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Patrick John Ryan

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Sixth Bishop and second Archbishop of Philadelphia, b. At Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland, 20 February, 1831; d. At Philadelphia; 11 February, 1911. His early education was received at the school of the Christian Brothers in his native town. In his twelfth year he entered the select school of Mr. J. L. Naughton, Richmond Street, Dublin, where he began his Classical studies. In 1844, while a pupil at Mr. Naughton's school, he headed a delegation of students, and in their name made an address to Daniel O'Connell, then a prisoner in Richmond Bridewell Prison. It is said that the great Liberator complimented the young speaker, and predicted a brilliant future for him. In 1847 he was adopted for the Diocese of St. Louis in the United States by Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick and entered St. Patrick's College, Carlow. In 1852 he finished his course and was advanced to deacon's orders, but being too young to be ordained priest, he set out for St. Louis with Rev. Patrick Feehan, a subject of the same diocese, and afterward Archbishop of Chicago, and on his arrival was appointed to teach in the Diocesan Seminary at Carondelet. On account of his exceptional ability as a public speaker, Archbishop Kenrick permitted. the young deacon to preach frequently in the cathedral. His fame went forth at once, and he drew large audiences, made up not only of the regular members of the congregation, but of the most prominent people of all denominations from various parts of the city and more distant points. On 8 September, 1853, by special dispensation, he was ordained priest and was appointed assistant rector at the cathedral. He served there as assistant and as rector until 1861, when he was appointed to build the Church of the Annunciation at St. Louis. Having completed this task promptly and successfully, he was transferred to the rectorship of St. John's parish, at St. Louis. During all these years he was noted for his zeal in the work of the ministry, for his faithfulness in attending the military prisoners in Gratiot Street Prison during the Civil War, for the frequency and effectiveness of his sermons, and for the large number of converts, many of them persons of note, who by his influence were brought into the Church.

In 1866 he attended the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore as one of Archbishop Kenrick's theologians, and was one of three priests chosen to preach on that occasion, the others being Archbishop John Lancaster Spalding, and the late Rev. Isaac Hecker, C.S.P. In 1868 he spent a year in Europe with Archbishop Kenrick. His fame as an orator had preceded him, and he received calls from all sides. At Rome, at the request of Pope Pius IX, he delivered the English Lenten course for that year. Archbishop Kenrick appointed him vicar-general and administrator of the diocese, during his attendance at the Vatican Council. On 14 February, 1872, he was consecrated titular Bishop of Tricomia, and Coadjutor Bishop of St. Louis with right of succession. After serving faithfully and successfully in this capacity for twelve years, he was made titular Archbishop of Salamis on 6 January, 1884.

In the meantime the See of Philadelphia had become vacant by the death of Archbishop Wood, and on 8 June, 1884, Archbishop Ryan was appointed to succeed him. During his reign in Philadelphia the Church grew rapidly, as can be seen by the following table:

During that time also the Roman Catholic High School for Boys, which was endowed by Mr. Thomas Cahill, was built, and put in operation; high school centres for girls taught by the different communities were established; a new central high school for girls was partly endowed and begun; St. Francis' Industrial School for Boys was endowed and successfully operated, the Philadelphia Protectory for Boys was erected: it has since been enlarged, at a cost of over half a million dollars and with capacity for six hundred; St. Joseph's Home for Working Boys was founded; a new foundling asylum and maternity hospital was built; a new St. Vincent's Home for younger orphan children was purchased with the archbishop's Golden Jubilee Fund of $200,000; a third Home for the Aged was erected; a Memorial Library Building, dedicated to the Archbishop, was begun at St. Charles' Seminary, Overbrook; and the three Catholic hospitals of the city doubled their capacity. The extent of the archbishop's zeal is shown by his care for the emigrants who came into the diocese during his time. In 1884 there were very few foreign churches in the diocese; now there are 20 for the Italians, 23 for the Poles, 18 for the Greeks, 15 for the Slovacs, 6 for the Lithuanians, and several for other nationalities.

The archbishop took special interest in the Indians and negroes. He established two congregations for the latter in Philadelphia, and invited the Holy Ghost Fathers to build their college and mother-house at Cornwells, near the city. Under his direction Mother Katharine Drexel founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who devote themselves entirely to the Indians and negroes, with their mother-house, novitiate and orphan asylum at Cornwells and several convents and schools in the West and South. Another proof of this interest is found in the archbishop's attendance at the Lake Mohonk conferences, and at the meetings of the U. S. Indian Commission, to which he had been appointed by President Roosevelt. By his prudence and tact he removed much prejudice against the Church, and obtained special privileges for Catholics in public institutions. His great reputation as an orator brought him invitations to speak, not only at the most important ecclesiastical functions, but also on secular occasions. In addition to his monthly sermons, in St. Louis on the first Sunday, and in Philadelphia on the second, he preached frequently at the laying of corner-stones, at the consecration of bishops, and churches, and at funerals. Some of the more remarkable instances were the dedication of St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, the conferring of the pallium on Archbishop Corrigan, and his funeral sermon; the consecration and funeral of Archbishop Hennessy of Dubuque, and the funeral of Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis. He addressed the St. Louis Legislature twice; opened the St. Louis University on two occasions; spoke before the Committee of the United States Senate on Indian affairs; opened the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 1900, and was the principal speaker at the McKinley Memorial service in Philadelphia, after the president's assassination.

He lectured on various occasions, the most important of his lectures probably being on "What Catholics do not believe", St. Louis, 1877, and on "Agnosticism", Philadelphia, 1894. He received the degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of St. Louis and from the University of Pennsylvania. Under his guidance the Catholic "Standard and Times" of Philadelphia, his official organ, obtained a reputation unexcelled in Catholic journalism; and under his editorial direction the "American Catholic Quarterly Review" preserved and extended the reputation which it had already made as a leading exponent of Catholic thought. The celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of the archbishop in the episcopacy, 1897, and of his Golden Jubilee in the priesthood, 1903, proved the esteem in which he was held by the whole community, irrespective of creed, because the whole city rejoiced; while his death showed how universally he was loved, for the whole city wept. The archbishop was best known as an orator and a wit. He was adorned most by strong faith and piety, by great meekness and humility, and by a prudence that was far-reaching and admirable. He has left no published works except some lectures. These are: "Modern Religious Skepticism"; "What Catholics do not Believe"; "Christian Civilization", and "Agnosticism": all are published by the Catholic Truth Society of San Francisco as well as by similar organizations in this country and London. There is a fifth lecture on "Religion and the Fine Arts".


O'HANLON, Life and Scenery in Missouri (Dublin, 1890); COWLEY, The Episcopal Silver Jubilee of the Most Reverend Patrick John Ryan, D.D., LL.D. (Philadelphia, 1897); KIRLIN, Life of Most Rev. P.J. Ryan, D.D., LL.D. (Philadelphia, 1903); TURNER, The Late Archbishop Ryan in The Catholic World (April, 1911); HALVEY, Bas Le Mor Mor Cluidh, Personal Reminiscences of Archbishop Ryan in Good Counsel Magazine (Philadelphia, March, 1911).

About this page

APA citation. Turner, J. (1912). Patrick John Ryan. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Turner, James. "Patrick John Ryan." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph E. O'Connor.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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