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2024 Ordinands

Ryen Dwyer, SJ

Province: USA Midwest

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Highlights of Jesuit Formation:

  1. Walked on pilgrimages twice as a novice: in New Mexico, where he walked from Gallup to Grants; and in Ecuador, where he joined other novices in walking from Quito to Lumbaqui. These taught him fundamental lessons about perseverance and trusting in God.
  2. Learned how to drive a school bus in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, where the Red Cloud Volunteers introduced him to “School Bus Spirituality,” including principles such as vigilance and “trust the bus!”
  3. Took practicums in spiritual direction at Loyola University Chicago and at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, and directed eight-day retreats at Mwangaza Jesuit Spirituality Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2023.
Ryen (left) with fellow Jesuit Travis Crowe in Rapid City, South Dakota, in January 2020

Post-Ordination:
Will work in pastoral ministry at Holy Rosary Mission, the Oglala Lakota Catholic community of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Education:
Bachelor’s degree, liberal arts, St. John’s College, Annapolis; Master’s degree, social philosophy, Loyola University Chicago; Master of Divinity, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University

Ryen with his siblings and grandmother in Grand Haven, Michigan, in 2017. From left: Eric, Sarah, Lenore, Michael, Ryen and Katie.

Biography:
Ryen Dwyer, SJ, was born in Cincinnati to Kevin and Abigail Dwyer. At age 7, his family moved to southwest Michigan, where he was raised in the Christian Reformed Church. He attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, where he studied liberal arts as part of a Great Books program. During his studies, Ryen encountered sacred Catholic choral music and Catholic authors such as St. Augustine, which sparked an attraction to the Catholic Church. After graduating, he moved to Evanston, Illinois, where he worked at Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit fair-trade retailer. During this time, Ryen entered the Catholic Church at St. Nicholas Parish in Evanston, a faith community in which he was introduced to and fell in love with the Catholic faith, particularly the church’s spiritual tradition, sacramental imagination and rich history of social action.

He entered the Jesuits in 2013 at the Jesuit Novitiate in St. Paul, Minnesota. Particularly memorable from his time in the novitiate was a 30-day pilgrimage, when he traveled through northwestern New Mexico, including spending some time with the Missionaries of Charity in Gallup. After taking his first vows in 2015, Ryen studied social philosophy at Loyola University Chicago and volunteered with the Ignatian Spirituality Project, which offers retreats to people recovering from homelessness and addiction. In 2018, Ryen began his regency at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. There, he served as coordinator of the Red Cloud Volunteer Program, a rich experience of accompanying young adults in their dedicated service as teachers and bus drivers. In 2021, Ryen moved to Berkeley, California, where he completed a Master of Divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University and served as a catechist and later a deacon at St. Mary Magdalen Parish. After ordination, he will work in pastoral ministry at Holy Rosary Mission, the Oglala Lakȟóta Catholic community of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Ryen in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in California in spring 2022

What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you?
Helpful, considerate and conscientious.

Ryen and his father, Kevin, at Rosy Mound Natural Area in Grand Haven, Michigan, Christmas 2022

Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
St. Timothy. He is someone who seems to have wrestled with anxiety and self-doubt, but his strength is in the power of God and the faith of his parents and ancestors. The power of God and the faith of those around me is the source of my faith and vocation.

What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
Memorization of the Gospels while walking outside. A superior once told us, “As Jesuits, your first concern is to be close to Jesus, and you do this by staying close to the Gospels.” I found that walking was very conducive to such meditation, and I was surprised by how I now associate places and images from the outdoors with scenes from the Gospels. It helps me to stay close to Jesus.

Ryen on a learning tour to Laos with Ten Thousand Villages in 2011, a nonprofit fair-trade retailer he worked for
Ryen and his sister Katie Dwyer in San Francisco in 2022

What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
I love the Society’s faithfulness to following Jesus. In my superiors, mentors and spiritual directors, I have seen people who have been formed as disciples over many years and who exemplify what it means to be free in Jesus Christ and also to imitate Jesus’ total obedience to God’s will. The balance of freedom and obedience is the fruit of fidelity to Jesus, especially in the form of discerning attention to God’s action in one’s life and in the world. Human motives are always part of the experience as well, but in the Society, I have always witnessed a desire and effort to be faithful to following Jesus, who is always faithful to us and who shows us God’s faithfulness.

What brings you joy?
Listening to the Word of God proclaimed during Mass and looking out at the gathered people at Mass. These strengthen me, and in this strengthening, I find my source of joy. It is an immeasurable gift to listen to the Word of God proclaimed and to see people gathered together to hear this word and to share the Eucharist. God has gathered us, and it is all God’s initiative! That gives me tremendous joy.