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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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in memoriam

Rev. Ryan, missionary and chaplain, dies at 80

Redemptorist Father John J. Ryan, who served in Puerto Rico for nearly a quarter of a century, died at St. John Neumann Residence in Saratoga Springs, NY, on Thursday, April 17. He was 80 years old. The Funeral Mass for the Boston native was offered April 22 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (MissionChurch) in Boston, where Father Ryan had been serving since 1989. Burial was in the Redemptorist cemetery in Boston.

The son of Patrick and Elizabeth Fitzgerald Ryan, he was born Nov. 21, 1927; he and his five sisters were raised in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. From the time he was old enough to serve at the altar, he knew he wanted to be a priest and, after finishing grammar school, he was accepted at the Redemptorist seminary in North East, PA. He spent his novitiate year in Ilchester, MD, made his first profession of vows in 1948 and his final profession in 1951. After completing his studies at Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY, he was ordained to the priesthood on June 21, 1953.

Like many of his confreres at the time, Father Ryan’s first assignments were overseas, in his case, to Puerto Rico. He was sent to Guayama in 1955 and was named rector at Aguas Buenas in 1964. His next assignment was as rector back in Aguas Buenas. In 1972, he was chosen to serve as Baltimore Provincial Consultor and Assistant Procurator and so moved to the Redemptorist Provincial Residence in Brooklyn. He resigned from those positions and, in 1976, officially transferred to the then Vice Province of San Juan, serving again in Guayama. In 1979 he was assigned to Fajardo.

When Redemptorist Father Felipe Santiago learned of Father Ryan’s death, he recalled his days in Puerto Rico, describing his confrere as "one of those great Redemptorists that make a path in our presence in the Caribbean." When Father Santiago was growing up in Guayama, he found the missionary to be a great preacher: "The message of Jesus as Redeemer was proclaimed to the people in that temple through his deep, strong and clear voice with compassion and joy. You could see in the eyes of the people the reaction to the message that was proclaimed; their hearts were inflamed as Jesus was made present in their lives."

Father Ryan returned to Boston in 1981, serving at Mission Church for the next three years. He then was assigned to the Redemptorist seminary in Suffield, CT. In 1988, he went to Immaculate Conception Church in the Bronx and the following year he returned to Boston, where he served as a hospital chaplain. He also directed the Archdiocese of Boston’s Cursillo Movement for Spanish-speaking Catholics. "John was excellent in Spanish and they had great confidence in him," said his confrere, Father John Devin. "He also was a favorite at the hospital."

Father Thomas Travers, a former Vice Provincial of San Juan, said Father Ryan will long be remembered by the people of Aguas Buenas: "When he was rector there, he took on a project to knock down a little wooden church and built in its place a glorious modern church. The chapel had held about 200; the new church could seat around 500 people." What is more remarkable, Father Travers said, "is that he raised the money locally, from a small base in a poor town." He succeeded in this because he developed very good relationships with the laity and encouraged them to work together, Father Travers added.

When it came to managing money, as Procurator in San Juan, Assistant Procurator for Baltimore, or as a parish rector, Father Ryan was "very methodical and exacting with all the church books," said Father Lawrence Lover. Within the Redemptorist community, "he was a good, cooperative confrere whom anyone could ask for help," Father Lover added. "He was quiet and shy at times, but had a good sense of humor and could laugh at himself." Father Lover, who himself served in the Provincial Government and now is Baltimore’s canon lawyer, noted that Father Joseph Kerins chose Father Ryan as his consultor because "he was very honest and up-front so you always knew what John’s opinion was; he was a very capable fellow."

Having gotten to know Father Ryan in Boston during his own assignment there, Father Michael Hopkins said he was a wonderful minister of the house – kind, helpful and attentive to the confreres’ needs and preferences. Even in the midst of Boston’s "Big Dig," a years-long project that rerouted Interstate 93 through the center of the city, Father Ryan would offer to drive confreres to or from Logan Airport, an offer that went way beyond anyone’s reasonable expectations, Father Hopkins added. Father Ryan is survived by four of his sisters: Eileen M Ryan and Louise Ryan Lynch, both of Massachusetts, and School Sisters of Notre Dame M. Elizabeth Ryan and Patricia Ryan, both in Wilton, CT. He is predeceased by his sister, Sister Geraldine Ryan, SSND.


Rev. John Ryan C.Ss.R.

  • Born: November 21, 1927
  • Professed: August 2, 1948
  • Ordained: June 21, 1953
  • Died: April 17, 2008