I am grieved to write that Father Ray Ryland, our columnist for TCA Faith since 2004, passed away on March 20, in Steubenville, Ohio, at the age of 93.
As our columnist, Father Ray brought a truly unique perspective. He was intensely pastoral, firm and clear in the teachings of the Church and at ease remembering his own experiences as a Protestant and Episcopal priest. I recall especially his reminiscences of Protestant professors that he wove seamlessly into his answers and that gave such a unique and even surprising aspect to some dispute over Church teaching.
Paul Thigpen, my predecessor as editor who brought Father Ray into the magazine’s fold, described him as “a faithful, engaging, intelligent and articulate teacher of the Faith, competent and experienced in answering questions about all things Catholic.”
Born in the small town of Crescent, Okla., he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Pacific and married his college sweetheart, Ruth Silvee, just before the war ended. They were still happily married after 69 years when he died. Raised in the Disciples of Christ Church, he entered Harvard Divinity School in 1946, graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1950. Thirteen years later, after a long journey that he wrote about in his 2013 memoir, “Drawn from the Shadows into Truth,” Father Ray and his family entered the Catholic Church. He went on to earn a doctorate in theology from Marquette University and a law degree from the University of San Diego. In 1983, he became only the second married former Episcopal priest in the United States to be ordained as a Catholic priest under the Pastoral Provision that allowed married clergy converts from Protestantism to be ordained priests.
Over the years, he became a beloved figure in Steubenville, where he taught and was active in campus ministry at Franciscan University, served in several local parishes and was a chaplain for the Coming Home Network and Catholics United for the Faith. He lectured widely and was a prolific writer. His replies to difficult questions were thought provoking and spurred even more questions by readers. I have no doubt that many souls were brought to Christ and the Church by Father Ray’s writings and his gentle answers. I had the privilege of working with him for four years, and he was always generous and patient with his editor. I will truly miss him.
Matthew Bunson, D.Min., K.H.S., is editor of The Catholic Answer and The Catholic Almanac and author of more than 40 books. He is a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a professor at the Catholic Distance University. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.