Document Type

Finding Aid

Collection Date


Finding Aid Date





All physical materials associated with the New England Province Archive are currently held by the Jesuit Archives in St. Louis, MO. Any inquiries about these materials should be directed to Jesuit Archives. Electronic versions of some items and the descriptions and finding aids to the Archives, which are hosted in CrossWorks, are provided only as a courtesy.

Joseph L. Ryan was born on December 4, 1920 in Brighton,MA, the son of John R. Ryan and Mary Ann (Connelly) Ryan. He was educated at Boston Latin School and Boston College High School, graduating in 1938. He entered into the Society of Jesus on June 30, 1938 at Shadowbrook. Both his novitiate and juniorate training were at Shadowbrook, 1938 to 1942, then he studied Philosophy at Weston College from 1942 to 1945. In 1945, he went to Baghdad College,Baghdad,Iraq, for his regency, teaching English, Mathematics and Chemistry. He left Baghdad in 1948 to begin his Theological studies at Weston College and continued until 1952. He was ordained at Weston College on June 16, 1951 by Bishop John J. McEleney, S.J. In 1952, he went to St. Robert’s Hall,Pomfret,CT for his tertianship studies and in 1953 he began a year of study in Chemistry at Boston College. On December 28, 1954, he returned to Baghdad College to teach Chemistry. In 1956, he became the dean of the new Al-Hikma University,Baghdad,Iraq, and a Professor of Theology. He remained at Al-Hikma until 1962, when he left for the St. Joseph’s Residence in Baghdadto study the Arabic language. After his year of study, he returned to Al-Hikma University as the dean until 1966 when he was made academic vice-president. When the Jesuits were expelled from Al-Hikma University in 1968, he returned to New England where he became a research fellow at the Cambridge (Mass.) Center for Social Studies, and to serve as Director of Planning for Jesuit Missions for the Province.

In 1971, he returned to the Mid-East, at St. Joseph University, Beirut, Lebanon, where he did research at the Center for the Study of the Modern Arabic World (CEMAM) until 1975. In 1976 he returned to the United States where he continued these studies at Loyola House in Boston. From 1972 to 1977, he undertook a series of lecture tours on topics related to the Middle East. He took his Final Solemn Vows on April 12, 1977. Also in 1977, he became rector for the Jesuit community at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA. In 1983, he spent a year at Oxford University, England, studying religious education. He then began work with the Amman, Jordan religious education ministry and became director for the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. He remained with the program until 1990, when he took a one year sabbatical and returned to the Loyola House for private study, and later Weston, to continue his education. He then spent a year, 1991-1992, at the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge, MA. From 1992 until 1997 he worked in spiritual counseling and direction for retreats at Fairfield University. In 1997, his failing health forced him leave his position. He died on January 31, 1998 and is buried at Campion Center in Weston, MA.

Fr. Ryan was member of the National Council of Americans for Middle East Understanding, the Middle East Studies Association, and President of the American Friends of th eMiddle East. He was the author of many articles and book chapters on Middle Eastern affairs and, in particular, on Palestinian-Israeli issues and problems. He testified on conditions in the Middle East, including anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, before U.S. Congressional committees, and delivered a paper on the Rights of the Palestinian People at the United Nations.

Fr. Ryan’s collection consists of papers and photographs. The bulk of the papers are from the 1970s and documents Fr. Ryan’s work presenting the state of affairs in the Middle East, especially the Palestinian and Arab position to American and others. The photographs include family photos and pictures of ceremonies at Al-Hikma University.



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