Augusta's Ryan was a hero, priest and poet

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What is known about the man whose statue is seen regularly on Greene Street in front of St. John United Methodist Church? The man is a hero and Catholic priest and known as the " poet-priest of the South." His name is the Rev. Abram J. Ryan and he is someone we all should be familiar with in the history of Augusta.

Fr. Ryan was born in Hagerstown, Md., on Feb. 5, 1838, and he was raised there for most of his upbringing. However, he and his family were of the Catholic faith, and he felt called to vocation of a religious order -- priest of the order of St. Vincent de Paul.

When he attended seminary for his priestly formation, he went to a seminary in Missouri and he was ordained into the Vincentian order of priests on Sept 12, 1860.

Fr. Ryan felt he was a true Southerner at heart at all times.

WHEN THE CIVIL War began, he enlisted in the Confederate Army. He served throughout the Civil War, and was deeply impressed by the toils and bravery and heroism of all soldiers battling.

When the Civil War ended, Fr. Ryan served many various parishes in the South. However, the city of Augusta is fortunate that this holy priest and poet came here in January 1868, and served right here at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, now known as the Church of the Most Holy Trinity.

He served here at St. Patrick's from January 1868 until April 1870. While he was here in Augusta, Fr. Ryan began to write some of his best and most memorable poems. He was a gifted writer, and expressed his emotions through the poetry he wrote. We are so much better for his thoughts expressed in the poems of his heart and mind and soul.

He did go on and serve other churches throughout the South, and his life ended in 1886 in Louisville, Ky. But he was not buried there, as his religious order of the Vincentians felt it best to carry his body down to Mobile, Ala., where he spent most of his priesthood.

SO THIS MAN was a Catholic priest and a Civil War fighter for the Confederacy, and a man of great poetic words that inspired people to know we all belong to God and a noble purpose in life.

His poetry brings out the best in us, as we recall our own vocation to use our God-given talents and skills and gifts for the betterment of human conditions and circumstances.

Fr. Ryan's statue is here in Augusta. He stood for God's will first and foremost, and always for the gift of charity to be shared with others. His name evokes the best in our own humanity as we yearn to strive to bring noble values and holy purposes into our human actions and interactions with family and friends.

So the next time you see the statue of Fr. Abram J. Ryan, remember his legacy as a Catholic priest, poet and Southerner at heart. His love of the South and his love of God and poetry make him a hero in our lives, so that we might aspire to great noble work for God and all family and friends.

(The writer is parochial vicar of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta.)


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