Monday, May 28, 2012

Fr. Ryan Pruess

"Because through the mystery of the Word made flesh, the new light of your splendid beauty has shone upon the eyes of our mind:  so knowing God visibly, we might be snatched up into a love of things unseen."  ~Preface I of the Nativity of the Lord as quoted on Fr. Ryan Pruess' ordination holy card

It was several years ago at St. Francis de Sales Seminary's annual Rector's Dinner, a classy event that raises funds for the seminary, when a certain young seminarian first came to my attention.  During the dinner a large screen displays pictures of the current seminarians.  Each time Ryan Pruess' picture came up on the screen, a table filled with his family and friends would let out a big "whoop!" as if they were at a sporting event rather than at a formal dinner.  I knew that this was no ordinary seminarian for whom the cheers were offered and I wondered if I would ever have the opportunity to meet someone so extraordinary.  And God saw fit to see to it that I would.

Over the next few years as I not only came to know Ryan, but also came to consider him to be a dear friend, I found an  understanding for the boisterous cheers of those who had already known and loved him.  Here is a man who who has a genuine love and concern for others.  He is a hard-working and dedicated Catholic who puts his all into everything he does and clearly has a passionate love for the Church.  He goes above and beyond what is expected of him to bring joy, happiness and holiness into the lives of everyone he meets.

Along with seminarian Kurt Krauss, Ryan was the co-founder of The Remnant, a gathering of young men who are passionate about the Church and sports.  The Remnant called together high school boys to pray and perform at various times throughout the year for weekend camps which highlighted basketball, football and soccer.  These popular camps gathered young men from all across the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and, together they enjoyed the sports that they loved, while also increasing their love for the Catholic faith through Catholic spirituality talks, Holy Mass and Eucharistic Adoration.  Ryan's magnetic and loving personality made the Remnant Camps highly enjoyable and deeply meaningful for those in attendance.

As a man convicted of his faith and his call to the priesthood, Ryan works hard to assure that those who struggle in any way are supported and encouraged.  When my son John wrote a blog post about the challenges of discernment toward the priesthood  Ryan encouraged him with these words:

"You will never know the depth of your own soul, unless you are willing to climb down deep into it and sit there for a while.  It is there, sitting in the muck and sludge of our own sinfulness, our own humanity, our own brokenness, that we come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ."

Ryan embraces social media and uses it to promote Catholic events throughout the Archdiocese, encouraging others to deeper prayer.  He uses facebook to invite others to prayer events such as the holy hour at St. Francis de Sales Seminary on the eve of his ordination.  The holy hour was beautiful and solemn.  There in the seminary chapel, seminarians, priests and friends of the seminarians gathered in an hour of silent prayer.  I was touched to see each of the ordinandi's chalices on a table in the front of the chapel and I was inspired to pray one of my favorite prayers  from the Handmaids of the Precious Blood:  "Our Lady of the Precious Blood, watch over your living chalices of the Blood of Jesus,"  for Ryan and his classmates who were soon to be ordained.  I am confident that the Blessed Mother heard that prayer and will be watching over the entirety of Ryan's priestly life with a special affection for him.  After the holy hour was over, all of the lay faithful left while the seminarians remained to keep an all night vigil of prayer for the ordinandi.
"Being a seminarian is a great life and I would only trade it for one thing, being a priest."
~Fr. Ryan Pruess

At the Ordination Mass where Fr. Ryan was ordained to the priesthood along with five other men, I was moved to tears at the sight of all of the mothers of the newly ordained priests as they brought up the gifts and one by one stopped to embrace their sons.  But it was the embrace of Fr. Ryan and his mother that really moved me, because as Fr. Ryan reached for his mother, his face was wet with tears and even from my seat near the back of the Cathedral I could see that he was overcome with emotion.  How could I not cry right along with him?

Those motherly tears came back a week later at Fr. Ryan's Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Peter's Parish in Slinger, Wisconsin where Fr. Ryan grew up.  On that warm Pentecost Sunday, St. Peter's Parish was filled to capacity with Fr. Ryan's family and friends who were all honored and overjoyed to celebrate with him.

Fr. Richard Stoffel, the pastor of St. Peter's spoke about the importance of the priesthood.  He said, "The only accurate description of a priest is 'A man of the Holy Spirit.'   A priest should speak words that gather people who want individualism, yet long for inner peace, and who know that peace doesn't come from a disconnectedness;  it comes from discovering how to live with others in love.  A man of the Holy Spirit inspires spirituality in others.  He helps people to discover a fire that unites just as it did when the first disciples gathered in prayer.  A man of the Spirit points out that the Spirit lives in every person and encourages every one to be something beautiful for God."  I am certain that Fr. Ryan is a very effective man of the Holy Spirit and will bring unity and love to every life he touches in his ministry.

At the end of Mass, Fr. Stoffel presented a gift to Fr. Ryan's mother, Sandy.  Her gave her a red rosary and said that it was from "one mom to another."  The rosary had belonged to Fr. Stoffel's mother and it was the rosary that she used to pray for her son.  Now, Fr. Stoffel told Sandy that he was handing on the honor of praying for a priest son to her as he gave her the red beads and told her to use them to pray for Fr. Ryan.  Those tears I shed at the ordination Mass?  Here they were again!  Fr. Stoffel's gift to Fr. Ryan's mother was so tender and touching!

Fr. Ryan's first Mass was followed by a fabulous dinner and dance, a real  party of celebration.  All of those friends of his who whooped and hollered during the Rector's dinner so many years ago were now dining and dancing until late in the evening, rejoicing over the gift of another fabulous priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.  But this time, my family and I were joining in with the whooping and hollering and rejoicing and celebrating and we will continue to celebrate the gift of Fr. Ryan Pruess for many years to come.

Congratulations Fr. Ryan and thank you for the gift of your priesthood and the gift of your friendship!  Whoop!!!

( With the exception of the Remnant photo and the ordination photo (courtesy of Richard Zautcke) all photographs in this post were taken by Kathy Kohl, (KK Photography) who is a friend of Fr. Ryan's.  Not only is Kathy an exceptional photographer, but she is also very sweet and kind.  When my family and I arrived for Fr. Ryan's first Mass we found the church to be full to capacity with nowhere to sit.  Kathy had all of her photography equipment spread out on the very last pew but she took one look at my high heels and kindly offered to move her equipment so that we could be seated during the Mass.  Please visit her website and offer her your patronage if you are ever in need of a fabulous photographer.)

For more on Fr. Ryan, visit this link at the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.


  1. Hi Ann

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I really enjoyed reading your blog,

    Kathy Kohl

  2. Wow! Can't wait to meet our new priest, Fr. Ryan, when he starts at our parish in a couple of weeks...sounds like the Lord has blessed us with yet another holy priest to praise and thank Him for! Thank you for giving us a recap of his beautiful Thanksgiving Mass.

  3. Wow, Anne, this is just so super cool. What a great pleasure to know someone such as this man.