RICHFIELD, Minn. (CNS) — It started with a simple letter that Ryan Currens sent to President Barack Obama earlier this summer.

The parish administrator at Church of Assumption in Richfield encouraged the chief executive to read Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’,” which was published in June.

He summarized his words for The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: “I’m a voting Catholic, and I hope you keep in mind everything the Holy Father has to say about … our planet. I know you’re a father, too, and we want to make sure that the planet is in good shape for our children and their children. The pope’s got some good ideas, and I hope you’re receptive to them when he’s around.”


His letter led to a call from the White House offering him the chance to be part of events surrounding the meeting the president and Pope Francis will have Sept. 23 in Washington.

Currens had no idea his written words would even be read by anyone at the White House, much less lead to an invitation to be in the presence of two of the world’s most influential leaders. He was driving to a fast-food restaurant for dinner with his wife, Meghan, and their three children when his cellphone rang.

“I got a call from this blocked number on my cellphone,” said Currens, 33. “You never get a call from a blocked number, so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll answer it and we’ll see what the deal is.'”

The “deal” was an offer to come to Washington to see the president and the pope. The White House staff person explained that his letter made an impact, and that they were looking for representatives from each state to attend. They were hoping at least some of the attendees would be military veterans, and Currens fit the bill, having served in the Army for three years from 1999 to 2002.

They offered him three tickets, and he immediately asked his wife. They considered taking their youngest child, Johnny, but ultimately decided against it. That left one ticket to give away. He approached Father Mike Kueber, Assumption’s pastor, and offered him the ticket. Father Kueber quickly and eagerly accepted.

“This is just awesome,” Father Kueber said. “I’m grateful to the Lord for this surprise.”

Neither of the men knows whether they will have the chance to greet the pope or the president. But Currens knows what he would say to the president if he gets the chance.

“We’ve got to keep good track of this planet,” he said. “It’s the only one we have. I want my kids, and eventually, some day, God willing, grandkids to inherit a better planet than I had. We’re the world’s leading economy. It’s on us to put the right foot forward and show the rest of the industrialized world how it can be done.”

***Hrbacek is senior content specialist at The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.