When news of the death of Fr Martin Ryan on Thursday, 17th July, filtered through to his native parish of Boherlahan-Dualla and his adopted parish of Cashel, there was genuine sadness and grief at the loss of a priest, friend, neighbour and community person.
Fr Martin had reached his eight-ninth year, sixty-three of which were in the priestly ministry.
He was born in Castlemoyle in 1925 and attended the local national school at his beloved Ardmayle. His entry to Rockwell College for his secondary education in 1939 coincided with Britain’s declaration of war on Germany. It was here that his interest in priesthood was nurtured and fostered. While there, he distinguished himself on the hurling and rugby fields. Under the influence of Fr Dan Delaney, his uncle, he opted to study for the priesthood at Clonliffe College for the Dublin Archdiocese. Later, he was sent to Maynooth College for his theological studies. He was ordained on 19th May 1951 and celebrated his first Mass in the Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Boherlahan, on the following day.
Fr Martin, affectionately known as Monty, spent forty-nine years of his priestly ministry serving in the Dublin Archdiocese. His first appointment was to Bray where he served as chaplain to St Gerard’s College. Two years later, he was moved to Peamount Sanitorium, again as chaplain, where he experienced at first hand the ravages of TB on the lives of so many people. In 1954, he got his first real taste of parish pastoral work when he was made curate in Kilmacud, a rapidly growing suburban area. His love of sport, in particular Gaelic games, spurred him on to become one of the founding members of the now famous Kilmacud Crokes GAA Club. Eight years later, he was moved as curate to Sandyford. He spent ten memorable years there, gaining much wisdom and understanding of priestly life. In 1972, he was made parish priest of Beaumont, a new parish bereft of a church, presbytery and primary school. Besides attending to the spiritual needs of his flock, he launched a building programme comprising of a new church, presbytery and a school with multiple classrooms, all of which stand as a witness to his devotion to the enhancement of the spiritual and temporal wellbeing of his community. Indeed, it was at this time that he became well-known in Government circles for his persistence in seeking financial assistance for his numerous educational building projects. Clondalkin parish was his final appointment where he spent almost two decades of his ministry. Quite an amount of his time was taken up with the provision of an educational infrastructure for a growing young population.
His final years in Clondalkin were bedevilled by a debilitating eye ailment, which prevented him from driving a car and restricted his involvement in parish work. This was a huge set-back to a dedicated priest, full of energy and vision in a challenging parish. In September 2000, he took the inevitable decision to retire from active ministry and opted to return to Cashel in retirement where he was close to his family. Although officially retired, he acted as ‘another’ curate in Cashel parish, regularly celebrating Mass in St Patrick’s Hospital but this too had to end.
Fr Martin had a great love of priesthood and devoted himself selflessly to bringing the mystery of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ to his flock, be they parishioners, neighbours, family or friends. Regular visits from his Dublin priest friends and former parishioners maintained his spirits in latter years. The presence of Bishop Eamonn Walsh of Dublin and a number of his contemporaries as well as local diocesan priests at his funeral Mass was testimony of the high esteem in which Fr Martin was held. His love of sport was epitomised with his passion for the blue and gold of Tipperary and his native parish colours. In recognition of his support for Gaelic games and his own contribution to the local teams in his youth, the Boherlahan-Dualla GAA Club formed a guard of honour, escorting the funeral cortege from the sports grounds to the church in the village of Boherlahan and his coffin was draped in the club colours. While chaplain to Leopardstown racecourse, he cultivated an interest in the equine world and was known to have a flutter on the horses. Being a man of the soil, he had a great love of nature and enjoyed the beauty of nature. He took great pride in his greenhouse where he got great satisfaction from the cycle of nature. His regular attendance at sporting, cultural and religious events in our parish will be sadly missed. Although his very limited sight curtailed his instant recognition on an acquaintance, the sound of a voice or the mention of a name quickly animated him.
His remains were removed to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Boherlahan, and received by Fr Joe Egan on Friday evening. Following concelebrated Requiem Mass on Saturday, led by Fr Conor Hayes, a former curate in Cashel and great friend of Fr Martin, he was laid to rest in the peace, solitude and quiet of Ardmayle Cemetery in the midst of his own family, neighbours and friends.
During his long life and especially his priest life, he touched the hearts of many, sharing in the most joyful events of their lives but also being there for them on the sad occasions. Fr Martin will be sadly missed by his immediate and extended family who went way beyond the call of duty during his disability to ensure that he was able to maintain his independence and still celebrate the Eucharist on a daily basis in his own home. Their love, loyalty, care and devotion were constant and faithful to the end. He is mourned by his brothers Philip, Dan and Tom, sisters Sr Mary, Anna Ryan and Josephine Tobin, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, grand-nephews, grand-nieces, cousins, his fellow priests and friends.
While mourning his passing, we believe that Fr Martin is now enjoying the fruits of his labour in his heavenly home, knowing that the seeds planted and nourished during his long priestly ministry will bear fruit in the Lord’s vineyard. Thanks Fr Martin. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.