Our Patron Saint

Bishop Joseph Francis Ryan

Born: March 1, 1897

Died: March 22, 1990


Our Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School Community considers it a great honour and privilege to be named after Bishop Joseph Francis Ryan, the sixth

 Bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton. According to Father Ron Cote, "Bishop Ryan was a champion of Catholic Education. He especially believed that Catholic High Schools could prepare strong Catholic Leaders for society and for the Church." Bishop Emeritus Anthony Tonnos has stated that, “Bishop Ryan was a native son of Hamilton, an exceptional priest and bishop. There is not a Catholic in our diocese who has not been touched in some way by his foresight and strong leadership during years of great growth and change in the Church. His devotion to Catholic education and to the poor, the needy and the unborn and elderly was his great gift to the Church and to all the people of our diocese, our province, and all of Canada.”



Bishop Joseph Francis Ryan was born in Dundas, Ontario, on March 1, 1897. His Irish family then moved to Hamilton, where he was educated at St. Mary's Elementary School. He later attended St. Jerome's College in Kitchener and St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto. Bishop Ryan was ordained a priest in Hamilton on May 21, 1921, by Bishop Thomas J. Dowling. Shortly after being assigned to his home parish of St. Mary's Cathedral in Hamilton, he was appointed rector in 1925. In 1926, he went to Rome for two years of study in Canon Law and when he returned in 1928, he began to serve as secretary to Bishop Thomas McNally and as the Chancellor of the Diocese of Hamilton. When the new Cathedral of Christ the King was opened in 1933, he was named its first rector, and in 1937 was named a monsignor. When Bishop McNally was appointed Archbishop of Halifax, Bishop Ryan succeeded him as Bishop of the Hamilton Diocese on October 19, 1937. On that day, his consecration took place in the Cathedral of Christ the King.

Bishop Ryan's Accomplishments as Bishop

The dominant characteristic of Bishop Ryan's long term as the Bishop of the Diocese Hamilton was growth. 

                   a                                                                                                                    Bishop Ryan, Mayor Lloyd Jackson, and T.J. McKenna at the Ground-Breaking of Bishop Ryan High School in 1958                                                                                             Bishop Ryan, Mayor Lloyd Jackson, and T.J. McKenna at the Ground-Breaking of Bishop Ryan High School in 1958                                                                                       Bishop Ryan, Mayor Lloyd Jackson, and T.J. McKenna at the Ground-Breaking of Bishop Ryan High School in 1958

  • Rapid population growth in Canada during his time as bishop required him to open more than fifty new parishes, doubling the existing number. Twelve of these were created to serve various ethnic groups who had arrived from eastern and southern Europe.
  • Bishop Ryan devoted a considerable amount of time and much of the diocese's resources to promoting Catholic education. He expanded high school education throughout the diocese, created many new elementary schools, and helped to upgrade the status of St. Jerome's College in Waterloo to that of a degree-granting institution. He organized major fund-raising drives for Catholic High Schools in 1953 and 1959.
  • He promoted and organized the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) in the Diocese of Hamilton, and opened a summer camp in Rockwood, near Guelph.
  • In 1953, he established the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Hamilton-Wentworth.
  • In 1961, he encouraged and assisted the St. Vincent de Paul Society in bringing the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd into the diocese. He was also active in mission work overseas and in 1964 established the Missionary Co-operative plan to financially assist the work of the Church overseas.
  • Bishop Ryan possessed a deep love for the Blessed Mother. One manifestation of this devotion was the annual Marian Day Rally, which continued for twenty-five years.
  • Bishop Ryan attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and skillfully guided the Diocese of Hamilton through the period of change that followed.
  • Bishop Ryan generously responded to the appeals by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI for North American bishops to assist the Church in Latin America. A diocesan mission was established in Teculutan, Guatemala in 1963. 

After Bishop Ryan’s Retirement in 1973

Once Bishop Ryan submitted his resignation as Bishop of Hamilton on March 27, 1973, he returned to live in residence at his home parish of St. Mary's in Hamilton. He celebrated Mass there and became a familiar figure to many on his daily afternoon walk through his old neighbourhood. He passed away on March 22, 1990 at the age of ninety-three. His funeral was celebrated at the Cathedral of Christ the King on Tuesday, March 27, 1990. This was an absolutely beautiful service attended by a delegation of Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School students. It was a beautiful tribute to a great man, and, in the words of Father Ron Cote, “May he rest in peace, and may his dreams continue to be realized in a special way within the walls of Bishop Ryan High School.”