The Catholic Church of East Tennessee may have a saint in its midst. An investigation recently initiated by Bishop Richard F. Stika and the Diocese of Knoxville is focused on the life and death of Father Patrick J. Ryan, a respected priest who served in Chattanooga more than 100 years ago.
In its early stages, the case for Fr. Ryan is compelling and officials at the Vatican have expressed encouragement. But the making of a saint isn’t easy. It involves countless hours of research and requires demanding scrutiny by those who are doing the investigation. Proof of a virtuous life and adherence to Catholic beliefs are just two of the requirements.
In 1878, with Chattanooga in the grips of a yellow fever epidemic, Father Ryan contracted the disease while administering to the sick. The young priest died on September 28, 1878.
“Here we have a priest who could very easily have fled the city, or stayed away from the areas that were afflicted with the ravages of the Yellow Fever,” said Father David Carter, the rector at Sts. Peter and Paul.
“But following an impulse of great charity, Father Ryan went into those places, stayed, and ministered to the people that contracted the disease, and died from it while ministering to his people in a very heroic way.”
On June 14, Bishop Stika signed a decree officially establishing the Diocese of Knoxville as the petitioner of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Rev. Patrick J. Ryan.
Fr. Carter is designated as Episcopal Delegate for the Cause of Sainthood. Dr. Waldery Hilgeman, who works closely with the Vatican on matters of sainthood, will serve as Postulator. Dr. Hilgeman resides in Italy.
By virtue of Bishop Stika’s decree and documents signed at the Chancery on Aug. 9, the cause for sainthood for Fr. Ryan is now open, and he considered a Servant of God, the initial phase in a rigorous process of being pronounced a saint by the Church. The meeting was attended by Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor for the Diocese of Knoxville, and Brother Reginald Cruz who will assist Dr. Hilgeman.
“Father Ryan was a man of holiness and a man of Christ who through his efforts to minister to the sick became sick himself. He gave his life for people in trouble,” Bishop Stika said.
“The Bible reminds us that Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another. Fr. Ryan did that.”
Click here for Local 8 WVLT story on Father Ryan Cause for Sainthood.
Click image below to watch TV interview with Deacon Gaspar DeGaetano.