Sister Jean Ryan held nearly every job at Carmel

Sister Jean Marie Ryan, OCD, a Carmelite sister for almost 70 years in Little Rock, died Jan. 19. She was 93.

Born May 8, 1926, she was the fourth of five children to Adelina Gerardi Ryan and William Franklin Ryan. Growing up in Louisville, Ky., she attended St. James School taught by Ursuline sisters. A priest at her home parish inspired her to move toward a deeper spiritual life and began attending daily Mass, her obituary stated.

She considered becoming a missionary, nurse or actress, but after reading Thomas Merton, she was drawn to the power of prayer. After graduating from Sacred Heart Academy, she was a stenographer for Cherokee Coal Company and took college courses at night. On Aug. 6, 1948, she entered the Carmel in Loretto, but left a year later as the sisters did not think she was healthy enough to stay, due to an infection in her knee. Sister Jean was a volunteer teacher at an orphanage run by the Good Shepherd sisters.

Despite being in a serious relationship, after receiving a call from her novice mistress in Loretto asking if she’d go to Little Rock, she entered Carmel in Little Rock Sept. 13, 1950. She made her solemn profession Dec. 22, 1954. Sister Jean served in various capacities, including as prioress, subprioress, novice mistress and council sister. She also worked as bookkeeper, in the correspondence office, choir director and wrote poetry and op-eds for a local newspaper.

In 2011, she told Arkansas Catholic for her 60th jubilee, “I have had practically every job in the community, except cook. The sisters would be sorry if ever I had the misfortune of putting out a meal. At 85, I am still here in the Little Rock Carmel, having joyfully celebrated both my silver and golden jubilees.”

There were no immediate survivors.

A vigil and rosary was held Jan. 21 and a Mass of Christian Burial Jan. 22 at the Carmelite Monastery Chapel.

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