Edition 20: August 2005 Holy Spirit Province

Br Kevin Alan Ryan R.I.P.

An abridged version of the Eulogy for Br Kevin A. Ryan by Br Trevor Dean.

E 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 bike rider.

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.


Edmund Rice Network News is edited and produced by Brian Coyne for the Holy Spirit Province of the Christian Brothers
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