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Alumnus Justin Ryan ('06) ordained at St. James Cathedral
Posted 06/13/2018 11:27AM

Meet the Archdiocese of Seattle’s next three priests

Justin Ryan (Class of 2006) ordained at St. James Cathedral 

By, Kevin Birnbaum, NW Catholic 

Transitional deacons Louis Cunningham, Justin Ryan and Anh Tran will become the Archdiocese of Seattle’s newest priests when they are ordained this month by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.

While the ordinands’ personalities, interests and life experiences differ, their backgrounds share some key features, said Father Bryan Dolejsi, director of vocations.

“They were all born and raised Catholic, they all come from very supportive, good family structures … and all three of them come from large, suburban, working-class parishes with long-serving pastors.” And, he added, “all of them are quite faithful and prayerful and have a deep relationship with the Lord.”

Father Dolejsi concluded, “The church will be blessed by all three of these men — they’re going to be very good priests.”

The ordination Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 9, at St. James Cathedral. For coverage of the event, visit To learn more about vocations to the priesthood or religious life, visit and

Justin Michael Ryan

Born: July 30, 1988, in Seattle. I grew up initially in Edmonds, but for most of my life, I’ve lived in Mill Creek.

Home parish: St. Brendan, Bothell

Seminary: Mount Angel (St. Benedict, Oregon) and Mundelein (Mundelein, Illinois)

Favorite field of study: Spiritual theology, because it helps analytical thinkers like me engage in prayer. While the best advice regarding prayer remains “Go to the chapel and just spend time with the Lord,” spiritual theology helps us process those experiences with God and gives us the confidence to say, after encountering the Lord in prayer, “Wow, God, that really was you!”

Favorite saint: St. Anthony of Padua, because I misplace things all the time. He is also an inspiration for living out the faith. His dedication to Scripture and passion for preaching are an example I hope to follow as a priest.

Hobbies: Sports — playing, watching and even officiating. In many ways, I can best articulate who I am on the soccer field. I also run quite a bit. I’m a Seattle sports fan through and through (with the exception of Gonzaga basketball). I’m often in the attire of my favorite teams, ready to watch a game with friends.

Justin Ryan had what he describes as a “practicing Catholic” — but not overly devout — childhood. Weekly Mass was “a given,” but there were no family rosaries. “In fact, we rarely even ate dinner together, because sports drove a lot of what we did as a family,” he said.

“You wouldn’t look at the Ryan family as like, ‘Oh gosh, there’s the super-holy Ryan family.’”

But they were “fairly involved in the parish,” and Justin and his three younger siblings all attended St. Brendan School. In fourth or fifth grade, he and his dad started going to the Stations of the Cross during Lent. “There’s something very attractive about anything that helps you consider Jesus’ humanity,” he said.

That experience of “walking with Christ” made an impression on him. As a cross country runner at Archbishop Murphy High School, he wore a scapular — a pair of cloth patches attached by a string around the neck — as a reminder to unite his pain and fatigue with Christ’s suffering.

It was an experience on the soccer field that prompted him to take the idea of a vocation seriously. Since sixth grade he had dreamed of winning a state soccer championship — even prayed for it. Then, as a sophomore, his dream came true when Archbishop Murphy clinched a come-from-behind victory in the Class A-B final.

Justin had expected the moment to be some “huge emotional experience.” But, he said, “while I was excited that we won, I remember standing on the field thinking, Is this it? The lack of fulfillment that I experienced on the field revealed just how deep our desires go.”

He came to understand that his deepest desires could only be fulfilled in eternity by God. He saw the importance of living a Christ-like life and asked himself, “What’s the most efficient way to do that?”

“And then I was like, ‘Oh, well, priests are supposed to be like Christ, so maybe I should be a priest.’”

He continued to discern as a student at Gonzaga University, where he studied accounting. His spiritual director, Father Paul Vevik of the Diocese of Spokane, helped him to ask not only, “Am I called to be a priest?” but also, “Do I want to be a priest?”

After a few years working as a commercial real estate appraiser, he entered seminary in 2013. It’s been a “very joyful experience,” he said. Early on, he especially enjoyed that people understood his Catholic humor. He’s also experienced a “real deepening of my relationship with God.”

He’s “pretty stoked to be finally returning home” to Western Washington, and he’s looking forward to celebrating the sacraments and serving the people of the Archdiocese of Seattle. As ordination day draws near, he’s “getting excited.”

“It’s like I’ve waited in line for this roller coaster, and now we’re climbing.”


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