Keough Hall rector speaks on journey to priesthood
Lauren Spencer | Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Wrapping up his third year of living in Keough Hall, Fr. Brogan Ryan has been a rector for two years and a priest for one — ordained last April — during which he was the hall’s assistant rector.
Ryan said he had a Catholic upbringing grounded in faith life.
“I had a big family, I went to Catholic school, and community life was very important for our family,” he said.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, his mother went to Saint Mary’s and his father went to Notre Dame.
“We were big Notre Dame fans in the middle of Buckeye Country,” Ryan said. “It was ingrained in us.”
Ryan chose Notre Dame, not only because of family influence, but because of its strong Catholic identity and liberal arts education.
“It’s not just an intellectual and academic education, but community feel and residential life, and the education of the whole person,” he said. “When I visited other schools, I found I was usually comparing them to the way I felt at Notre Dame. That was it.”
After graduating Notre Dame, Ryan participated in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program, through which he taught religion and math at a middle school in Montgomery, Alabama.
“It was two of the most difficult years of my life, but also two of the most rewarding and fulfilling years of my life,” Ryan said. “Teaching was really hard, but something that I grew to love a lot. And the fact that it was done in the context of living in a community — people I lived, prayed, ate and worked with — it was a wonderful experience.”
He worked for an accounting firm thereafter — but he said something was calling him back to Notre Dame and the Congregation of Holy Cross.
“When I was at Notre Dame, I got to know a lot of the priests and brothers on campus, and that kind of experience made me think about religious life, and particularly Holy Cross,” Ryan said. “All throughout ACE and when I was working in accounting, I had the lingering thought that maybe God was calling me to this. After both of those really good experiences, I felt like there was something more, like an itch that needed scratching. So, I came back here and entered the seminary in 2012.”
His time in the seminary gave him a chance to discern the priesthood, he said.
“Part of the beautiful thing about wanting to be a priest is it takes a long time, so you get a lot of time to think, pray, study and talk to other people about it,” Ryan said. “The dorms are really important in terms of that.”
Ryan said Keough Hall has had a particularly special influence on his journey.
“One of the coolest things about being a rector so far is that last year was this huge year in my life, with getting ordained and professing my final vows at Holy Cross, and guys in Keough were able to come to that,” he said. “… It was really sweet. This community has meant a lot to me, and, in a way, it taught me how to be a priest.”
Hall traditions have been passed down to Ryan, and he said wisdom from past rectors — Fr. Pat Reedy, Fr. Pete McCormick and Fr. Pete Jarett, in particular — has shaped and informed his role today.
“People who have been rectors for so long have wealths of experience. It’s a community of rectors,” Ryan said. “They support each other and spend a lot of time together, and call and text — ‘Who has experience with this?’ or ‘Can you chat for a little bit?’”
Ryan said at times its hard for students to keep God at their center of their lives in the face of demands of academic, extra-curricular and social commitments.
“It takes intentionality,” he replied. “And sometimes, we think of our relationship with God as another three-credit class that we have to take — one more thing on top. And often what that leads to is us cutting it out. But what we forget is that God is so intimately involved in all the aspects of our lives that, at times, a relationship with God and being in touch with God in our faith lives is just a practice of opening our eyes and experiencing God in everything around us.”
As a first step of intentionality, Ryan recommended a practice of gratitude.
“It’s developing a regular habit in your life of noticing and then being grateful for the things that are there,” Ryan said. “What gratitude does is, it recognizes the good things you have as gifts, and ultimately as gifts from God. So, if you’re enjoying the fact that you have heat in your building — if you can be grateful for that — then ultimately that leads back to the fact that this is a gift, and that you’re not doing it yourself. Ultimately, we believe God is the giver of those good things.”
Similarly, Ryan ended on a note of gratitude, accrediting the Keough Hall community for where he is today.
“I feel really blessed to be a part of this community,” Ryan added. “All the great traditions and energy that the guys in Keough have bless my life and make it really wonderful.”