Coming from a family of nine children, Mary Ellen apparently knew early in life the warmth and security of a loving family unit. Her essentially positive and cheerful outlook on life was evident in her dealings with all who would come into her sphere of contact. This is borne out in her writing in later years of events in her life, where the phrases “loved school and the sisters”, “wonderful years”, “very special”, “very happy years” abound. Mary Ellen always saw the best in everyone and affirmed them positively, often saying: “Aren’t you wonderful” or “how beautiful you are!”
Mary Ellen was the seventh child born to James and Anne (McGuire) Ryan, on May 4, 1918, in Warrnambool, coming after the birth of five of her brothers. Eventually all three girls of the family would become members of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan congregation where one of these, Helen, survives her. Bridget, the eldest child of the family, predeceased Mary Ellen in 1998.
Mary Ellen completed her primary and secondary education at St Brendan’s Coragulac. It was only six months after leaving school that she sought entry into the Good Samaritan Novitiate, Pennant Hills, and achieved this on July 2, 1936. For many years following, she would be known by her religious name of Sister Mary Raymond until later reverting to her baptismal name of Mary Ellen.
Mary Ellen made her first profession of vows on January 4, 1939. Following completion of studies for teacher registration, she embarked on a ministry of education of primary and sub-primary students that covered some 44 years at schools in New South Wales and Victoria. In some of these years she combined the role of teacher with that of school principal, and on two occasions of superior of the community.
The year 1985 marked a significant change in Mary Ellen’s journey. It was her first appointment in Queensland, and as superior of Nyanza Nursing Home situated within the grounds of Lourdes Hill Convent and College, Hawthorne. Here she devoted her natural skills in pastoral care to the elderly sisters in her charge, and expressed her sadness when Nyanza was closed at the end of 1991.
Her skills of care and hospitality, however, continued to find expression in her ministry at Wynnum West, Queensland, at Santa Maria Centre and Marian House, Northcote, Victoria, and, for six months in 1999, as support to our ministry at Abergowrie College, Ingham, North Queensland – a College catering especially for boys from rural backgrounds.
In 2006, Mary Ellen moved to South Morang Mews and finally to Villa Maria, Bundoora.
Sister Mary Ellen Ryan died on November 30, 2014. She is survived by her sister, Helen, and remembered with love by all her Sisters of the Good Samaritan.