Ryan Healy to be ordained a transitional deacon May 19

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — For seminarian Ryan Joseph Healy, these past five years of formation have passed like the blink of an eye.


“It certainly feels surreal,” Healy recently shared with The Anchor. “I look back with great fondness and gratitude to all those who have contributed to my formation over these years and to the many great men I have had the opportunity to study alongside. This forthcoming day is the fruit of the prayers, labors, and encouragement of so many of my family, friends, and particularly the faithful of the Diocese of Fall River who have accompanied me.”

On Saturday, May 19, Healy will take the penultimate step towards his priestly journey when he is ordained a transitional deacon by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River during a Mass celebration at 11 a.m.

The 25-year-old Attleboro native who has most recently been studying at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton said the roots of his vocation were nurtured by a family “where faith was essential to our daily lives.”

“My parents instilled in me the importance of attending Sunday Mass, and faithfully brought me to Religious Education where I learned the fundamentals of the faith from my catechists,” Healy said.

By age 13, that upbringing helped him discern his vocation after attending the Steubenville East Youth Conference, a summer youth retreat program that was held for many years on the grounds of La Salette Shrine in his hometown.

“A close friend, who came from a very devout family, invited me to attend,” Healy said. “It was here that the faith was presented to me in a new and engaging way, where I witnessed so many peers on fire with a love for Jesus Christ, and where I first heard the Lord’s call.”

One of the talks at Steubenville East focused on religious vocations, which Healy said “instantly attracted me to the idea of becoming a priest.”

That notion remained with him and only seemed to strengthen during his subsequent high school and college years.

“Upon finishing eighth grade, I sought to attend Bishop Feehan High School, thanks particularly to the financial sacrifices of my family,” Healy said. “At Feehan, I learned how to be a Christian disciple from my teachers in theology classes, my active involvement in campus ministry, attending morning Mass before school, and participating in the Steubenville conferences each summer. During my freshman year I also began working in the Religious Education office of my home parish with Mrs. Meg Keenan, which was a transformative part of high school for me.”

Still confident he would one day be entering the seminary, he decided to first attend college after graduating from Bishop Feehan. He enrolled at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio where he “encountered a culture like no other, where the students put God first in their lives, with the majority attending daily Mass, and living out radical discipleship,” he said.

During his sophomore year, Healy had an opportunity to study abroad in Austria, which also afforded him the opportunity to travel to many nearby pilgrimage sites in Europe.

“I had several prayer experiences that convinced me God was asking me to follow this call to the priesthood in a more radical way by entering college seminary,” he said.

Once accepted as a seminarian for the Fall River Diocese, Healy went on to study at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Rhode Island and took courses at Providence College, where he graduated in 2015.

“Providence College provided me with an excellent education in the humanities, philosophy, and theology, in the Dominican tradition by dedicated professors like Dr. Anthony Esolen,” he said.

His remaining years of formation have been spent at St. John’s Seminary, where “being a seminarian has privileged me with many joyful experiences.”

“I have been able to see firsthand the intimate role of the priest in the lives of people, especially by getting to know families and parishioners,” he said. “Most importantly, I have truly enjoyed the friendships I have formed with my brother seminarians. I confidently look forward to sharing the challenges of ecclesial ministry with their fraternity.”

As he prepares to enter that fraternity, Healy recalled with appreciation some of the priests who have inspired him along the way — people whom he considers “primary examples of what the priestly life looked like.”

“Msgr. Daniel F. Hoye was a great model of pastoral work, having diligently shepherded the parish for most of my childhood,” Healy said. “Father Richard Roy was my pastor throughout high school, a kind and faithful priest who I enjoyed getting to know greatly. At Bishop Feehan, Father Thomas Costa was my chaplain, with whom I became very close through my involvement in Liturgical ministry. He was witness to me of the loving heart of Christ. Each of them contributed to the very positive image that I held of the Catholic priest.”

He also cited Fathers Richard Wilson and Riley Williams, who were both serving at his home parish during his college and seminary years.

“They were most encouraging of my choice to enter the seminary, involving me in many aspects of parish life,” he said. “I looked forward to each weekend in college seminary, coming home on Sundays to serve in the parish with Father Wilson and Father Williams. The support of each of these priests has been integral to reaching this stage of my journey.”

One of Healy’s greatest role models, however, was probably his grandfather, George Broughton, who shared that he once had discerned a calling to the priesthood himself.

“When I was a child, he often brought me with him to daily Mass at St. Mark’s Parish in Attleboro Falls,” he said. “His example greatly contributed to my ultimate choice to pursue the priesthood.”

As he enters this final stretch towards a religious life of service to Christ and His Church, Healy reflected on his first quarter-century of preparation and how these years of formation have “formed me into a better man of God and prepared me well for upcoming ministry.”

“The faithful I have met in my home parish, at summer assignments, and across the diocese have overwhelmingly humbled me by their kindness and encouragement as I have continued this journey,” Healy said. “It has been most joyful to be present to friends and family in a new way at important moments — such as altar serving at weddings, First Communions, and funerals. And unique pastoral experiences in the seminary have strengthened my excitement for priestly ministry, particularly helping at a homeless shelter, assisting at campus ministry at Harvard, and working in youth ministry.”

With three men preparing for their priestly ordinations less than a month after his own diaconal ordination, Healy is also excited to be part of “the growing number of vocations in the diocese,” which he attributes to the efforts of Bishop da Cunha and the Vocations Office.

“I think that the witness of these young men being ordained will have a huge impact in their parishes, especially in encouraging those who may be interested in the priesthood,” he said. “Since his arrival in the diocese, Bishop da Cunha has strongly emphasized the important work of fostering and promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, most especially by the creation of the diocesan parish vocation committees. Let us pray that God may continue to raise up many more faithful men to serve God’s people.”

Healy is filled with joy and excitement for the May 19 diaconate ordination, which will take place in the presence of his parents, Richard and Christine, his two sisters, Jennifer and Meghan, and many more family members and friends.

During the Mass he will be vested by his cousin, Father Patrick Healy, O.M.I., who is 97 and legally blind.

“Father Pat is one of the most incredible priests I have ever met,” he said. “He is a missionary priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and has spent years of devoted service as a missionary in Japan, for several decades as a U.S. Army chaplain during the Vietnam War, and later as chaplain of West Point. He is currently serving as active chaplain at the Soldier’s Home in Chelsea, Mass.”

Newly-ordained Deacon Healy will celebrate his first Masses as homilist the following day, May 20, at his home parish of St. John the Evangelist during the 8, 10 and 11:30 a.m. services.

During his final year of formation, Healy will be serving weekends at Holy Family Parish in East Taunton, alongside pastor Father Kevin A. Cook, who is also diocesan director of Vocations and Seminarians.

“I look forward with great excitement to my final year of seminary with the ultimate goal of the priesthood drawing ever closer,” he said. “I will certainly strive to prepare as best as possible during this year for priestly life after the seminary. I will also definitely cherish the time that I have with my classmates and brothers at St. John’s.”

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