Reclaiming a Lost Leader: Mary Perkins Ryan, Visionary in Modern Catholic Education

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Mary Perkins Ryan remains one of the least recognized of the twentieth-century figures in the modern renewal of Catholic education in the United States. The reasons are many but none satisfactory. Ryan was an intellectual without a scholarly credential. She was an educator without an affiliation to an academic institution. She was a leading voice for professional standards in church religious education without ever serving in either a parish or diocesan role. Ryan worked alongside the giants of twentieth-century Catholic educational history - Gerard Sloyan, Johannes Hofinger, Gabriel Moran, Berard Marthaler, Maria Harris, Gloria Durka, and Thomas Groome. Their shadow cast long and may be the reason why despite her leadership in the American liturgical movement and her visionary stance on adult religious education, Ryan still remains on the margins of Catholic educational history. The purpose of this article is to illustrate how Ryan's intellectual corpus, which includes twenty-four authored works and two decades of editorial direction at The Living Light and Professional Approaches for Christian Educators (PACE), justifies her place alongside the more established figures of her time. It is to reclaim a leadership role for Ryan as a visionary in the modern renewal of Catholic education and in so doing to move her contributions from the margins to the main text of that history.