“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father and I will love him and take up our abode in him.”

These words proved irresistible to Gloris Ryan as a tenth grader and led her to the Marywood aspirancy and a long, faithful life as Sister Marie Joseph. Gloris was born in Chicago on August 1, 1925, the first child of John and Lillian Carlson Ryan. When she was about two, the family moved to Muskegon, where her three siblings, Jean, James and Therese were born. Childhood in an Irish-Swedish family provided her a lifetime of stories about Swedish customs.

Her early education alternated between public school and St. Mary’s. In the 10th grade, she came upon the passage from John in one of Sister Jane Marie Murray’s texts and felt a desire to become a Sister. Encouraged by Sisters Aline, James and Brendan, she entered Marywood as an aspirant and graduated from the Academy in 1944. The following September she became a postulant and at her reception took the name Sister Marie Joseph of the Child Jesus.

In 1947 Sister began her long and successful teaching ministry, first teaching high school in Lake Leelanau. While working toward her bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College (1957), she taught also at St. Joseph, Bay City; St. Mary, Carson City; St. Mary, Hannah; St. Joseph, Saginaw; and Marywood Academy. In 1957 she returned to Carson City as principal and superior.

Ever devoted to study, Sister Marie Joseph earned a Master’s Degree in Religious Education from Aquinas College in 1962. Two years later she went to Catholic University to work on a Master’s Degree in history and later returned to receive a doctorate in modern European and Russian history. During her years in Washington, it became “her” city. She delighted in its libraries, attended sessions of Congress, and became an enthusiastic guide to its art galleries. She did additional study at the University of California at Davis, Hamline University and the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.

On every mission, small or large, Sister was a vital and loving member of the local community, everywhere and to everyone, a serene and peaceful presence. Her last and longest apostolic ministry was at Aquinas College where she excelled as a teacher of European history. A model of scholarly precision and clarity of thought in all her teaching, she further devoted herself to a study of international peace and justice and acted as college spokeswoman on these topics.
Willing to take on new challenges, Sister Marie Joseph guided a summer study tour of New England for the Congregation’s ongoing development program. She participated in the development and execution of Aquinas College’s interdisciplinary humanities program. Leaving the security of her field of history, she joined a small team of faculty who created and taught two courses incorporating history, literature, music, art and philosophy as a comprehensive learning experience for all freshmen. In her last four years at Aquinas, Sister was Assistant Director of the Humanities Program, doing research and supportive work which led to its recognition and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

On leaving Aquinas College, Sister Marie Joseph chose a sabbatical which embraced two of her greatest loves: academic scholarship and Dominican history. She committed herself to OPUS, a collaborative project under the direction of Sinsinawa (Wisconsin) Dominican Sister Nona McGreal, devoted to the study of Dominican History in the United States. It was Sister Marie Joseph’s task to research and write about Dominican activity in the United States from 1832-50. She enjoyed the research and related travel, primarily to archives in River Forest, Illinois and Providence, Rhode Island. At Providence College she enjoyed the hospitality of her dear friend and colleague, Sister Teresa Houlihan.

In 2001 Sister had the pleasure of seeing the first volume of her collaboration with OPUS, Dominicans at Home in a Young Nation: 1787-1865, published in a handsome, cloth cover edition. Her work, chapters eight and ten, reflect the best of her scholarship, collaborative spirit, clarity and style. Like the Dominicans she studied, she was in this and in all she did truly at home.

Gentle and kind, soft-spoken, prayerful and serene, Sister Marie Joseph was a woman of many interests from experimenting with cooking to discussing ideas. Among her hobbies she listed needlepoint and crocheting (“both elementary,” she noted). Other indoor pastimes were listening to classical music and reading. Outdoors she enjoyed walking, picnics and sitting by Lake Michigan, and a quiet hour by Reed’s Lake. She rejoiced in family and small community gatherings, in thoughtful conversation and the glories of the seasons.

During much of her life Sister Marie Joseph coped with asthma and allergies, but the onset of cancer in 1994 changed her life drastically. Surgery was followed by severe reaction to chemotherapy and more surgery. Nevertheless, after that she had, in her words, “the best twelve years of my life.” In summer 2006 she experienced difficulties with her right eye and in subsequent months the condition worsened. That December expert consultation revealed the presence of a growing lymphoma behind the eye. She then moved to the Marywood Health Center and gradually regained sight and strength. However, in the winter of 2007 she experienced failure of several systems and had little hope of recovery. She chose to receive Hospice care in February 2008. During this period she enjoyed the company of family and friends and the stimulus of good conversation. Ever gracious and patient, she prepared herself for Easter and the Risen Christ.

She, our beloved Sister, so drawn to the irresistible Word of God and so responsive to that Word, now abides with the Dominicans at home in God.

Sister Marie Joseph Ryan is survived by her sister Jean Carey (Marquette MI), many nieces and nephews, many friends and her loving Dominican community.