Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Archdiocesan priest Father G. Philip Ryan shared the joyfulness of faith

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published March 3, 2016

GREENSBORO—Father G. Philip Ryan left a career caring for people when he managed hotels to care for the community of Catholic believers in Georgia. He died on Wednesday, Feb. 17. He was 65.

Father G. Philip Ryan Photo By Michael Alexander

Father G. Philip Ryan
Photo By Michael Alexander

Father Ryan stepped down as pastor of Christ Our King and Savior Church in Greensboro in 2014 due to a medical condition requiring dialysis.

The Irish-born priest enjoyed a “yarn” with loyal friends and shared the “joyfulness” of the faith, said people close to him.

The man focused on priorities and let other things fall away. His focus was always on helping people in their need. Father Paul Flood said his long-time friend told congregations over the years, “My job is to bring God to you and to bring you to God. And the rest is hotel management.”

Father Flood celebrated Mass with his friend the day before he died.

“It was a mix of emotions. It was a special experience,” he said, recalling the two of them holding the chalice together during the consecration of the Eucharist.

Peter Faletti, planning and research director for the archdiocese, and his wife, Maureen, knew Father Ryan since 2005. She was the liturgical coordinator and he was the music director at Christ Our King and Savior Church. Father Ryan spoke often of God’s love for all, said Faletti. The two attended the final Mass with Father Flood and Father Ryan.

“He put pastoral needs ahead of administration, such as visiting the sick and nursing homes vs. meetings in his office,” said Faletti in an email. He saw the priest welcome ideas, but he also knew when decisions had to be made. “He was farsighted and his prior training helped him to understand financial issues easily. He had a desire to build parishes but always within the financial means of the parish.”

Father Ryan worked in the hospitality industry both in England and on the west coast of Ireland, starting from serving food, a hobby he never tired of, to shopping for food and its preparation. He left the 17-year career to enter the seminary at St. John’s College in Waterford, Ireland. He was ordained a priest on May 12, 1988, at St. Mary’s Cathedral, in Kilkenny, Ireland. He served his priestly ministry for the Atlanta Archdiocese, one of many Irish priests who helped guide the church here when the Catholic population was much smaller than its now estimated 1 million believers.

“He loved being here. He was so popular, but he never revealed it. He’d never boast,” said his brother, John Ryan, who came with his wife and three sons for the services. Ryan said his brother would visit Ireland regularly with the idea of staying for a lengthy holiday, but days later would miss his Georgia community too much.

He remembered when his brother told him he would be entering the seminary. It wasn’t a surprise to his family, even though he had a long career in the hospitality industry. Ryan recalled his brother playing a toddler’s version of Mass.

Father Godfrey Philip Ryan passed away February 17. His funeral Mass took place at Christ Our King and Savior Church, Greensboro, where he served as pastor for nine years. In this 2015 file photo he is shown, third from right, at the 25th anniversary Mass of his good friend and brother Irishman’s ordination, Father Paul Flood, second from left, pastor of St. Benedict Church, Johns Creek. Photo By Michael Alexander

“He had the gift of gab, as we’d say in Ireland,” said Father John Kieran. He worked with Father Ryan serving in the deanery of the east rural parishes of the Atlanta Archdiocese.

“He tried to get things right. He was in it for the service of it,” Father Kieran said.

He served as the spiritual leader of Christ Our King and Savior Church for nine years until July 2014. His first assignment as a priest was as a parochial vicar at St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn. Following that, he was appointed parochial vicar at St. Joseph Church in Athens where he served for 18 months before being named pastor of St. Joseph Church in Washington, including Purification Church in Sharon and St. Mary’s Church in Elberton. In September 2002 he was assigned as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Griffin.

One of his parishioners at the Washington church went on to become a priest. Father Brian Bufford was ordained in 2015.

“He was one of joyfulness,” Father Bufford said about his former pastor, who sent encouraging words his way while the seminarian attended St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary, in Mundelein, Illinois.

Father Bufford was a concelebrant of the funeral Mass. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory was the principal celebrant of the Mass, held on Friday, Feb. 26, at Christ Our King and Savior Church. A vigil was held in the church on Thursday evening, Feb. 25.

Following the funeral, Father Ryan was interred in the priest section at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs.