PROVIDENCE — Diocese of Providence Seminarian Patrick Ryan was one of 23 seminarians from the Pontifical North American College in Rome ordained to the transitional diaconate on Sept. 29.
The Most Rev. Austin Vetter, Bishop of Helena, Montana, was the ordaining prelate at the Ordination Mass, which was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter, in the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican.
Bishop Vetter had served on the formation faculty of the College as Director of Spiritual Formation from 2012-2018.
In his homily, Bishop Vetter highlighted how the day’s liturgical feast of the Archangels should encourage the men to be messengers of God.
In reference to the day’s Gospel reading, the bishop called on the seminarians to not overlook the Nathanaels of the world who are not just in fig trees, but in nursing homes, prisons, coffee shops and everywhere else.
“Get into the mess like Jesus Christ, who came to serve and not to be served – serve them and you will find that you are bumping into Jesus all over the place,” Bishop Vetter said.
He encouraged the 23 men to launch into their new ministry, employing the three main tools of obedience, life-giving celibacy and prayer.
The bishop also provided wisdom on the importance of the diaconal promise of praying the Liturgy of the Hours.
“Some days it’s going to feel like all your efforts have failed, but if you stay faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours, then everyday bears fruit for the Kingdom,” Bishop Vetter said.
The newly ordained deacons vowed to live a life of prayer, celibacy and obedience to their diocesan bishops.
The Ordination Mass was broadcast in the U.S. on the EWTN religious network.
The new deacons will have an additional year of theological studies and spiritual formation before being ordained to the priesthood in their home dioceses.
In addition to the 23 men being ordained at the Vatican on Sept. 29, eight of their classmates were earlier ordained to the transitional diaconate in the preceding months.
A number of Ryan’s family members, friends and supporters, including his pastor, made the trip to Rome to attend his diaconate ordination.
“I was very happy that I was able to attend, not only because I’m Patrick’s pastor, but also because like Patrick I grew up at SS. John and Paul,” said Father Michael Woolley, pastor of SS. John and Paul Parish, Coventry.
“The Ryans for years have attended the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass, which my father ushered at for 40 years,” he noted. “When Mr. And Mrs. Ryan and their five children (the youngest being Patrick) walked into the church, my dad would each Sunday go over to them and escort them to a seat, which he probably had reserved for them, as the Mass was a lot more crowded back then!”
Father Woolley said that as far as he knows, he is the first priest who was born and raised at SS. John and Paul Parish to be ordained to the priesthood, while Father Christopher Mahar – who experienced his own diaconate ordination at St. Peter’s in Rome in 2003, which Father Woolley also attended – is the second. “God willing, Patrick will be the third priest to be born and raised at our parish,” he said. “We’re also praying that seminarian Nicholas Whittaker, who also was born and raised in the parish and has at least six more years until ordination, will one day be number four.”
Deacon Ryan is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood on June 24, 2023, at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, Providence.
Father Woolley said that another thing he shares in common with Ryan is that this past summer, Ryan was assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Woonsocket, where he was assigned for 15 years, serving as the last 11 years as pastor.
“I’ve heard a lot of good feedback from parishioners there who were impressed with him, as we are at SS. John and Paul,” he said.
“I’m especially impressed with Patrick’s prayerfulness; whenever he’s home, he frequently stays after Mass to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. I’m sure he’s going to make a great deacon and God willing a great priest.”
Father Brendan Rowley, who serves as Administrator of St. Mary Parish, Pawtucket, also made the trip to Rome to attend the ordination.
Father Rowley said that he first met Ryan when he would come to visit nearby St. John’s Seminary, while he was attending Boston University.
He said he really got to know him from the two years they both studied together in the seminary, as well as from serving for two years as the assistant pastor of Ryan’s home parish, SS. John & Paul, in Coventry.
“Patrick is a very humble and holy young man,” Father Rowley said. “To be around Patrick is to be around someone who effortlessly conveys a spirit of profound peace and a deep sense of joy. It is clear that this is the result of his deep faith in Jesus Christ and the Church and his commitment to serving and following the will of God in his life.”
Paraphrasing a line from the newly ordained deacon’s first homily, delivered at the Basilica of San Clemente, in which he referred to the Blessed Mother and John, the beloved disciple, “Patrick joyfully accepts God’s will for his life as it is.”
“And that is why he is going to make a great transitional Deacon this year and a great priest of Jesus Christ when he is ordained next year,” Father Rowley said. “The Catholic Church and the Diocese of Providence will undoubtedly be blessed by his priestly ministry and witness.”
In the meantime, Deacon Ryan will continue his weekend apostolic assignment at a U.S. military base in Naples, Italy, from which at least two families residing there attended his ordination and spoke highly of his ministry to those serving their country there, according to Father Rowley.
Father Christopher J. Murphy, rector of Our Lady of Providence Seminary, said that Deacon Ryan brings many gifts to the Church.
“We’re proud of Deacon Patrick Ryan as he begins his diaconal ministry,” Father Murphy said.
“It has been a personal privilege for me to accompany Patrick throughout his discernment and during the years of his formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary. He brings many gifts to the Church, all rooted in an authentic relationship with the Lord through prayer.”
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