Obituary: Msgr. Paul T. Ryan, former pastor of St. Gregory, Dorchester

Simply a priest's priest.

Msgr. Paul T. Ryan, a priest of the archdiocese since his ordination on Feb. 3, 1958, died at Boston's Regina Cleri Residence on Jan. 18, 2024. He had been in declining health over the past months.

Born in Boston on July 19, 1931, he was the sole surviving of the seven children of the late John and Margaret (Dolan) Ryan. Raised in the Hub, he grew up in a staunchly Irish Catholic family. He attended Boston College High School, at its old site in the South End, and then went out to Newton, studying history and government at Boston College.

Crossing Commonwealth Avenue from BC, he entered St. John Seminary as a member of the Class of 1958. He celebrated his First Mass at St. Andrew the Apostle Church, Forest Hills.

Following ordination, he was appointed by Archbishop Cushing as an assistant at St. Peter Parish, Lowell. It was the first of five parishes where he would serve during the 50 years of priestly ministry prior to his becoming a senior priest in 2008.

The Class of 1958 was the "sesquicentennial" class ordained when the archdiocese celebrated the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Boston Diocese. He became a senior priest during the bicentennial of the archdiocese in 2008. He would like this note of history as it was a favorite field of his academic and personal interest.

The Lowell assignment lasted for six years and it kind of foretold the pattern of his subsequent parish assignments. Large, urban parish heavily populated with Irish families, a parish school, seemingly endless activities keeping at least three curates busy.

The other assignments as either an assistant or associate were at St. Angela Merici, Mattapan (1966-1968); St. Mary of the Assumption, Brookline (1968-1980); and Most Precious Blood, Hyde Park (1980-1981). Lowell would have been the farthest assignment from Boston; the others were barely a few miles apart from each other.

He loved spending time off on the Cape at Mashpee. He enjoyed Boston College's football program to which he had season tickets. Except for Lowell, his assignments made it rather easy to get to the Saturday afternoon games.

Humberto Cardinal Medeiros named him pastor at St. Gregory, Dorchester, on Sept, 22, 1981; another parish that fit the "pattern" started at Lowell. This would also be the longest of his parish assignments, lasting just a couple months shy of 27 years.

During his long tenure at "Lower Mills," he was twice the vicar forane or episcopal vicar of the deanery in the Central Region. He was the most solicitous of the priests in the vicariate and in other places, especially kind and supportive if he knew that there was a particular issue in a parish that he could assist.

As with many city parishes, not just Boston, the demographics changed; older parishioners moved out, new ones and new people moved in.

Father Ryan was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope St. John Paul II on April 21, 1998, with the title of Reverend Monsignor.

He kept the plant at Dorchester in excellent condition. The church was always in good repair and, as Merrimack Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey would jest with Paul, "When I drove by the rectory and church, I was always tempted to get out and measure the blades of grass -- they seemed all to be too perfectly cut and maintained."

Following his retirement in 2008, he spent half his time in his "little house" in Mashpee and the other assisting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Norwood. Keeping in character he picked a parish like all his others.

Msgr. Ryan's funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Gregory Church on Jan. 25, 2024, with Msgr. Paul V. Garrity, senior priest of the archdiocese who was pastor at St. Catherine of Siena in Norwood during Msgr. Ryan's "early" retirement years serving as the homilist.

Following the funeral Mass, he was buried in the Ryan family lot at St. Joseph Cemetery, West Roxbury.