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April 19, 2024 – Fr. Francis J. Ryan, SJ, was born on May 19, 1926, and grew up in Dorchester, Mass., the son of John J. and Mary Ann (Connelly) Ryan. There were eight children, three girls and five boys. Four of the five boys became Jesuit priests and served in widely diverse ministries: Lawrence M., parish ministry (d. 1993); Joseph L., professor at Baghdad College and, later, college administrator (d. 1996); Martin E., professor of English literature (d. 2009); and Francis J., high school teacher and parish priest in Jamaica. Fr. Ryan entered the Jesuits in 1943 right after graduating from Boston College High School. He spent his novitiate and juniorate years (1943-1947) at Shadowbrook in Lenox, Mass., and did his philosophy studies at Weston College in Weston (1947-1950), earning a B.A. in Philosophy. After teaching for three years as a regent at St. George’s in Jamaica (1950-1953), he returned to Weston College (later renamed Weston Jesuit School of Theology) for 1953-1957, earning the S.T.L. degree (Licentiate in Sacred Theology) 1957. After his theology studies, he did his tertianship (third year of spiritual formation) at St. Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Center in Asaph, Wales. Then he went back to Jamaica to teach English at St. Georges.

While in Jamaica, Fr. Ryan founded the Reading Center with Fr. William Sheehan, SJ. The center encouraged all Jamaicans to regard their daily language as English and not dismiss it as just another creole language, and to prize it and contribute to its usage and growth. In keeping with his conviction, Fr. Ryan undertook to make books available to everyone and to widen the reading public as much as possible. In addition to spreading his love of literature to his beloved Jamaicans informally through the Reading Center, Fr. Ryan also taught English literature and religion for 25 years at St. George’s (1965-1990). For four of those years he was also rector of the Jesuit community. To update himself in theology and develop further his teaching skills, he took sabbatical semesters over the years at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Calif., and St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park, California. In 1990, he turned from full-time teaching to being a parish priest in Jamaica at St. Ignatius Church in Browns Town St. Ann, along with missions at Discovery Bay and Runaway Bay. He remained at St. Ignatius until 2001 when he moved to Patrick House in Kingston to continue pastoral ministry there, and also to be Regional Treasurer. Parishioners in the parishes he served remember him as a compassionate and skilled pastor.

In October 2006 at the annual awards banquet of St. George’s School in Kingston, Jamaica, five distinguished men were inducted into the School’s Hall of Fame. Each represented, in the account in the Daily Gleaner newspaper, “a lifelong commitment to serving their communities.” St. George’s is the premier secondary school in Jamaica. One of the five was Fr. Ryan, who, according to the newspaper account, “spent 50 years dedicating his time and making significant contribution to the quality of education and religious instruction in Jamaica. His passion lies with helping others and he works diligently to improve society.”

Fr. Ryan differentiated himself from his brothers by his years of ministry in Jamaica and also his distinctive nickname “Tex,” bestowed on him by his fellow Jesuit novices who detected in his gait a Western-movie swagger. Though Fr. Ryan stood apart from his family by his nickname and place of ministry, he inherited his family’s delight in conversing. Even when bedridden in his later years of retirement at Campion Center, he invited with a loud “hello” passers-by in the corridor to come into his room for a “chat,” which lasted longer than most chats.

By late November 2011, at the age of 89, health problems forced Fr. Ryan to move to the Jesuit retirement facility, Campion Center in Weston, Mass., where he spent his last years before dying peacefully on April 16, 2024.