Thirty-two-year-old Fr Derek Ryan, CSsR, was ordained at St Joseph’s Redemptorist Church in Dundalk Co Louth last Sunday by Archbishop Joseph Tobin, Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The newly ordained priest will now take up ministry at Clonard Monastery in Belfast and will also work on parish missions and novenas around the country.
“I will work part-time with the Clonard Youth Ministry team, a lay team who work with teenagers and young adults,” Fr Derek told ciNews.
This is the first ordination for the order since three young men were ordained in 2009. Currently, there are two men training with the Redemptorists but it is likely to be up to four years before there is another ordination.
Originally from Enfield, Co Meath, the young priest spent nine years studying with the Redemptorists in Dublin, Chicago, Clonard and Dundalk before ordination. “We place a lot of emphasis on pastoral experience in our training and so I spent some of my summers working abroad in India, Philippines and Brazil as well as a year working in our parish in Dundalk and another year working in Clonard Monastery on the Falls Road in Belfast,” he explained to ciNews.
Born in 1979, Derek Ryan attended St Michael’s Secondary School in Trim, Co Meath. He obtained a BA degree in Business Studies from the Dublin Business School in 2001. Following a short stint as a bank official with Ulster Bank, he worked for an investment company for 18 months before joining the Redemptorists in 2002.
He related to ciNews how he encountered the Redemptorists during a parish mission in a neighbouring parish about 10 years ago.
“After doing a bit of research on the congregation, their charism of missionary outreach to the poor and most abandoned in our society and our world, appealed to me greatly,” he recalled. According to Fr Derek, “Too often people feel excluded from the Catholic Church. The Redemptorists preach the Good News message of Jesus Christ. This Good News should not leave people feeling excluded from a loving and compassionate God.”
Of his ordination ceremony, which was attended by family, friends and confreres from around Ireland, Fr Derek said that, though, “A lot of my peers wouldn’t be mass goers, they were taken by the moving ordination liturgy last Sunday. It was almost two hours long but one of my atheist friends said he never looked at his watch once. That says something!”
Speaking of the honour of having Archbishop Tobin preside over his ordination, Fr Derek said he had known him before his appointment as Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for religious life and as a Visitor to the Irish Church.
“I knew him before he became famous! When I joined the Redemptorists, he was the Superior General of the Congregation. I’ve known him for nine years now and was delighted that he flew over from the Vatican to ordain me. In his day he was a great ice-hockey player but now he’s confined to early morning runs around the walls of Vatican City,” Fr Derek related.
Of the difficult context for the Irish Church and society generally in which he has made this life-long commitment, Fr Derek acknowledged, “Of course the abuse crisis has weighed heavily on me throughout my training for priesthood. When I joined religious life in 2002 there were some abusers already being sent to prison for their crimes. Throughout my training I’ve had to read and hear of cases before the courts and listen to the devastating impact such crimes have on people.”
He added, “Some of my friends would say that I’m mad for staying in the Church. But the reason I did stay was my love for ministry, the Redemptorist congregation and a desire to walk with people on their faith journey. Sometimes that journey of life can be quite difficult for people. It’s a great privilege and honour to be available to those who are most in need and to serve people in the sacraments.”
Fr Derek’s Mass of Thanksgiving will take place in Jordanstown Church, Enfield on Saturday December 10 at 7:00pm.
In the Order of Service booklet for his Ordination Ceremony Fr Derek wrote, “Going forward for ordination to priesthood might be considered an unusual step for a young person to take in this day and age. There is no doubt that we live in turbulent times in both the church and society. But this is a decision I have not taken lightly.”
Picture shows Fr Derek Ryan, C.SsR. with Archbishop Joseph Tobin, C.SsR. (behind) and Fr Michael Cusack, C.SsR., Superior at St. Joseph's and Administrator of St. Joseph's Parish Dundalk (right).
by Sarah Mac Donald