Engaged UAA couple find home in Catholic Church

Rachel Dunagan and Paul Curran pose inside the courtyard of St. Patrick's Catholic Church where walkways, fountains, and statues of the Virgin Mary makes for a peaceful retreat in the summer.

Before Rachel Dunagan was ever Paul Curran’s valentine and vice versa, there was one minor discord they needed to smooth out. While both devoted Christians, Dunagan was raised in a Protestant family while Curran came from a Catholic background. The two would begin dating anyway, with the understanding they would eventually come to a resolution. As of last December, when the UAA sophomores got engaged, Dunagan was enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA, a program that prepares prospective Catholics or “catechumens” for confirmation in the church.

When The Northern Light caught up with the couple, they were getting ready to start a marriage preparation program, per the norm for Catholics intending on getting married in the church. The program helps couples learn more about each other and the meaning of the sacrament.

TNL: Let’s go back to the first class you guys had together, was it right out of the gate of college or was it after a semester or two?

Rachel Dunagan: “Actually it was the first day of college that we met in Spanish class.”

Paul Curran: “And we’re also in the same hallway in the dorms, and we were then too.”

Can you tell me a little bit more about meeting each other on that day?

Dunagan: “Sure. So we had to interview a student and then present them in front of the class and we just so happened to be sitting next to each other. So we were like, ‘Oh, let’s interview each other.’ We also had both gone to a Spanish club too and … had a mutual friend so we socially connected in a couple ways.”

Curran: “She was afraid of me.”

Dunagan: “No.” (laughs)

Curran: “Yeah…”

Dunagan: “I just find tall people kind of intimidating and Paul’s like a foot taller than me. So at first I just thought he was a little intimidating.”

How tall are you both?

Curran: “6′ 3″.”

Dunagan: “I’m 5′ 2″.”

So you were just especially shy around him?

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Dunagan: “Yeah, I’m not too outgoing of a person I suppose… I don’t know.”

Curran: “So, dating methods… scare the person you’re planning on dating.” (laughs)

Have you guys been members of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church for several years?

Dunagan: “Not really, when we first met I was Protestant and he was Catholic and we both tried to convert each other. It ended up going the opposite way of what I thought was going to happen and so I’m a catechumen now and I’m going to be confirmed this Easter. So it was kind of funny and not according to my plan anyways, but I guess according to God’s, so that worked well.”

So does that force you to just dig deeper into your faith?

Dunagan: “Yeah, we had a whole bunch of debates over dinner about [it].”

Curran: “I sort of feel like she thought I was going to hell.”

Dunagan: “No, I did not… I did not think that at all. (laughs) Paul…”

So that really came to the surface pretty soon after you started dating?

Together: “Before we started dating.”

I’m sure Paul learned a lot more about the Protestant faith than he used to know and you of the Catholic faith, and so was it a little uncomfortable at times?

Dunagan: “I had grown up in a Protestant family and a Protestant church and so I didn’t know too much about Catholicism and so what I did know was a lot of misconceptions, so it was pretty good to hear it from a Catholic than from people who don’t know much about it.”

So for a period of time I’m guessing you guys both went to each other’s churches?

Curran: “Still do, because her parents want her to.”

Dunagan: “So I’m going to figure out a way after I’m confirmed to tell them like, ‘Okay I’m just going to St. Patrick’s now.’ We’ll see what happens.”

Do they give Paul a hard time?

Curran: “Not too bad, no, not at all. It’s pretty easy, it could be a lot worse. It could be very bad.”

Dunagan: “My parents have been pretty good about it. It was a little rocky at first but they’ve come around.”

Tomorrow, you get to really get down to business about what its going to be like living a life together. What’s that like?

Curran: “I’m not too worried about it. We’re taking almost all the same classes, so we’re around each other all the time. I haven’t gotten sick of her yet.”

St. Patrick's Catholic Church
St. Patrick's Catholic Church is one of eight Catholic parishes located in Anchorage. Curran and Dunagan have chosen to get married in the parish this summer.