Sister M. Kathleen Ryan, MM

Born: February 24, 1901
Entered: October 15, 1925
Died: April 25, 1982

Sister Mary Kathleen Ryan died on Sunday, April 25, 1982, at our Maryknoll Nursing Home after many years of illness.

Kathryn Ryan was born on February 24, 1901 in New York City, the daughter of Patrick and Della Ryan. She attended school in New York City and Brooklyn, and graduated from Bay Ridge High School in Brooklyn.

Kathryn entered Maryknoll on October 15, 1925, and received the name “Sister Mary Kathleen” at Reception. Sister Kathleen made first profession on April 30, 1928, and pronounced her final vows in 1931. She graduated from Maryknoll Teacher’s College, and attended Catholic University and Manhattanville College, where she received her Degree in Music. Sister Kathleen received her Teacher’s Diploma in Music from Pius X School. Her studies in music enhanced a great natural gift – one she shared freely. Many Maryknoll Sisters grew in knowledge and appreciation of Gregorian Chant because of Sister Kathleen; and many celebrations were made more beautiful by her violin playing.

Sister Kathleen was among the first Maryknoll Sisters to be assigned to Nicaragua, in 1944. After a few years there, in Siuna, she contracted an illness and had to return to the U.S. for treatment. She spent most of the next 15 years in Promotion Work. Much of this time Sister worked in the St. Louis area, and became part of the Community at Valley Park, where she also taught the Novices. Sister Kathleen was superior at Valley Park from 1962 – 1965. It was in the early l960’s that she began to show definite signs of an illness which progressed slowly but relentlessly.

Sister Kathleen was characterized by gentleness and deep refinement, which were expressive of a great reverence for and sensitivity to others. These qualities, together with the ability to adapt to different persons and circumstances made her an ideal promoter – one who could demonstrate effectively the urgency of mission and the needs of missioners. Sister Kathleen, through her work in the U.S., made many lasting friends for the Maryknoll Sisters, and discovered new ways to heighten mission awareness within the Catholic community.

This is what we know of Sister Kathleen’s life: the dates of significant events, the places and forms of her ministry in Maryknoll; the refinement of thought, word and manner that were so evident – her close friends and those who ministered to her have precious personal memories of her. We know, too, that during the last 20 years, Sister became less and less able to direct her physical movement and even to give expression to her thoughts and feelings. Still, for Sister Kathleen, as for all Maryknoll Sisters, mission continued to be a total way of life. I think, in this context, of the truth of Jesus’ words, “Is not life more than the body?”

As we celebrate this Eucharistic liturgy, in memory of Jesus, we remember Sister Kathleen with love and gratitude. We remember that she has joined those of our Community who have gone before Maryknoll Sisters whose life experiences and forms of ministry have been so varied, but who have been united with us and with one another by a common faith and a common call to mission as a total way of life. Their union with us endures through that mystery we name the Communion of Saints. And what of ourselves as we remember?

“Since we, for our part, are surrounded by such a large crowd of witnesses, let us lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us, and persevere in running the race which lies ahead: Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith. For the sake of the joy which lay before Him, He endured the cross, heedless of its shame. He lives forever in the glory of the Father.” (Hebrews: 12)

We offer our sympathy and our prayers to Sister Kathleen’s family and friends.

The Eucharistic Liturgy, offered in the Main Chapel of the Maryknoll Sisters Center, was celebrated by the Rev. John A. Cioppa, of the Maryknoll Fathers General Council.