Funeral Mass Father Jack Ryan

Father Jack Ryan

Former Paulist, Hispanic minister, radio host joined diocese in 1991

By Patrick Downes
Hawaii Catholic Herald

Father Jack Ryan, a former Paulist priest engaged in communications and Hispanic ministry who joined the Diocese on Honolulu in 1991, died Dec. 7 at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu where he once served as a chaplain. He was 70 years old and ordained for 44 years.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Father Ryan spent his priesthood exploring the link between faith and culture. Besides serving as pastor in several Hawaii parishes, he was involved in ecumenical affairs, campus ministry, Hispanic ministry, Catholic radio and TV and other pursuits.

A priest with an impish sense of humor, one could always count on him for a fresh joke or a wry observation about current events.

In a 2007 interview in the Hawaii Catholic Herald, he said his favorite childhood memory was “Christmas with my family.”

“We have a close family and had wonderful times together,” he said. “My grandmother had an old Irish tradition of taking a candle down to the church to get blessed. Then she would take it and go to every room in the house.”

Vicar general Msgr. Gary Secor said Father Ryan blessed the diocese with his many talents and interests.

“He did a lot of things in his priesthood. He had many talents and sensitivities that were certainly beneficial to our diocese,” he said.

“The time he spent with us was very appreciated,” he said.

On a personal note, Msgr. Secor said his family will be forever grateful for the concern and comfort Father Ryan provided as a chaplain at Straub Medical Center when the monsignor’s father Donald Secor suffered a heart attack a couple of decades ago.

Father Ryan was born on Jan. 15, 1950, in Philadelphia. He grew up there and in California with two sisters.

He received a political science degree from George Washington University before entering the seminary. He was ordained a Paulist priest on June 15, 1976.

Father Ryan served in hospital ministry in Toronto and in inner-city Memphis before earning his master’s in Latin American studies from Georgetown University. He spoke Spanish fluently, living in Ecuador and Nicaragua while studying for his degree.

He worked with Hispanic communities in Toronto, Memphis and Washington, D.C. For five years he was the director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

As an undergraduate, Father Ryan studied communications and as a seminarian worked extensively in radio and television. While in the seminary, he spent a year as a disc jockey for KNOM, a radio station owned and operated by the Bishop of Fairbanks, Alaska, that provides religious and educational programs, as well as music, to a widely dispersed population.

Father Ryan also developed a nationally syndicated program in Spanish called “Cinco Minutos,” produced by Paulist communications.

As a priest, he continued his communications work with a weekly program on CFRB in Canada called “Between Ourselves” that used an interview format to discuss social and religious issues. In San Francisco, he produced a weekly radio program in Spanish which included a weekly homily and interviews with people of interest to the local church. Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco was a frequent guest.

He also worked on the movie “Romero,” about the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero, translating the archbishop’s diary for the production.

One of his more challenging media tasks was providing television translation and commentary for Pope John Paul II on the Spanish language stations in northern California during the pope’s visit there in 1987.

Coming to Hawaii in the late 1980s, his first ministry in the Honolulu diocese was as a Catholic chaplain at Queen’s and Straub medical centers. He was incardinated into the diocese on July 9, 1991. He served as pastor of St. Benedict Church, Honaunau; St. Michael Church, Kailua-Kona; St. John the Baptist Church, Kalihi; and Holy Spirit Parish-Newman Center, Manoa.

From 1990 to 1992, he co-produced and cohosted with Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Kathleen Marie Shields the weekly hour-long live Catholic radio program “Nana I Ka Pono.” The program ran for 112 shows and hosted 162 guests.

Father Ryan also served as the diocesan ecumenical and interfaith officer and on the Diocesan Review Board, the committee that addresses allegations of sexual abuse.

He retired on Jan. 1, 2019.