Biographies

Sister Marie Aimee Ryan, MM

Born: July 18, 1902
Entered: October 15, 1925
Died: November 15, 1986

We gather this morning, once again, as a Christian community, a community of faith in the Lord Jesus, to celebrate the life, death and entrance into eternal life of one of our dearly beloved Sisters, Sister Marie Aimee Ryan. On November 15, 1986 at four o’clock in the afternoon, having finished the work the Lord had given her to do, Sister responded to her Lord’s ultimate call: “Come, my beloved, come!” He loved her with an everlasting love.

Sister Marie Aimee Ryan was born in Glen Cove, New York, on July 18, 1902. At her baptism, her parents, Thomas J. Ryan and Mary Elizabeth Moran Ryan, named her Marie de Lourdes after an aunt of that name, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. After graduating fran St. Mary’s High School in Waltham, Massachusetts, Sister worked in Boston. She entered Maryknoll on October 15, 1925. She was 23 years old.

At her reception her beautiful name was changed to another beautiful name, Marie Aimee, Marie beloved. She made her first profession of vows on April 30, 1928 and that same year, she was assigned to Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii. There, on April 30, 1931, she made her final profession. Before leaving for her assignnent to Hawaii, Sister had attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C., to work towards a degree. In those days, it was not a matter of taking one or more years off to complete one’s studies. In Hawaii, after having large classes of children all year, Sister, in order to obtain her needed degree, uncomplainingly spent summer upon summer, from 1931 – 1938 taking courses at the University of Hawaii. This education was again interrupted by her assignnent to the Philippines. Her active apostolate there was cut short by World War II and three of her years in those Islands were spent in an internnent camp. Having returned hare, she finally completed the work for her Bachelor’s degree in Education at Maryknoll Teachers College in 1946, 18 years after she had begun those studies.

Sister’s positive attitude toward life, her own self-confidence and the variety of her interests which included art, reading, drama, music, sports, flower gardening and just plan socializing with friends, were assets not only for her but also for those who had to find a versatile and adaptable person to fill the demands coming from the missions. In her later years she wrote, “I am sincerely grateful for my years at Maryknoll in fields afar and near.” In Hawaii these years included Wailuku, Maui, Kalihi Kai, where she also served as superior, and Waikiki. In the United States, these assignnents were San Juan Capistrano, Chinatown in Chicago, St. Louis and here at the Center as secretary for Mission Education and in Data Processing. Writing to Mother Mary Columba, after hearing her name on the 1954 assignnent list, she said, “To find myself on the assignment list was a big surprise… I’ll miss the Chinese but I am sure that I will find these people equally lovable.” Sister had worked with peoples from a variety of cultures.  It was a new adventure, and one she embraced with enthusiasm. She wrote, “Be assured I shall try my best in the new work ahead.” This was her attitude always, whether in work, in life, in sickness or in health. Her superiors referred to her always as “a very fine Sister”, “a very good religious.”

Vatican II brought a wave of change in the Church and in religious life. Sister found some of the changes difficult, especially the change of habit. She came to terms with these difficulties in her own way, maintaining her friendly and outgoing manner, managing her own life and allowing others also to be free.

For the last 12 years of her life, failing health limited her physical functioning. But just as she had done during all her years before, Sister learned to face her limitations and to adapt to them in a satisfactory manner. Throughout her illness, Sister maintained her positive attitude and her delightful sense of hunur. She related well to her peers, often expressed gratitude for those who cared for her and continued to maintain her close family ties. Her family has always been very dear to her. In 1982, on the occasion of her 80th birthday she wrote, “…the idea of going to the family for my 80th birthday was a last minute plan but one which has meant much more than I had realized.”

On June 19, 1984, Sister was admitted to the Maryknoll Nursing Home from Phelps Memorial Hospital where she had been for treatment. She accepted this change with the same trust in God, the same abandonment she had brought to all that the Lord had asked of her throughout her life. Her faith in Jesus included accepting the burden of her humanity and the mystery of suffering. As late as August 1982 she wrote, “There is a spirit (at Maryknoll) difficult to explain but very real, deep and Christlike.” It apparently did not occur to her that in writing these words she revealed a great deal about herself for she had helped foster that spirit for over 60 years!

Daily, on this altar of sacrifice, there is a beautiful, large-cupped hammered silver chalice from which many of us partake of the blood of Christ. This chalice is the gift of the Ryan family, given in memory of Mark Ryan, Sister Marie Aimee’s brother. It is a wonderful place for us to remember Sister, and especially today. As we ourselves encounter Christ let us pray:

“God, source of all life, You who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, reunite our Sister with her Maryknoll family in heaven and her own family now with You. Raise up our Marie Aimee, Marie beloved, give her the reward of her long and faithful labors, of her long years of bearing in her small and frail body, the sufferings and death of Jesus. Now that her earthly life is ended, give her an everlasting home in heaven, one not built by human hands but built on your love for her and her love for You. This we ask through Jesus Christ who is our life and our resurrection, who is our way and our love in the Holy Spirit.”

We welcome among us and offer our sympathy to Sister’s family and friends.