In this day and age, growing up with ten brothers and sisters is certainly uncommon. When two of those children—twins, in fact—become teachers, it becomes more rare still.
But when that vocation leads to a call to the priesthood for both, it’s the making of something incredible.
One might think that Brendan and Brogan Ryan, growing up as twins in a family of thirteen, would have had their fill of community by the time they graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2008. Instead, they chose to serve as teachers as a part of the Alliance for Catholic Education, where they’d be living with other teachers in communities around the United States.
“ACE required a total commitment,” Brendan said. “We moved to a new place, with new people, to work very hard for very little money at something we could not really prepare for, but we persevered because we were serving a purpose that was bigger than we were. This translates to life in the seminary—there are a lot of unknowns and ups and downs, but I believe that I am here because of something that is external to me, and that call is what I fall back on.”
Brendan spent a year after ACE teaching at a Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, and then chose to enter the seminary to become a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Brogan became an accountant for two years after serving as a teacher before hearing his call, and following his brother to Holy Cross.
“My time in ACE furthered my discernment of religious life,” Brogan Ryan said. “I found that community life really supported me in my teaching and that's one of the things that drew me to Holy Cross—community life that supports ministry. Praying together as a community also pushed me to grow in my own spiritual life and added a depth to relationships with community members.”
Brendan said that living in community in ACE just reaffirmed his desire for a strong, committed community life moving forward.
“I was already thinking about religious life when I began ACE, so in many ways, it furthered my consideration of religious formation,” Ryan said. “Living with others in community for a common mission was not just something I tolerated for two years, but something I came to appreciate greatly and was looking for after ACE.”
For those ACE graduates now in religious formation and particularly for the Ryans, teaching not only helped them realize their call, but also continues to give them the strength they need in difficult times.
“I learned in ACE that the benefit of community goes beyond eating and praying together. My community members were the ones who were there to celebrate good days and be present after bad days. They were the ones who showed up to watch my baseball team play and the ones who carpooled even when it would be easier to drive separately—its a whole constellation of little things that makes community life special.”