Father Bernie Ryan has been attached to communities in Australia, New Zealand and Rome for 60 years as a gentleman with a strong faith.
Fr Ryan was ordained as a priest 60 years ago across the Tasman in New Zealand. He worked in New Zealand as a teacher for 28 years, mostly in boarding schools.
Fr Ryan, 85, first started teaching in Christchurch at St Bedes College in 1950, where he spent 11 years before moving to Wellington to teach at St Patrick’s College boarding school in the north.
“I had 10 years there teaching English, accounting, religion and rugby,” Fr Ryan said.
“After 10 years there I was transferred to St Johns College at Hastings on the beautiful east coat and they made me principal.”
During his teaching career Fr Ryan coached many sporting teams including soccer, rugby and athletics.
“Three rugby students I helped coach have gone on and played for the All Blacks but it wasn’t because of my coaching,” Fr Ryan said.
In 1977 Fr Ryan was sent to Rome to be the Superior General of the Marist Fathers and Brothers.
“At that stage our organisation had over 2000 men in 28 different countries around the world,” Fr Ryan said.
“They were mainly involved in missionary work among the poorest communities in Africa and the Philippines.”
After eight years in Rome Fr Ryan was given a six month study leave holiday to Australia, where he worked with Aboriginal people for the first time.
“I was invited to Bowraville in 1989 after the murders of three young Aboriginal children. The deaths put the community under terrible pressure and I worked within the community to support the families,” Fr Ryan said.
Years later Fr Ryan united with the Sisters of Mercy in Grafton.
Fr Ryan makes school, community and home visits on behalf of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry. He said: “I help families in time of grief with counselling, support young children through their schooling years and help build spirituality in the Aboriginal community.”
Fr Ryan recently went for his required 85-years-old drivers licence test and passed with flying colours.
However, if there is one thing Fr Ryan really wants to see pass with flying colours it’s Aboriginal reconciliation.
“I would like to see all the churches make a greater place in their worship and structure for Aboriginal people in general and be prepared to learn from them,” Fr Ryan said.
“So if that happens before I’m 99- years-old I’ll be very happy.”
The Aboriginal Catholic Ministry will be celebrating Fr Ryan’s 60th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood on December 13.
The service will be held at Sherwood church starting at 10am and a family barbecue will follow.
Source: The Macleay Argus