Living the Faith: John and Jean Ryan

BILLERICA -- Ask anyone who has ever planned a wedding and they will tell you it can be quite a stressful event.

But for couples getting married at St. Theresa of Lisieux parish in Billerica, Jean Ryan is there to make that joyous but hectic time a little bit easier.

As the parish’s wedding coordinator, Jean helps couples planning their wedding at the church. She also attends the couples’ rehearsals to ensure “things run smoothly.”

“A wedding is really a nice time, and a nice way, to get to know people,” she said.

She described how five years ago her pastor, Father Eugene Tully, first approached her with the idea.

“He said, ‘Jean,’ and it was the most weighted ‘Jean’ I have ever heard in my life,” the 37-year-old chuckled. Father Tully then told her that he “had seen the need to create a new role in the parish.”

Jean quickly agreed to do it -- and has been helping couples ever since.

Aside from her position as wedding coordinator, Jean and her family are active parishioners. Her husband of 15 years, John Ryan, is a member of the parish pastoral council. Her two oldest children -- ages 11 and 10, are altar servers. Her younger children -- ages 8 and 4, are “patiently awaiting their turns” to become altar servers.

“The parish is very wonderful,” said John, 37. He noted that families, particularly those with young children, are made to feel at home at St. Theresa’s.

“The crying room isn’t really ever used,” he said.

Yearly events called “fun-raisers” help foster the feeling of community among parishioners, John continued. These “fun-raisers” include themed parties for holidays such as Halloween and Christmas.

Another program within the parish that has fostered a sense of community is the parish’s religious education program. For the past five years, the parish has run a “Generations of Faith” religious education program.

“Our Generations of Faith has enabled the community to make some new bonds, new connections,” Jean said.

The Ryans have been parishioners at St. Theresa of Lisieux since 1999, when the couple first moved to Billerica. Both grew up in Catholic families. Jean is originally from Woburn; John is from Newark, N.J.

Jean recalled how, as a child, “going to Church wasn’t only about going to serve ourselves,” but it was about being a member of a faith community -- a community such as the one she has found at St. Theresa’s.

“My faith completely defines who I am,” Jean said. “It is a part of every fiber of my being.”

“That’s all I have ever known as well,” echoed John. “It’s all I’ve ever had.”

In fact, he noted, all his schooling -- kindergarten through college -- has been in Catholic schools. And, continuing his commitment to Catholic education, he is now a teacher at St. Sebastian School in Needham.

“Both John and I feel so blessed to have been raised in this tradition,” Jean chimed in. “And we just love it here at St. Theresa’s.”

St. Theresa of Lisieux Parish, Billerica

Year established -- 1945

Pastor -- Father Eugene Tully

Parochial Vicar -- Father Tinh Nguyen

Senior Priest -- Father John McCormick

Deacons -- Philip DiBello, Paul Markey

Religious Education Directors -- Stephanie Tuzzulo, Lorraine Ronan

Parish Secretary -- Jeanne Dompier