Rev. Raymond R. Ryan, O.S.A. (1930 - 2012)

Rev. Raymond R. “Ray” Ryan, O.S.A. led the Augustinians of the Midwest as Prior Provincial during a time when government of religious Orders was becoming more democratized. His prayerfulness, kindness, compassion and ability to listen made him the ideal leader for this challenging time. As Director of Formation for Augustinian friars in training, Father Ryan had a positive influence on members of the Order of St. Augustine all over North America. For friars, students and parishioners, he was a prayerful, kind and compassionate mentor who was frequently sought out for his wise counsel. He was always willing to give of himself for others.

On March 26, 2012, Father Ryan died of breathing problems and other complications of cancer. He was 81.

Raymond Richard Ryan was born in 1930 in Chicago, Illinois to Raymond E. and Alice Ryan. He was baptized in 1930 at St. Lawrence Church, Chicago. He received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 1941 at St. Mary of Mount Carmel Church, Chicago.

From 1936 through 1944, Raymond did his elementary education at St. Mary of Mount Carmel School, Chicago. He graduated from St. Rita High School, Chicago, in 1948. That same year, he was accepted into the Augustinian Formation Program at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York, where he did his first year of collegiate studies.  Raymond was then received into the Augustinian Novitiate, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on September 7, 1949. He professed simple (temporary) vows in the Order of St. Augustine on September 9, 1950.

After his profession, Raymond was assigned to Saint Mary’s Hall, Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania, where he earned a B.A. in Philosophy in 1953. He professed solemn (permanent) vows on September 10, 1953.   After this, he pursued the program of theological studies from 1953 through 1957 at Augustinian College, Washington, D.C. He was ordained a priest on February 9, 1957.

Father Ryan earned an M.A. in English at DePaul University, Chicago, in 1965. He holds a Specialist in Education certificate from the Salesianum, Rome, Italy (1968). He did additional studies at Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., in Spanish and History.  He also did additional studies at the University of Chicago in Education.

In 1957, Father Ryan's first assignment was to teach at Mendel Catholic High School, Chicago, Illinois. He then joined the faculty of Tolentine College, Olympia Fields, Illinois, where he taught from 1958 to 1963. He next served as teacher and Rector of Postulants from 1963 to 1967 at St. Augustine Seminary, Holland, Michigan. During 1967-68, he studied at the Salesianum in Rome, Italy, earning a Specialist in Education certificate.

Father Ryan was named Director of Novices at St. Monica Novitiate, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, in 1968. He was elected in 1971 to the first of his three four-year terms as Prior Provincial (regional superior) of the Midwest Augustinians. He was re-elected in 1975.  

After completing his second term as Prior Provincial in 1979, Father Ryan was named Pastor of Immaculate Conception/St. Henry Parish, St. Louis, Missouri.  In 1982-83, he served as Director of Novices at the Augustinian Novitiate, which had moved from Wisconsin to Immaculate Conception/St. Henry.  Father Ryan became Director of the Pre-Novitiate Formation Program at Mendel Monastery, Chicago, in 1983. He then moved to St. John Stone Friary, Chicago, in 1984 and served as Director of Formation for the seminarians who resided there while doing their graduate theology studies at nearby Catholic Theological Union. During this time, he also served as a member of the Province Council.

Father Ryan was elected to his third term as Prior Provincial in 1987. After completing his four-year term in 1991, he became Prior (local superior) at St. Rita Monastery, Chicago.  Two years later, in 1993, he was named Associate Pastor of St. Jude Parish, New Lenox, Illinois. He was again named Director of Novices in 1998, serving until 2004 at the Augustinian North American Novitiate, Racine, Wisconsin.

Beginning in 2004, Father Ryan was semi-retired at St. John of Sahagun Friary (Providence Catholic High School), New Lenox, Illinois. During this time, he was called on to provide various pastoral ministries at several parishes as the need arose.  When the need for a Director of Novices at the North American Novitiate arose in 2006, Father Ryan volunteered to again fill that post for a year. He returned to St. John of Sahagun Friary in 2007 and provided pastoral ministries in neighboring parishes as needed.  At the Province Chapter of 2010, he was elected to serve on the Province Council, where his wise advice was greatly respected and valued.

In late 2010, Father Ryan was diagnosed with lymphoma. Chemotherapy brought the lymphoma under control, but, at the end of 2011, doctors discovered that the prostate cancer which had afflicted him several years previously had returned in an advanced stage. In March 2012, he began to experience difficulty breathing. He died on March 26, 2012, following a brief hospitalization.

Father Ryan is buried in the Augustinian plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois.

Memorial gifts may be made to Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel, 5401 S. Cornell Ave., Chicago, IL 60615-5664, or via our Online Giving Page.

Written by Fr. Jim Friedel, OSA and Fr. Bill Sullivan, OSA
Homilist: Fr. Bill Sullivan, OSA


            I want to first indicate that this homily is a collaborative effort between Jim Friedel and myself.  The Providence community indicated that Ray had left four names regarding who would preach the homily at his funeral Mass.  The men at Providence indicated that they had removed two names.  The two remaining names were Jim and myself.  When we heard this, each of us volunteered…I volunteered Jim, and he volunteered me!  Both of us were anxious to have the other do the homily because, quite frankly, neither one of us felt we could get through it without breaking down.  Finally I volunteered because I was able to get through Tom Martin’s homily, a dear friend of so many of us in the Province, until almost at the end when my voice broke.  Yet, let me state once again that his homily was prepared by both Jim and me.

            Ray left three readings he wished to have done at his funeral:  Psalm 63:2-9, St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 1:3-11, and St. Luke’s Gospel 24:13-35.  The only problem was that he didn’t say why he had chosen them.  This was the point of our collaboration, namely to attempt to discern what message Ray wanted to leave in these Scripture readings.

            In St. Luke’s Gospel, three things of real significance happen.  But first, please allow me to set the scene.  These travelers, these disciples, are on their way to Emmaus, a town a short journey from Jerusalem.  They are discouraged and disillusioned.  They had thought that Jesus was the “Promised One”, the Messiah.  But now, with Jesus’ death, their hopes were dashed.  Jesus joins them, but they didn’t recognize him.  Jesus does three things for them.

            First, he brings to them an understanding of Scripture they didn’t have before.  Using the Prophets, he shows them that their idea of a politically triumphant Messiah was wrong.  He showed them that an important part of the Messiah’s mission was to suffer for humanity’s sins before entering his glory.

            Many of us have heard Ray preach.  Ruling out Scripture, I would challenge anyone who thought he used a book of homilies or a homily service when he preached.  He possessed a biblical wisdom – the Spirit alive in his heart was the same Spirit who inspired the Scripture in the first place.  Many of us who went to him for Reconciliation, for spiritual direction, or simply for advice were beneficiaries of this wisdom.

            Secondly, as evening and darkness came, these disciple-travelers’ invited Jesus, still unknown to them, to join them, and so he did.  At the meal, St. Luke tells us that Jesus “broke bread” a phrase to the early Church which indicated the celebration of the Eucharist.  Then they recognized him, but he “disappeared from their sight.”

            Ray was a Eucharistic person.  Of course, he was a priest, but he was Eucharistic in more ways than that.  He continually gave of himself.  He was a source of unity, a person of reconciliation.  In 1971, at age 40, he was elected as our youngest Provincial.  When he was elected, the Province was divided between pre-Vatican II men and men anxious for renewal.  While Ray was a religious and a priest profoundly affected by Vatican II, to all the men he spoke a language of caring, of concern, of love.  He never adopted an adversarial position.  In the manner of Christ and of Augustine, he saw himself as a servant-leader.  So many of us were touched by him, by an element consistent with Augustinian spirituality…he was a friend.  He had a keen sense of humor.  I remember once when we were at a talk given on prayer.  The leader – I can’t remember if it was a man or a woman – lauded us for caring enough about our prayer life to come to this meeting.  The leader then indicated that he/she thought even the names “Father”, “Jesus, Lord”, “Spirit of God”, were too formal and we should adopt a name which would bring us even closer to God, a name between God and us alone.  Frankly, I thought this was crazy, but Ray, in his own inimitable way, cleared his throat a couple of times and whispered to me, “I don’t know about you, but I really like the name ‘O Fiery Other.’”  We both started to laugh.  I don’t think we came back after lunch.

            In the third part of this Lucan reading, the disciples go back to the community to share what they have just experienced.  As a religious and as a leader, Ray was always realistic and practical about community life.  As he assumed the Provincialate for the third time in 1987, he said this to all of us gathered in Chapter:

     We do not need to belabor the fact that we live in difficult times.  Our world, our Church,
and our own personal lives, have been touched by tensions.  At the same time, we can 
be grateful that few of us will die of boredom.  There is an excitement in this era which
few generations have ever experienced.  We are caught, most of us, between a strange
mix of fear and wonder.  Cast off from a land of security and predictability, most of us
find ourselves moving in a sea toward a shore whose landscape is only vaguely
apparent.  Helplessness is perhaps the most common name we give to our experience.
It is the most ordinary way of the Lord in preparing His people for conversion.  It is a
powerfully graced moment in ecclesial, communal and personal history.  It is a prelude
to that radical and painful change that is at the heart of the gospel.  It is also a condition
which can lead to a crippling anxiety and fear, causing us to dig in and gather the
wagons in a circle.  The helplessness of the Lord’s graced moment is intended to urge
us on to see and hear again in new ways.  It always leads to hope.

     The helplessness of these times can well indicate that, in the near future, we religious will
be called again to embrace a more radical way of gospel living.  All of this is intended
neither to heap more guilt upon us nor to indicate that having only five pairs of socks
makes us poor in spirit.  Reflecting on the larger picture, however, is extremely
important in trying to find meaning.  The experience of helplessness is related to a
specific moment in our history.  We are like the first disciples of Jesus caught in a storm
at sea.  Their dreams about the meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven had to yield to His.
Jesus was respectful and patient, but clear about what was really important.  As they
moved along in their journey with Him, the disciples had to make difficult choices.  And
so will we.  In characteristically human fashion, we are only beginning to understand
what the Lord is asking of us.  It is good to know in faith that He is in the boat with us.

            He was prophetic; he read the signs of the times.  Yet in every community where he was a member, almost always as Prior, that community could expect significant party time.  He loved party hats, poppers, streamers, children’s party horns.  It didn’t take a great deal to have a celebration.  Many pictures of all of us dressed in these outfits are circulating in the Province.

            I remember vividly one party celebrating Br. Bob Fisher’s birthday.  I believe Ray came up with the idea of celebrating Bob’s Bohemian ancestry, as well as his birthday.  This celebration not only had the horns, etc., but T-shirts with “O Bohemia” written across the front.  In honor of the combination birthday-ancestry day, a song was written by Fr. John Szura, O.S.A., (one of our concelebrants this morning).  It was sung to the tune of “O Canada”.

            One final story about Ray and his penchant for celebrations.  When Ray finished his third term as Provincial in 1991, he was assigned to our house in St. Louis.  Unfortunately a little over a mile from our house was the Gratiot Carnival Mart.  This store sold all types of carnival supplies and was open to the public.  Not a few of us wondered if Ray needed to get into a 12 Step Program where he could deal with his attraction to party hats, horns, etc!  This was unnecessary because he gave good evidence that he had this well under control.

            The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus tells us of the ways Jesus is present to His Church.  He is present in his Word, in his sacramental system, especially in the Eucharist, and in his people.  Ray passed from us on March 26th, this year the feast of the Annunciation.  The first thing Mary did after she got word that she would give birth to God’s Son is that she went to be with her cousin, Elizabeth, who also was expecting a child and who might need help.  How appropriate that this is the day Ray entered eternity.  A man characterized by service, by compassion, by understanding, by approachableness, by deep spirituality, by humility.  So many of you could add to this list.  He told us that he looked forward to joining Jesus, the Blessed Mother, St. Augustine, his mother and father, his family, and so many others whose lives he has touched.

            This Mass is offered more for his family than for him.  We pray that he will intercede for us in heaven, just as he counseled so many of us here on earth.  We’re mindful this morning of the words of beloved Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, “You have brought me to the gate.  I will have to enter first, but know that I will carry each of you with me in my heart”.

            And so, old and dear friend, we bid you not good-bye, but until we meet again.

                 Amen. Alleluia.