Patrick John Ryan

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Patrick John Ryan
Archbishop of Philadelphia
ChurchRoman Catholic
Appointed8 July 1884
In office1884–1911
PredecessorJames Frederick Wood
SuccessorEdmond Francis Prendergast
Ordination8 September 1852
by Peter Richard Kenrick
Consecration14 April 1872
by Peter Richard Kenrick
RankMetropolitan Archbishop
Personal details
Born(1831-02-20)February 20, 1831
DiedFebruary 11, 1911(1911-02-11) (aged 79)
OccupationCatholic bishop
Previous post(s)Coadjutor Archbishop of St Louis (1872–1884)
Alma materCarlow College
SignaturePatrick John Ryan's signature

Patrick John Ryan (February 20, 1831 – February 11, 1911) was an Irish-born prelate of the Catholic Church. He served as the second Archbishop of Philadelphia from 1884 until his death in 1911.

Early life and education[edit]

Patrick Ryan was born in Thurles, County Tipperary, to Jeremiah and Mary Tuohy Ryan. His father died when Patrick was nine years old.[1]

He received his early education from the Christian Brothers at Thurles, and attended a private school in Dublin from 1842 to 1847. In 1844, he led a delegation of students to Richmond Bridewell Prison, where he delivered an address to the imprisoned Daniel O'Connell.[2] He completed his theological studies at Carlow College in 1852, his education supported by The Foreign Mission Fund, and was ordained a subdeacon.

In the same year he left Ireland for the United States, in the company of Patrick Feehan, later Archbishop of Chicago. Ryan became attached to the Archdiocese of St. Louis in Missouri.[3] He then served as a professor of English literature at the seminary in Carondelet for a year.[4]


Ryan was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick on September 8, 1853. At age 21, he was below the age requirement for ordination but was granted a dispensation by Pope Pius IX. He was then appointed an assistant rector at the Cathedral of St. Louis, and was advanced to rector in 1856. In 1860, he was named pastor of the Church of the Annunciation in St. Louis, where he built a church and parochial school. During the Civil War, he served as a chaplain for prisoners of war at the Gratiot Street Prison.[1] [2] In the same parish was a government military hospital. Every day Ryan visited the Confederate prisoners and the Union wounded.

Following the war, he was transferred to St. John's Church[5] in St. Louis, and accompanied Archbishop Kenrick, as theologian, to the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1866. While on a visit to Europe in 1868, he delivered the English course of Lenten lectures in Rome at the invitation of Pius IX.[4] Upon his return to St. Louis later that year, he was made vicar general of the Archdiocese. He administered the Archdiocese while Archbishop Kenrick attended the First Vatican Council.[6]


Ryan in a photo and as sketched by journalist Marguerite Martyn for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, published December 19, 1909

On February 15, 1872, Ryan was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of St. Louis and Titular Archbishop of Tricomia by Pius IX. He received his episcopal consecration on the following April 14 from Archbishop Kenrick, with Archbishop Patrick Feehan and Bishop Joseph Melcher serving as co-consecrators. His titular see was changed to Salamis on January 6, 1884.[3] After the death of Archbishop James Frederick Wood, Ryan was named the second Archbishop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 8, 1884. His installation took place at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on the following August 20.[7]

During his 27-year-long tenure, Ryan erected 170 churches and 82 schools; increased the number of priests by 322 and nuns by 1,545; and oversaw a rise in the Catholic population from 300,000 to 525,000.[3] During that time also the Roman Catholic High School for Boys was built, and put in operation; high school centers 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; 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 Borromeo Seminary; and the three Catholic hospitals of the city doubled their capacity.[3] In 1886, as chairman of the negotiating committee, he helped mediate a labor dispute between management and city trolley car workers, which resulted in a 10 hour work day and recognition of the right to unionize.[8]

He also established national churches in the diocese for the Italians, Poles, Greeks, Slovaks, Lithuanians, and several other nationalities. Ryan was a spiritual advisor to Katharine Drexel.[6] He founded two congregations for African Americans, and the Spiritans founded an establishment in Cornwells Heights.

Known for his skill in public speaking, in 1879, Cardinal John McCloskey selected Ryan to make the address at the dedication of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Ryan would later preach the sermon at McCloskey's funeral in 1885. James Gibbons chose Ryan to speak on the occasion Gibbons was made cardinal. New York University awarded Ryan an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, as did the University of Pennsylvania.[2] He was appointed to the U.S. Indian Commission by President Theodore Roosevelt.[3] In 1888, he again visited Rome, and presented Pope Leo XIII with a gift from President Grover Cleveland.[4]

Ryan died at age 79. The Archbishop is described as "..a man of strong opinions who navigates the stormy waters of the nineteenth and early twentieth-century church without either making many enemies or compromising his basic beliefs."[9]


  1. ^ a b "The Life of Archbishop Patrick John Ryan (1831–1911)", Archbishop Ryan High School, Philadelphia
  2. ^ a b c Spillane, F., "Archbishop Patrick John Ryan", America, Vol. IV, No. 19, February 18, 1911
  3. ^ a b c d e "Patrick John Ryan". Catholic Encyclopedia.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ a b c Johnson, Rossiter, ed. (1904). The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans. Vol. IX. John Howard Brown. Boston: The Biographical Society.
  5. ^ St. John's Church
  6. ^ a b "Archbishop Ryan", Catholic Historical Research Center of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
  7. ^ "Archbishop Patrick John Ryan".[self-published source]
  8. ^ Weldon, Shawn. "100 Years Ago: Archbishop Ray Averted Strike", Catholic Standard and Times, December 14, 1995]
  9. ^ Wister, Robert J., "Review of 'Archbishop Patrick John Ryan: His Life and Times, Ireland — St. Louis — Philadelphia 1831–1911'". American Catholic Studies, vol. 122 no. 1, 2011, p. 87-88. Project MUSE

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Patrick John Ryan". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Archbishop of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Coadjutor Archbishop of St. Louis
Succeeded by