Rev. Joseph J. Ryan, CSV, died suddenly on June 19, 1944 while undergoing treatment at Holy Cross Hospital in Chicago. His untimely death came exactly one month after his birthday. He was 37.
Fr. Ryan was born May 19, 1907, the fourth of seven children, in Coal City, IL. Growing up, he attended Assumption School in Coal City, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of LaGrange, IL. He learned to serve Mass during the pastorate of the future bishop of Springfield, IL, the Most Rev. James A. Griffin, DD.
As a young teen, Fr. Ryan entered St. Viator Academy in Bourbonnais in 1922, and he completed the high school work needed for admission into the Novitiate, in three years.
Fr. Ryan entered the Viatorian Novitiate in 1925, in Chamberlain, SD, pronouncing his first vows on August 15, 1926. The same day he left for his new assignment at St. Viator College in Bourbonnais, to earn his college degree. Upon graduating in 1930, Fr. Ryan spent the next two summers pursuing his graduate degree in English literature at the University of Illinois in Champaign.
In the fall of 1930, he began his seminary career under a newly created faculty of theology at St. Viator College. After two years, he continued his studies at the Viatorian Seminary in Washington, DC.
On May 26, 1934, Fr. Ryan was ordained to the priesthood in Springfield by Bishop James A. Griffin, his former pastor in Coal City. Fr. Ryan was the pride of Coal City, and the first hometown boy to become a priest.
His first assignment as a priest was at St. Viator College as prefect of discipline and as an instructor of English and religion. During this time, he also assisted in parishes, taking care of convents and relieving chaplains in hospitals.
Fr. Ryans’s health declined following a car accident in 1936, and he was transferred to Cathedral Boys School in Springfield the next year. His success in the classroom continued and his success with souls became even greater, despite his infirmities.
In 1940, Fr. Ryan was transferred to Des Moines, to teach at Dowling College. Fr. Ryan spent his last year of teaching at St. Rita’s High School in Chicago.
A solemn requiem funeral Mass was celebrated June 22 by his Provincial, the Very Rev. Richard J. French, at his home parish, the Church of the Assumption in Coal City. The Very Rev. John P. O’Mahoney, his former provincial, preached the sermon. He was laid to rest with his brothers in the Viatorian plot at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cemetery in Bourbonnais.
Taken from the 1944 Annuaire, a publication of the Viatorian General Direction