THE Catholic diocese of Kildare & Leighlin is this week
mourning the death early on Monday morning at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin of
Most Rev. Laurence Ryan (72), retired bishop of the diocese.
Dr Ryan had served as bishop of the diocese from
December 1987 up to his resignation in August of last year.
The late bishop, who has been battling ill health for a
long number of years, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday of last week.
Prayers were offered for him at Masses in Carlow and
throughout the diocese over the weekend when it was clear that the end was
Most Rev. Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate
of All-Ireland this week led the tributes to the late bishop.
The Primate stated: “Fr. Larry Ryan was a postgraduate
student in St. Patrick’s College. Maynooth when I went there first in 1957.
During the 1970s we were delegates together to the National Conference of
Priests of Ireland.”
Over the past nine years he came to know Dr Ryan well
as a brother bishop in the Irish Bishops’ Conference. “He was for many
years president of the Justice and Peace Commission and a member of the
standing committee of the conference.
“Bishop Ryan was a strong and courageous advocate of
justice and a constant defender of human rights, especially the rights of
the weak and the poor.
“When, in recent years, illness brought about his early
retirement, the people of Kildare and Leighlin lost a kindly shepherd, and
the bishops, a highly esteemed and trusted colleague.
“I offer my sympathy to all who mourn Bishop Larry,
especially to his sister, brothers, Bishop Moriarty, and the priests,
religious and lay people of the diocese.”
Most Rev. Bishop Jim Moriarty, upon hearing the death
of his predecessor, said on Monday: “Throughout the diocese people and
priests will be saddened to hear of Bishop Larry’s death. He was a kind and
caring man whose dedication and commitment to his priestly life set an
example for many to follow. We will miss him greatly.”
An tAthair Caoimhín O’Neill, current President of
Carlow College, in a tribute to Dr. Laurence Ryan this week, remembered the
retired bishop’s time in the College.
An tAthair Caoimhín recalled: “As a colleague on the
staff we will remember him as a pleasant companion and a most efficient and
“He worked very hard. He managed to combine his
considerable teaching and administrative workload in the college with a
hectic involvement in Church-related organisations at national and regional
“As a theologian Laurence Ryan had a keen analytical
mind, was progressive in his thinking and was a much respected voice in The
“Past students of Carlow College will remember Bishop
Ryan as a good lecturer who knew them well and never forgot a name even
after 40 years!”
On Friday, September 12, the former bishop had attended
the official opening of the new national school in Drumphea, Myshall, Co.
Carlow - his last public appearance.
In late August of last year Bishop Ryan had been the
subject of high praise during the installation of his successor. The retired
bishop was highly praised on that occasion from many speakers for his
ministry as bishop from 1987 to 2002.
Dr. Ryan had been a courageous leader of the 183,000
Catholics in the diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, which embraces 56 parishes
and takes in all of County Carlow and parts of Kildare, Laois, Kilkenny,
Wicklow, Wexford and Offaly.
A native of Ballycrinnigan, St Mullins, Co. Carlow,
Laurence Ryan was born on May 13, 1931, the eldest of five children of the
late Michael and Brigid Ryan. He attended Glynn National School and then St.
Mary’s College, Knockbeg before studying for the priesthood at St Patrick’s
College, Maynooth, being ordained there in June 1956.
He served on the teaching staff of St Patrick’s
College, Carlow from 1958, being College President from 1974 to 1980.
Appointed parish priest of Naas, Co. Kildare in 1980 he
served in the Kildare county town until 1985.
In September 1984 Dr. Ryan was appointed as Coadjutor
Bishop of the diocese and in December 1987 succeeded the late Bishop Patrick
Lennon as bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.
Just like Bishop Ryan, Bishop Lennon had been a south
Carlow native, coming from Borris.
While parish priest of Naas, Bishop Ryan under-went
heart bypass surgery in early 1985.
His time as bishop was marked by huge changes in the
life of the Irish Church and his commitment to promoting the role of lay
people through the establishment of parish pastoral councils and a variety
of lay ministries was testament to this appreciation of the vision and
mission of the second Vatican Council.
In June 1997, Bishop Ryan led the people of Carlow and
the wider diocese in the rededication ceremony of the Cathedral of the
Assumption in Carlow, which is the 170-year-old ecclesiastical seat of the
On that occasion Bishop Ryan stated: “The renewal of
our Cathedral is symbolic of the changes taking place under the guidance of
the Holy Spirit in the wider Church community. It can be a catalyst for
further renewal through our diocese.”
The reordering of the Cathedral had provided the
greatest controversy of Bishop Ryan’s years as bishop. The reordering became
a point of local conflict, a traditionalist group named ‘Friends of The
Cathedral’ opposing the project.
On reaching his 70th birthday in 2001, Bishop Ryan felt
it an appropriate time to signal his impending departure as bishop and in
July of that year submitted his resignation to Pope John Paul II.
In retirement he lived in a house at Oak Park on the
outskirts of Carlow Town - a location selected by a retirement committee
from within the diocese.
Bishop Ryan had been a familiar figure for many years
as he went on his daily walk around Carlow Town and had greatly enjoyed his
all-too-short a time in retirement.
Reflecting on his time as bishop, he described them as
very happy years during which he got to know the diocese very well.
He said: “In my time as bishop I have tried to promote
the ideal of ‘collabo-rate ministry’ - the dovetailing of clergy and laity
in the promotion of the faith and especially greater lay involvement.”
A very scholarly man and deep thinker, the late Bishop
Ryan was never more at home than visiting his native parish of St Mullins to
be among his own people. He also paid close attention to the form of the St
While his loss will be felt throughout the entire
diocese it will felt most acutely in St Mullins and in his adopted Carlow,
where he carried out most of his priestly ministry of the past 47 years.
Outside of the diocese, Bishop Ryan was secretary to
the Irish Theological Society from 1966 to 1976. He was appointed the first
President of the National Conference of Priests of Ireland in 1976, was
chairman of the National Jubilee 2000 Committee and also served as president
of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace.
Bishop Ryan was a founder member and enthusiastic
promoter of CMAC (now ACCORD), the Catholic Marriage Advisory and
Counselling service in the diocese.
The former bishop’s brother, Pat, lives in
Ballycrinnigan, St. Mullins while his other brother, Mick, leaves near
Thurles. His only sister, Mrs. Maggie Morrissey, resides near Thomastown,
Co. Kilkenny. He was also predeceased by a brother, Jim.
Dr. Ryan’s remains were removed last evening (Tuesday)
from Healy’s Funeral Home, Pollerton, Carlow to the Cathedral of the
Assumption, arriving at 7.30pm. He is reposing in the Cathedral today
(Wednesday) until 10pm, with evening prayers at 7.30pm.
Requiem Mass will be celebrated at 2.30pm on Thursday,
after which the former bishop will be laid to rest in the Cathedral grounds.
Source: Laois Nationalist Thursday,
October 16, 2003 :
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