Fr Barry Ryan

inducted 2019 Service

Growing up on a coastal farm a few miles out of Warrnambool gave Barry Ryan a boundless curiosity and love of the natural world. It was a childhood full of wonderment: catching rabbits, watching the birds go about their business, and climbing down cliffs to pull crayfish from the ocean.

Having three sisters and no one particularly interested in kicking a footy, the wide open spaces became Barry’s playground and also a place to reflect. One of Barry’s loves in life was football. He played for CBC and played his last ever game at age 31 for Carisbrook… saying, “Everywhere I went the ball just bounced in front of me – it was a great day. The young fella I played on said to me, “What’s an old bloke like you still playing football?”
This early appreciation of nature would stay with him as he developed a life in the priesthood. While at seminary in the early 1960s, Barry travelled to Papua New Guinea for missionary work and saw first hand the devastating impact of large-scale mining. He could see the links between the poverty of the people and the poverty of the land, both of which were being exploited. If Barry wasn’t already an environmentalist when he left for PNG, he was when he returned.

In later years, while working as a Chaplain in Ballarat, Barry would have daily discussions with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart Convent of Mercy and raise issues that few people were talking about. As Sister Veronica Lawson recalled in a tribute to Barry in 2015, his thinking was well ahead of its time: “We heard about the felling of trees in the Amazon, the degradation of the soil and the polluting of skies and of seas, long before the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer.” Barry would relate these real-world problems back to the gospel, and it was this ability to communicate complex ideas in captivating ways that made him such an engaging leader and teacher.
In 1971 just six years after his ordination, Barry was appointed the Director of Religious Education for the Ballarat Diocese. After a short time of initiation into the role Barry left for post graduate study at Fordham University, New York.
On his return, in 1974, he immersed himself for ten years into a new approach to Religious Education inspired by the second Vatican Council. With a dedicated staff that grew from two to eight he established the Religious Education Centre. There, staff members were a guiding force in professional development and curriculum advice for schools and parishes across the Diocese. In those days adult education was attached to the portfolio of Religious Education.
While at Fordham, Barry learned the social science-based Tavistock approach to teaching. In New York he very successfully used Tavistock method in teaching religion to secondary students at Scanlon High School. On return to his home parish, he used this approach on school staff weekend retreats with much positive feedback. While studying in New York City, Barry helped pay his way by teaching a class of street-hardened students at Marist High School in the Bronx. It was considered a tough job.

By applying his freshly minted teaching skills, however, Barry, had the students not only turning up to class, but hungry to learn more. Barry went on to apply the Tavistock method throughout his teaching career, which included lecturing in theology at Aquinas for two decades, and 12 years as its head of Religious Education and Theology.

“The role of teaching is very, very important,” he says. It’s not enough to just absorb facts, Barry says, but to go further, to challenge your assumptions and go beyond the obvious. For Father Barry, one of the greatest rewards as a teacher is when a student says, “you said that, and it just got me thinking”.

In 2015, Father Barry celebrated his Jubilee year of 50 years of service to the Church, including nine years as Vicar General in Ballarat North. He also served in the parishes of Redan, Terang/Mortlake, Mildura and Ballarat East.

Father Barry is now enjoying retirement with some fishing, golfing and watching the trials and tribulations of his beloved Geelong Football Club.

Countless lives have been influenced by his gentle words and inspirational teachings.

Fr Barry Ryan

Class of 1957