Remembering Sister Mary Ann O'Ryan, OSB

Updated: Oct 11



Our dear Sister Mary Ann died peacefully, yet unanticipated, on October 5, 2020, of natural causes, at the St. Scholastica Monastery. Surviving her are siblings Rita Nemchausky, Peg Lombardo, Therese Reynolds, Kevin O’Ryan, Joe O’Ryan, Virginia Hoyt, Irene O’Ryan-Fox, Mary Beth Boland, Michael O’Ryan and their descendants, and her Benedictine Sisters at St. Scholastica Monastery, Chicago. She passed into the loving arms of God and the Sisters who have gone before her are there to welcome her. Sister Mary Ann, first of eleven children of Kevin Michael and Mary Yvonne Quinn O’Ryan, was born July 25, 1942 and baptized on August 9, 1942. She and her siblings attended St. Symphorosa Parish school. After graduating from Mount Assisi High School in Lemont, Illinois, Mary Ann entered Saint Scholastica Monastery on September 14, 1960. On July 11, 1961, she received the habit as a Benedictine Sister of Chicago and the religious name Sister Veronica. Following the novitiate year, she made first profession on August 16, 1962, and then was enrolled at Mundelein College. As a young and carefully supervised teacher, she began her long career as an educator in Chicago and Colorado, a former Prioress of the community, and most recently the treasurer. Sister Mary Ann will be remembered as someone who always seemed to do the right: she acted justly in dealings with people and seemed to expect that from others. While doing the serious, she took joy in reading, astronomy, crocheting, and films. She lived for each day and treasured history, writing in 2007, a Concise History of U.S. Benedictine Women. We invite you to learn more about Sister Mary Ann in the following biography written by Sister Benita Coffey, OSB.

Sister Mary Ann O'Ryan, OSB in full Benedictine Habit with her parents.


Mary Ann O’Ryan, first of eleven children of Kevin Michael and Mary Yvonne Quinn O’Ryan, was born July 25, 1942 and baptized on August 9, 1942. She and her siblings attended St. Symphorosa Parish school. After graduating from Mount Assisi High School in Lemont, Illinois, Mary Ann entered Saint Scholastica Monastery on September 14, 1960.


Sister Mary Ann O'Ryan, OSB with her father and 10 siblings.


On July 11, 1961, she received the habit as a Benedictine Sister of Chicago and the religious name Sister Veronica. Following the novitiate year, she made first profession on August 16, 1962, and then was enrolled at Mundelein College. As a young and carefully supervised teacher, she began her long career as an educator with two years of teaching in first grade, before returning to Mundelein to complete her Bachelors degree in 1967. Her MA in history, earned at Loyola University in 1974 was followed by M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 1977.


Sister Mary Ann O'Ryan, OSB in the modified habit.

Over the years Sister Mary Ann taught in Chicago at Queen of All Saints, St. Hilary, Children of Peace, and St. Scholastica Academy and in Colorado, at St. Michael’s in Delta. She was principal at St. Hilary’s and Dean of students at SSA.


Sister Mary Ann O'Ryan, OSB was elected Prioress in 1982.

Elected Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago in 1982 she served four years. At her installation, she shared a cherished verse from the prophet Micah: “This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this: that you act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God.” This clearly guided her not only in that role, but in all the other important positions that she held.

For the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of Region 8, she was secretary and the religious delegate to Illinois Catholic Conference. Appointed by the Vicar of Religious in the Archdiocese of Chicago, she served as religious delegate to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and was a member of its Social Justice Committee and then its Chairperson. That concern for justice prompted her participation in the Benedictine Coalition for Responsible Investment.

Sister Mary Ann O'Ryan, OSB teaching at St. Scholastica Academy Chicago.

Most recently as treasurer of the community since 2012, Sister Mary Ann has also been President of Illinois Treasurers of Religious Institutes which is Region 8 of Resource Center for Religious Institutes. It is clear that she leaves a legacy of major accomplishments, but most of all, it is the manner in which she blended an active and contemplative life.

Pictured from left to right: Maria Ambre, Oblate Matt Ambre, Sister Virginia Jung, OSB, Sister Susan Quaintance, OSB, Sister Benita Coffey, OSB, and Sister Mary Ann O’Ryan, OSB pictured together at the ABA Biennial Convention at St. Benedict Monastery in St. Joseph, MN (July 2018).


Over the years her willingness to try new things included many opportunities she found to travel. Some summers included trips to China, Israel, Rome, and Canada for growth, learning, and enjoyment. Other summers she engaged in community ministries such as being a counselor at Camp San Benito and a teacher at Colorado summer vacation schools, in Montrose and Ouray. She attended summer gatherings at American Benedictine Academy every summer 2013 to 2019.

Sister Ann O'Ryan, OSB, with many O'Ryan family members at the 24th Annual Testimonial Dinner where she, along with the Finance Committee, received the 2018 Spirit of St. Benedict Award.

In June of 2004, Sr. Mary Ann was an honoree at the annual Testimonial Dinner. In introducing her, Sr. Mary Melady described her as a nurturing presence, gracious helper, woman of prayer and friend to all. Alluding to the humble task Sr. Mary Ann undertook to plant flowers all along the west boundary of the monastery property, a task that demanded hours of carrying water in jugs, the audience was then ready to hear the more profound ways this woman could be described. She will be remembered as “woman, historian, teacher, school principal, prioress, woman of the Church and, last but definitely not least, a Benedictine, truly a model of good zeal.”

Whether in the everydayness of her life, or in the extraordinary, Sr. Mary Ann had always seemed to do the right: she acted justly in dealings with people and seemed to expect that from others. While doing the serious, she took joy in reading, astronomy, crocheting, and films. She lived for each day and treasured history, writing in 2007, a Concise History of U.S. Benedictine Women.


Sister Mary Ann O'Ryan, OSB, pictured with Sister Eleanore Hillenbrand, OSB.

Sr. Mary Ann, as the eldest child of the family, loved and was loved by her brothers and sisters. Her youngest brother Michael added some precious items to this obituary which he forwarded to the community shortly after her death. He offered us from her own words, (from a Mt. Assisi Alumnae newsletter in 2007), things about her rich life story: “I thought then that I would be happy if I could teach fifth grade for the rest of my life. Little did I imagine all the things that I would be called upon to do that stretched me and enriched me beyond my wildest imagination.” “I thought when I entered religious life that I would not be going anywhere ever again and at that point I had never traveled more than a hundred miles from my home. Who knew? Join the convent and see the world!” “Next, I was elected Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago. Now that was a tough job! One-hundred and thirty people looking to me for leadership in so many ways was a truly humbling experience. I am grateful for all of this, and for faith and religious life, for the higher education that I received and for the gift of travel, for the beauties of nature and for our country. May our loving God continue to bless us and to bless our country and our world.”

Sister Mary Ann O'Ryan, OSB (back, left) pictured with some of her community members.

Sr. Mary Ann died on October 5, 2020. The Mass of Resurrection was offered on October 10 in St. Scholastica Chapel. She was buried in All Saints Cemetery, Des Plaines, Illinois. Surviving her are siblings Rita Nemchausky, Peg Lombardo, Therese Reynolds, Kevin O’Ryan, Joe O’Ryan, Virginia Hoyt, Irene O’Ryan-Fox, Mary Beth Boland, Michael O’Ryan and their descendants, and her Benedictine Sisters at St. Scholastica Monastery, Chicago.

To read the reflection given at her funeral by Sister Judith Murphy, Prioress, click here.

473 views