Sister Donna Ryan taught in Omaha, served needs of others
August 11, 2022
Sister of Mercy Donna Ryan, who taught in Omaha and advocated for others, died July 31 in Omaha. She was 80.
A funeral Mass was held Aug. 9 at Mercy Villa in Omaha with interment at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Imogene, Iowa. A memorial service was planned for Aug. 13 at St. James Catholic Church in Kansas City, Missouri.
Born in Evanston, Illinois, Sister Donna grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas. Following the example of her aunt, the late-Sister Joel Torpy, and cousin, the late-Sister Vera O’Connor, she entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1959 in Omaha. She professed first vows in 1962 And final vows in 1967.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in art, a master’s degrees in religious studies and theology.
As her first assignment, Sister Donna taught at St. Margaret Mary School in Omaha from 1964 to 1968. Former students will remember her as Sister Marian. She also taught for 10 years in Kansas City, Missouri.
From there, Sister Donna took up ministries in Colorado, Kansas and Illinois, serving as a director of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and adult formation programs, chaplain, campus minister and director of the Institute of Business Ethics at DePaul University in Chicago.
In 1996, she returned to Kansas City where served for the next 20 years in various roles including as a pastoral associate and with several organizations serving people suffering from poverty, discrimination and exploitation or seeking spiritual growth.
With her religious order, Sister Donna helped establish Mercy Associates and Companions in Mercy. She also helped form the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, and in 1987 served on the Vatican’s Synod on the Laity.
Sister Donna retired in 2016, living with the Sisters of Mercy community in Omaha while continuing to consult with and advise the Justice Project in Kansas City.