Lasting impression

May 26 – June 1, 05
VOL 124 NO. 20
Lasting impression
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
St. James Middle School dedicates gymnasium to Father Thomas J. Ryan.

JOHNSON CITY — Father Thomas Ryan was taken by surprise on April 4. The students at St. James Middle School invited Father Ryan into the gymnasium to observe how they had imprinted his name and a shamrock on a section of the gym floor.

“I was honored and humbled,” said Father Ryan. A document signed by 23 Student Senate students was given to Father Ryan. It read: “As members of the Student Senate at St. James Middle School, it is our distinct privilege and pleasure to officially dedicate the St. James gymnasium in your honor. You have been and continue to be an inspiration to all of us!”

The Student Senate voted to dedicate the gym to Father Ryan at a recent meeting. The Student Senate consists of two girls and two boys that have been elected to be representatives from each class. Father Ryan will be leaving St. James Parish at the end of June, and the students wanted to honor him by doing something in his memory that will stay with students long after he leaves.

Sixth grade student Amy Ludovici said, “It was a really nice way to let him know that we care about him and we will miss him. He’s the best priest we’ve had here. He puts a smile on our face and he lights up the room with his presence. He assured us that he would pray for us when we had a problem. Even after he has gone, we will remember him.”

Catherine Skojec, a sixth grader at St. James Middle School, thinks the dedication is a great way to remember Father Ryan after he has departed. “It’s really special because he’s been a great priest,” said Catherine. “When he walked by a classroom, he would pop his head in the classroom, putting a smile on everyone’s face. When I was in fourth grade, I asked him to say a special prayer for my mother when she had surgery. He assured me that he would pray for her.”

The gymnasium is the hub of activities at the school. Beginning with a Before School Program, activities are hosted in the gym all day long. Other activities include physical education classes, a lunch program, an after-school program, CYO, cheerleading practice and the staging of musicals.

In addition to having Father Ryan’s name imprinted on floor, three signs displaying the words: kindness, joy and self-control are exhibited on one wall of the gym. Principal George Clancy said this display of values is a reflection of what the school is trying to promote. The young people are being encouraged to control their temper and their vocabulary.

Clancy said Father Ryan has been very supportive of the school. “The dedication is a remembrance of the work he has done for the last 12 years,” said Clancy. “The school is a busy, vibrant place and he has helped make it that way. He has supported the scheduling of events and various projects that have been beneficial to the school. CYO and athletics are important to him. He’s great to work with. He’s an athlete, so he knows how important the gym is.”

“I’m a firm believer in supporting Catholic education,” said Father Ryan. He is a member of the Catholic Board of Education. “As a priest, I’m called to be a spiritual leader,” said Father Ryan. “We are a cohesive Catholic community, with the parish and school working closely together. The students have also expanded their horizons by accepting students from other parishes.”

Parochial Vicar of St. James Church, Father Thomas Servatius assists Father Ryan supporting the school. “It’s nice to know that they recognize and appreciate the dedication on the part of the parish and Father Servatius,” said Father Ryan.

The students regularly participate in the Masses held at St. James Church on Holy Days. They serve as lectors, servers, greeters, instrumentalists and they sing in the chorus.

Eighth grader Colin Hauke spoke fondly of the Masses. “Father Ryan’s homilies are very good,” remarked Colin. “I like the way he speaks. He’s left his mark on the school. He’s a nice, friendly person.”

Terri Barnes teaches religious education and reading at the school and she feels that the dedication of the gym to Father Ryan was very appropriate. “He’s done a lot for the school,” said Barnes. “Always accessible, he takes an interest in making sure the school continues to stay open. He also makes the parish accessible.” The parish supplies the school with a list of parishioners’ birthdays. The students of the school then send birthday cards to the parishioners on the list. “If the students have a bake sale, Father Ryan lets us advertise the sale in the church bulletin and allows us to sell the baked goods at a church dinner,” said Barnes.

Fifth grader Alex Terela was pleased about the honor that was bestowed on Father Ryan. “I think it was very nice,” said Alex. “We’ll have him in our hearts forever. I’ll never be able to forget Father Ryan. He’s a good all-around person. He was pretty funny and he did a lot of good. His homilies were cool and he told good jokes.”

Fourth grader Nicole Martin is happy about the dedication. “It’s very nice because he helps us out as a priest and he’s very nice,” said Nicole. “He helps us out by showing up for the Masses and telling us to do the right thing. When I see him, I think I’m special and I am one of the children of God.”

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