Br Kevin Alan
An abridged version of the Eulogy for Br Kevin
A. Ryan by Br Trevor Dean.
ARE GATHERED HERE THIS MORNING to do honour to Br. Kevin
Ryan and those of you who were close to Kevin know that he had a
wry sense of humour. Consequently I wouldn't be at all surprised
if he isn't having a quiet chuckle as he sees us assemble here for
his funeral. It is a TIME LAPSE funeral taking place just over two
weeks since he died. This is what I think would tickle his fancy
because he was always punctilious about being on time.
In the days when the only Sunday Mass at 7:00am in the metropolitan
area was at the Cathedral he used to set off about 6:15am so as
to be settled into a seat soon after 6:30am. He would be mortified
to be even a minute late for anything!
That's why I think he might have been saying to Jesus in the past
week or so: "You'd think they'd hurry up, wouldn't you? After
all I've been waiting here for a fortnight for them to put me to
rest." The fact is Kevin that most of the Brothers have been
in Perth, on retreat, with members of the Congregational Leadership
Team from Rome and a few of us myself included have
been interstate elsewhere. The reason for the delay is because we
did want to HONOUR you Kevin for your 60 years as a faithful follower
of Jesus as a Christian Brother.
And we wanted to do that as a community of Christian Brothers in
SA together with your relatives and friends and colleagues.
Kevin was born in 1921 to John and Sarah Ryan and grew up in the
family home at Goodwood as the 2nd of 4 children with 2 brothers,
Bob and John, and a sister Mary. He went to the Catholic primary
school in Goodwood and then on to CBC, Wakefield Street. In 1935
he went off to Strathfield and later on to Minto in NSW to train
as a Christian Brother.
When he sat for the Leaving Certificate in 1937 he won the Shakespeare
Prize which is the equivalent in NSW of our Tennyson Medal. He was
the top English student in the whole of NSW.
As we all know he was the GENTLEST of men he was a GENTLE
man in the literal sense of the word and I often wondered
how he coped as a teacher with the huge classes that were common
in the fifties in particular.
Fr. Gerard Hughes, a Jesuit, wrote a very good book THE GOOD OF
SURPRISES and its title came to mind as I was thinking of Kevin
and his life and ministry. I could write a book about Kevin and
its title would be KEVIN RYAN MAN OF SURPRISES.
ONE SURPRISE for me was to learn that this gentlest of men
had iron discipline in the classroom. This is such an anomaly, because
Kevin could give the impression that he wouldn't say boo to a goose.
Maybe it was precisely because he was so mild-mannered and quietly
spoken that he determined to establish very clear boundaries for
his students which he insisted they keep. Perhaps he would have
been a good candidate for a TV programme today as the key figure
in something like Super Nanny. It would have to be aimed at people
though who did not subscribe to the theory of a good healthy working
noise in a classroom because I believe you could hear a pin drop
in the room when Kevin's students were busy at a task.
I never thought of Kevin as an athletic person so my SECOND
SURPRISE was to learn that as a young man he was a marathon
On one occasion he set off with a couple of Brothers from Geelong
to Apollo Bay , presumably going via Colac and over the Otway Ranges
to Apollo Bay. There they snatched a few hours sleep and then made
their way back along the Ocean Road to Geelong. In all they were
on the road over 36 hours, maybe inspired by the long distance feats
of Hubert Opperman in the 1930's for Opperman was living in Geelong
at the time.
A THIRD SURPRISE is related to his family. Kevin was a very
private person and when I lived with him at Rostrevor College in
1980, I knew that he had a brother in the Northern Territory who
subsequently died and a sister May in Bribu' Island 100 kms. north
of Brisbane. They were the only two relatives I knew of. He used
to visit Mary every second year and sometimes every year.
In the year 2000 Kevin suffered a stroke. He was hospitalised and
on being discharged went into respite care at Palm Gardens in Reid
Avenue not far from here. We used to visit him of course each day
and would be with him alone in his room or with other residents
in the lounge. One day I arrived at Palm Gardens to find he had
company not just one person but a room full of relatives.
His nephew Neil and his wife Mary with grand nephews and grand nieces
none of whom I ever knew existed despite having lived with Kevin
off and on for 11 years between 1980 and 2000. Since then I have
been delighted to make the acquaintance of Neil and Mary and thank
them and their whole family for the love and support and devotion
they have showered on Kevin and how the whole family would gather
for his birthdays or special occasions.
There was something about Kevin throughout his whole life that
was never a SURPRISE and that was his COMPASSION.
I first became aware of this in 1957 when I had occasion to make
an appointment with the Italian Consul at South Yarra in Melbourne.
After I had obtained the information I was looking for the Consul,
who knew that I was a Christian Brother, asked if I knew Br. Kevin
Ryan. His son was attending St. Kevin's College in Toorak and was
in Kevin's class. The boy contracted a serious illness and was bedridden
for a long period. Kevin visited him every week and his care and
concern for that boy made an indelible impression on the Consul.
In the Jubilee Year of 2000 Pope John Paul II urged us to commemorate
the 2000th Anniversary of the birth of Christ by living out the
compassion of Jesus (in our daily lives). That is a perfect description
of what Kevin did throughout his life but it was particularly true
of the period from 1980-2000. During that time the Brothers provided
Kevin with a station wagon to use for the benefit of the Indo Chinese
Community at Woodville. That began a 20 year association with the
Vietnamese Community and with Sr. Elizabeth and the team and with
Rosemary Taylor. As boat people arrived he helped them settle in
at Pennington filling in forms required by government departments
assisting them in moving in to homes, locating furniture for them,
ferrying pregnant mothers to doctor's surgeries, later on carrying
new born babies and their mothers to hospitals for check-ups, spending
untold hours in waiting rooms. He took the Vietnamese people to
his heart and the Vietnamese community took him to their heart.
Kevin became the surrogate uncle, godfather and grandfather figure
to innumerable Vietnamese families. He was untiring in his devotion
he certainly lived the compassion of Jesus and the Risen
Jesus reached out to countless people through him.
And just as Kevin lived the compassion of Jesus in this very special
way from 1980-2000, in the last 4½ years of his life, when
he went into Tappeiner Court Nursing Home, other people began reaching
out to him as they lived out the compassion of Jesus.
Br Trevor Dean cfc
One of Kevin's poems
entered in perhaps his last competition.