Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 4, 2004
Sr. Ryan loved all as her brothers, sisters
She shared her gratitude with everyone
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The world was her family and Ursulines of Jesus Sister Maureen Ryan loved each person as if they were her own brother or sister.
Well respected for her devoted pastoral service and hours spent in prayer, Ryan died Sept. 4 after a brief illness. She was 85.
Sister Connie Piska deeply mourns the loss of her long-time friend and roommate.
"She is very much in my heart. She was a very generous person, with a heart as big as herself," Piska said. "She came to Canada with the idea of being a missionary, and she really was one at heart all her life. She loved people and people loved her."
Piska called Ryan a disciplined person, someone who continued ministering to the sick and elderly even though her own health was failing noticeably.
"Over the summer, I could see she was failing, but she kept going," Piska said. "She was very active, right to the end. The day I took her into the hospital, she had driven the sisters to a service for seniors. The weekend before, she was at St. Edmund Parish in pastoral ministry."
For each person's birthday, a feast day or an anniversary, Ryan would make a special holy hour, apart from her usual daily hour of prayer, as a personal gift. Piska marvelled that her good friend found the time.
"But she did rise at 6:15 every morning, got dressed and had her breakfast," she said. "She then had her prayer time and then Mass and the Eucharist. Then she went off to a destination to serve, whether it was at the parish or visiting the sick."
Born in Kilcommon, Ireland, July 15, 1919, Ryan began her postulancy in France in 1937. Six months later, she entered novitiate of the Ursulines of Jesus.
After a year, she made her first vows. The next day, Ryan received her first mission - to go to Canada. After two weeks with her family back in Ireland, Ryan made her way to Edmonton where she served for 66 years.
On the fifth anniversary of her first vows, Ryan made her final commitment to the order.
Because she loved people, her ministry with seniors and shut-ins touched many. She used to bake Irish tea cakes, called barmbrack, most evenings before she went to bed. Ryan would share them among her sisters, take some to the parish and bring them to the seniors.
"Those were her gifts for the shut-ins, her holy hours and her tea cakes."
Ryan was a person who considered her own life so blessed and fortunate, she shared her gratitude with everyone. She illuminated people from deep within their souls.
As a school teacher from 1964 to 1976 at the Heisler School, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and as principal of Sherwood Park Community Catholic School, many people might remember her by her religious name, Sister Mary Sebastian. She was always a favourite of the students.
When she retired from teaching in 1976, Ryan went immediately to pastoral ministry, bringing the Eucharist to the sick and dying.
She moved into St. Edmund's Parish where she cooked, cleaned and cut the grass. And to the end, Ryan could be relied upon to play the organ at Mass.
"She was so generous and wide-open to people, so sensitive to their needs," Piska said. "In recent years, she returned to Ireland regularly. She had always kept in touch with her family. She wrote a lot of letters to her brother, her sister while she was alive and her 20-odd nieces and nephews. They loved her dearly, calling her Auntie Ellie."
Her family and friends celebrated her life with a large church service in Kilcommon, where Ryan was to return for her annual visit, Sept. 14.