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.
Patrick Ryan was born in Thurles, County Tipperary and lives in Dublin. He had a very successful career in banking during which he held a number of posts at executive level, including that of Chief Executive of a company providing consulting services to banks in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Following his retirement in 1999, he studied history and creative writing at University College, Dublin.
His grandfather, Hugh Ryan, was a cousin and contemporary of Archbishop Ryan. When he researched the life of the archbishop while compiling his family tree, he felt compelled to ensure that his story would be told and his achievements acclaimed through this biography.