18 June 2018

Columban Fr Martin Ryan RIP

Fr Martin Ryan
23 January 1929 - 15 June 2018

Fr Martin Ryan was born on 23 January 1929 in Wildfield, Muckalee, County Kilkenny, Ireland. Educated at Muckalee National School and St Kieran's College, Kilkenny, he entered St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Navan, in 1947 and was ordained priest on 21 December 1953.


St Kieran's College, Kilkenny [Wikipedia]

Father Martin was assigned to Mindanao, Philippines, in 1954 where he would work in various pastoral assignments over the following fifty years. He served in Gingoog City (Misamis Oriental, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro), Dumalinao (Zamboanga del Sur, Diocese of Pagadian), Mambajao (Camiguin, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro), Maranding, Linamon and Maigo (all in Lanao del Norte) and in Corpus Christi, Iligan City (those four in the Diocese of Iligan).


Mambajao, Camiguin [Wikipedia]

Around the mid-1980s Father Martin became acutely aware that he had a drinking problem. After many fruitless attempts to keep sober by his own efforts, he eventually requested that he be sent to Guest House in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. He then returned briefly to parish work in Iligan City. 

He then went to Ireland where he joined a recovery group. By the grace of God, and with the help of such groups, Father Martin enjoyed continuous sobriety from then until the end of his life. With typical frankness he wrote of his alcoholism in his memoir Muckalee to Mindanao and Back: A Missionary Round Trip, 'My sobriety today is a precious gift which I cherish'.


Sr Regina 'Inday' Bernad SSC [Columban Sisters]

Once he was sober Father Martin went to extraordinary lengths, travelling long distances to hold meetings with fellow alcoholics. He was very aware that alcoholism was causing great suffering and damage to many Filipino families. finally, with the help of Filipina Columban Sister Regina 'Inday' Bernad, who died in 2016, and trained therapist Rene Francisco he founded a treatment centre in Ozamiz City called 'IT WORKS'. (More about IT WORKS here).


It Works, Ozamiz City [FB]

In its first ten years 800 Filipinos graduated from the centre and 75 per cent of them continue to be sober. Father Martin built up the centre, sought funds for its maintenance, and when he was sure that ti could continue its work without his presence he returned to Ireland.

Father Martin was blessed with a child-like directness and simplicity. He gave himself unstintingly to the task in hand. The accidental death of his brother and fellow Columban, Father Laurence, 'Lar', in October 1995 was a very heavy blow which he bore with courage and patience. He had a passion for hurling and was always anxious for news about the fortunes of Kilkenny and of his local club, St Martins, which was named in his honour. (He had convinced the three clubs attached to the three churches in his native parish that they would be much more successful if they combined. This proved to be correct).

Father Martin died at St Columban's Retirement Home in Dalgan Park. He will be buried on Wednesday 20 June in his home parish of Muckalee in the grounds of the church of St Brendan.

May his great soul rest in peace.


St Brendan's, Muckalee [Diocese of Ossory]


Obituary by Fr Cyril Lovett.




In County Kilkenny one sport is supreme: the ancient Irish game of hurling. The clip above shows the great skill of a friend of Father Martin, Henry Shefflin (No 15 in the black and amber stripes of Kilkenny and known as 'King Henry'), considered one of the greatest ever hurlers and who retired from senior hurling in 2015. These players are all amateurs.

The Rose of Mooncoin is the anthem of Kilkenny hurlers. It is sung here by Johnny McEvoy who in his introduction mentions his childhood hero Ollie Walsh, the Kilkenny goalkeeper from 1956 till 1972. 

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