Catholic Free Press

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Father Ryan balanced work and family

Posted By September 18, 2014 | 11:13 am | Featured Article #4
Posing for a family photo with Father Ryan, in the back row are, left to right, Ryan Lauria, Michael John Lauria and Colleen Lauria.  In the front row are John Lauria and Mary Lauria.
Posing for a family photo with Father Ryan, in the back row are, left to right, Ryan Lauria, Michael John Lauria and Colleen Lauria.  In the front row are John Lauria and Mary Lauria.

By Christina Galeone
CFP Correspondent

In Romans 8:28, the Apostle Paul proclaims: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” In 1990, Marianne Lauria, a loving, devoted 34-year old mom, passed away from a brain aneurysm. Her brother faced the tragedy by fulfilling her wishes that he take care of her children. He did this while fulfilling his calling as a Catholic priest.
Soon after Father Edward M. Ryan, who was then associate pastor at St. Bernard’s Parish in Fitchburg, learned of his sister’s passing, four of her children (ages 5 to 13) contacted him. “They came to me,” Father Ryan says. “My sister told them, ‘If anything ever happens to me, you go to your Uncle Mickey, and he’ll take care of you.’ And I did.”  John, the fifth child, had severe cerebral palsy and needed special care.
But providing a good home for four children, while a priest, was an uphill battle for the pastor who was then in his 40s. Not only did he have to convince the Worcester judicial system to grant him custody, he also had to convince the Worcester Diocese to allow him to remain in ministry as a priest. He says the Diocese told him he should take a leave of absence and find a job, which, to him, meant that he would have to leave the priesthood. Fortunately, a priest friend, who Father Ryan met when he was a missionary in Ecuador, came to his assistance, advocating for him to maintain his vocation.
celebrate-logoAfter winning custody, Father Ryan rented an apartment and became a chaplain at UMass Hospital. He admits that balancing his commitment to the priesthood with his commitment to the children was difficult. Despite that, he says he was determined to give them a good home by doing things most families do. That included taking them to restaurants, bringing them to swimming lessons and having designated family time once a week. He says, “Basically, what you did; you were around for them.”
As far as parenting philosophy is concerned, Father Ryan cherishes the words of his sister. Because she watched two of her children struggle with cerebral palsy, and because she lost a baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, he asked her once if she ever felt discouraged. “She said, ‘Alls my kids need is a little more love than the others,’” he recalls. “I never forgot those words.  And I live by them – ‘Alls my kids need is a little more love.’”
Although Colleen and Mary, who were 13 and 12 respectively in 1990, went to live with their father after about a year, Ryan, the youngest girl (who was 11 at the time), and Michael, the oldest boy (who was 5 then), were raised by Father Ryan for many years.
Besides providing a home for the children, Father Ryan learned to appreciate how parents juggle work and family.
“You learn patience,” he says. “You learn how the other half lives. Things happen in a hurry. You just look at what’s best for the kids, not you. What’s best for the kids?”
Although Father Ryan, who recently celebrated his 40th anniversary as a priest, wishes the tragedy never happened, he is happy he was able to care for his nieces and nephew and keep them safe. He is thankful they’re doing well.
“It was a great experience,” he says, as proud as any parent. “I would do it again.”