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Jul 28, 2021 34 0 Shalom Tidings

Nothing but Yes to Jesus: An Interview With Bob Rice

Certified Life Organizers tout a variety of methods for getting organized so that one can get done everything one needs to do: color-coded folders, printed labels, clear shoeboxes for storage and so much more. Husband, father of seven, Ph.D. student, professor, screen writer, musician, song writer, author and speaker Bob Rice has another method to help organize one’s life: “Everything I do, I do for the glory of God. So, He allows me the opportunities to do everything I need to do for Him.”

Hailing from a 100-percent Irish family outside of Chicago, Rice and his sister were raised by their Episcopalian father and Catholic mother. In the home, faith and spirituality were important and prayers were said before every meal.

In his youth, he encountered Young Life, a nondenominational group that helped to promote Christian teachings and had a heart for ecumenism, praying that all Christians would be one. In college, Rice majored in theater and was active playing music in the area. With a God-given intelligence for memorizing Scripture, Rice’s presence in Young Life served to expose those in the group with a Catholic background, and Rice took every opportunity to show his faith to others.

1994 served as a pivotal year for Rice when he was hired by Franciscan University of Steubenville to speak at its summer youth conferences. His first two conferences brought together 3,000 students each weekend and now, 25 years later, the Steubenville summer youth conferences reach the hearts of more than 40,000 young people in 15 locations throughout the United States and Canada.

He was not that impressed with his first conference experience. “I’m not moved by emotion,” says Rice, “God doesn’t work like that through me.” But after that conference, Rice heard the Blessed Mother tell him to drop everything and return to Steubenville. And so he did, enrolling as an undergrad and graduating in 1997 with a Master’s degree in Theology, with a specialization in Catechetics.

After graduation, he moved and worked for several years at a parish in Latham, N.Y. He had opportunities to work with Life Teen, while still continuing his association with Franciscan University of Steubenville. Rice’s collaborations with Steubenville, which began with speaking, expanded to writing the conference theme songs, helping plan the conferences and hosting. In 2004, the University invited him to be a professor. “I thought that was uncool—to be a college professor!” says Rice, “But it has been such a joy, a really beautiful experience.”

And then came the other time-management challenging activities: the music ministry took off when requests came for his music. So far, he has released 12 CDs, with his latest being The Gospel According to Bob Rice; he has authored four books, the latest of which is a novel titled Between the Savior and the Sea; and the speaking engagements are now national and international. “It has truly been one blessing upon another,” says Rice.

And did we mention the seven children? “Each one is a blessing. And we have a unique story with our son, Joseph,” says Rice. The second time Rice heard Blessed Mother calling him to action was when Rice and his wife were called to adopt a child, after their fifth child was born, and after the couple had completed the St. Louis de Montfort consecration to Jesus through Mary. The Rices knew people in Haiti who worked with the Missionary of Charities who took care of children who could be adopted. The Haitian adoption process is notoriously long and difficult, but the Rices felt that it was what God wanted them to do. So, they prayed and completed all the paperwork and submitted it. Shortly after, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti. Two weeks after submitting the paperwork, they received a call—the government was fast-tracking adoptions, including theirs, which was one of the last to be received. Two months later, Rice and his wife, Jennifer, traveled to Miami, Fla., and picked up their son, two and a half year old Joseph.

Rice says, “My spiritual life is driven by two things: scripture, which has been the case since my high school days, and Marian devotion. The Bible and the rosary are always at the heart of my prayer. I want so badly to say ‘yes‘ like Mary did in everything God calls me to. And a devotion to Mary has been a big part of our family’s prayer life as well.”

“I have been blessed,” says Rice, “to get the best seat in the house during the Steubenville youth conferences. As part of the music ministry I get to look out at the faces of all the people. And when it is time for Eucharistic procession, I witness the chains falling off the hearts of the participants. Weekend in and weekend out for 25 years, this is what I have seen: God continues to work in our hearts.” And what moves the young people at these conferences is the reflection of God they see in the adults at the conferences. “Faith formation is about inviting and not forcing,” says Rice, “it is given freely and is not mandatory. When children see their parents or the adults around them truly excited about the faith, then the choices and decisions the young people make will be in line with what God wants for their lives.”

Rice’s work has been a continued progression to glorifying God. “How did I get here? By trying to do nothing more and nothing less than what God wants of me,” says Rice. He continues, “If tomorrow He wants me to lead a more private life, I’ll be sad, of course, but I will follow Him, because I know He always calls me to what is best.” Using his talents for Christ, Rice serves as an example to others that when God calls, faithful people need only to respond.

Shalom Tidings

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