a guide. It usually closes around 5 p.m. at this time and he anticipates extended hours beyond 7 p.m. in the summer. In addition to a small devotional prayer chapel with icons displayed in the windows, a rosary garden is available for prayer at the center, which is handicap accessible.
Bishop Ricken said that more places for prayer are needed.
“Throughout history there have been very special monasteries, convents or other little chapels like this which are a refuge to people from the onslaughts of invading enemies or onslaughts of the world that seem to overburden people at times,” he said. “Today, that can be an illness, strife in the family or the loss of a loved one. There is a lot of sorrow in our world today. Having a place like this to come to unburden yourself and pray for others is a great, great relief.”
Bishop Ricken, who blessed both the chapel and rosary prayer garden on Jan. 9, added that people sometimes need a place to pray other than their parish church. The Curran Spirituality Center provides a holy surrounding where they can “just be themselves, a place with all the reminders of God’s great love for us.”
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has called for outreach to the suffering, marginalized, alienated and poor. Being poor does not only refer to income, explained Bishop Ricken.
“The poverty we have, and Mother Teresa said this when she visited the United States, is spiritual poverty,” he said. “We have all kinds of material and financial blessings, but as a country, we could be spiritually poor. … This little place is a refuge for when the burdens of life weigh on us.”
Fr. O’Brien recognized those who contributed to the building of the center, most of whom are local. Among those in attendance at the blessing were Chris Renier, architect; Milton Bielinski, Bielinski Excavating; Lee Sinkler, Sinkler Heating; and Robert Martens, who carved the corpus for the chapel.
“The cross itself is made of cedar which came from Fr. Bill’s property,” explained Martens. “The wood is from one of the original buildings on the property. It had a lot of nails in it, so I had to work around the nails, but it came together nicely.”
“The wood on the cross comes from the first frame home that was built on this property by my great grandparents,” said Fr. O’Brien. “That’s a rafter from that house. It’s special.”
Fr. O’Brien gave Martens a fiberglass replica to use as a guide when carving the corpus.
“It’s all by hand,” said Martens. “It took about two-and-a-half months. The total time was about 140 hours. It was a very fulfilling experience. It was the first one I had ever done.”
Martens is thankful that his father was able to see his work. Lyle Martens died on Dec. 26. The corpus led to another project. Robert, who lives near Luxemburg, approximately 10 miles from the Curran Spirituality Center, has received a commission for a carving for St. James Parish in Wausau.
“I told Fr. Bill that I was doing this on prospect,” he explained, “so if it didn’t turn out, he didn’t owe me anything. I started with Jesus’ face. Once he saw Jesus’ face, he was sold. You keep refining it every day. Fr. Bill had to come over every other day to see it.”
“What a beautiful inspiration Fr. Bill had,” said Bishop Ricken. “I would like to thank and recognize him. It’s a way to reach out to those who are suffering. Just by having this as a home to hospitality and prayer, think of the lives of people you are touching.”