In most dioceses, a collection is taken up once a year to support the seminaries and seminarians of each diocese. This same thing is done in parishes served by the Augustinians. Many of our parishioners think that when these collections are taken up that the funds collected go to Augustinian seminarians. However, such is not the case. Even though we staff diocesan parishes, funds that this collection raises go to diocesan seminaries and seminarians. The pastors of some of our Augustinian parishes will put a special envelope in the packet of collection envelopes sent out each year. Some of our pastors, with the permission of the local bishop, will take up a special collection for Augustinian seminarians.
Once a man pronounces his vows in the Order, the Augustinians assume complete responsibilities for his education, room, and board. Almost all these men in their initial years study theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. CTU is a graduate school and thus, while it is costly, it is no more costly than almost all other graduate schools. Thus one of the tasks for our Province is to raise funds to pay for the education and for the room and board of these men who are being prepared to work as the Church needs them.
Our Province has set up a special fund in order to do this. We have named it the Father Ray Ryan, O.S.A. Trust. Father Ryan died on March 26, 2012. He was our Provincial for three four-year terms. Yet the ministry that he engaged in while he was not serving as Provincial, was the work of seminary formation. When students are in the seminary, they don’t only go to school. The Augustinians seek to form them so that they interiorize scriptural values as well as those values that St. Augustine taught and wrote about. In this area, Father Ray Ryan stood out. He was in formation (seminary) work at several different levels for 23 years. Formation after the Vatican Council was done as a team effort with one Augustinian as head of two or three other Augustinians. The person heading the team was the priest/brother directly in charge of that level of formation. Fr. Ryan, 20 of the 23 years he was involved in the ministry of formation, headed the team that worked at that level.
We Augustinians try to put men in formation who are models of living Augustinian religious life. Fr. Ray Ryan was such a man. The fact that he was elected Provincial three different times for terms of four years each and that he was in formation work for 23 years bears this out. He was a man highly regarded by not only his brother Augustinians of our Midwest Province, but of Augustinians all over the world. At one of our General Chapters where Augustinians from all over the world meet to elect a new Prior General who will lead the worldwide Augustinian Order, Fr. Ray was approached, and he was asked – even encouraged – to allow his name to be put in nomination for that office. He declined and later told one of his Augustinian friends that he believed the job was a bit more than he could handle.
Fr. Ray Ryan was an extraordinary man who had many skills. He wrote some widely recognized papers on Augustinian religious life that many of us still retain. He was in demand as a retreat director and as a speaker. He was a spiritual director to a number of people – priests, religious, and lay people. He had tremendously keen insights into people and into situations. Any of his comments or corrections were done respectfully so that the person involved really wanted to change a behavior or an attitude.
When mediation was needed in a community or an apostolate, he was almost always called upon because of his skills at compromise and consensus building. He was never too busy to help any of us who needed his counsel. Fr. Ray possessed biblical wisdom – the Holy Spirit clearly was alive in his heart.
One more of his qualities needs to be mentioned. He loved a good party. It didn’t take much to have him organize a celebration. It could be a feast day, a priesthood or brotherhood anniversary, a birthday – really anything at all. There was a twofold reason for this. First, it was a good way to bring all the members of the community together – even to non-party people. Second, it was a good way to acknowledge in a special way each member of the community. He didn’t go half-way in these endeavors. Naturally there was cake and ice cream but also party hats, poppers, streamers. There are undoubtedly pictures of many of us in the Province in this party attire. Thus, it was when the Province decided to begin a trust to help with the expenses of our students, the first name that came almost immediately to the Provincial and his Counselors was that of Father Ray Ryan, O.S.A. There was not even any discussion about it; it was so evident that Fr. Ryan’s name would be connected with this fundraising venture.
Fr. Ryan’s life and ministry is something we won’t forget. Won’t you join us in honoring his memory by helping to raise funds for the training of young Augustinians so that they might follow in the footsteps of Fr. Ray? May we also thank you in the name of all of us Augustinians, especially the memory of Fr. Ray Ryan, OSA, for your generosity.
God bless and keep you always.
Father Bill Sullivan, O.S.A., is the Associate Pastor of St. Jude Parish in New Lenox, Illinois. Additionally, Father Sullivan is a member of the Provincial Council and the Continuing Our Journey of Faith Capital Campaign Cabinet. He is much beloved in the Order and was honored at the 2014 Augustinian Gala.