Archbishop Patrick John Ryan – His Life and Times
Ireland – St. Louis – Philadelphia 1831-1911
When Patrick John Ryan went to St Louis as a deacon in 1852 he was far better prepared for the life he chose to lead than he could have imagined. In Ireland, where being a Catholic was seen as a badge of exclusion, he saw how the economic and legal powers were wielded by the Protestant minority as a means of suppressing the Catholic majority. He saw at first hand the concessions achieved through the actions of the Catholic Church under the political leadership of Daniel O'Connell, The Liberator, who became his role model. He benefited from a primary school system that developed along denominational lines and as a teenager he witnessed the horrors of the Great Famine and the mass emigration which followed. All of these experiences were to become directly relevant to his life and his endeavours in America.
During his time in the United States as priest, bishop and archbishop, the Roman Catholic population quadrupled to more than fourteen million, primarily because of the influx of European immigrants. In addition to the problems encountered as an administrator and as a shepherd to his flock, he also had to contend with the attendant hostility, prejudice and discrimination. Through the power of his intellect, his warmth and his wit, he not only succeeded in meeting these challenges but he played a major role in improving church-state and inter-church relations. He took a leadership role in supporting Native Americans and African Americans and earned an international reputation as a preacher and orator. It is likely that even if he had chosen a different career path, he would still have merited a biography.
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