Fr. Milton Ryan Serves Where it Began

Fr. Milton Ryan, C.M., has served as Pastor at Holy Trinity Parish in Dallas since 2018 and notes with almost a sense of wonder that his faith journey and his path to the priesthood started in that very place more than 40 years ago.

He recounts how he was in his 20s, attending graduate school, and feeling some doubts about the direction he was headed in life. Though he was not Catholic at the time, he wandered into Holy Trinity and attended a weekday Mass.

“I wasn’t Catholic, and I wasn’t interested in becoming Catholic,” he said. “I was in a discernment process. ‘Do I really want to commit my life as a pianist and a teacher.’ I felt like surely there’s more.”

He asked God to help him decide what to do with the rest of his life. The answer was slow in coming, but he kept coming back to Mass and said the thing he struggled with the most was the concept of the Eucharist.

“Then, one day at Mass something happened and I recognized Christ in the Eucharist,” he said. “I started thinking that God is calling me to be a priest, because…if Jesus Christ is really physically present in the Eucharist, then there is no place on the Earth I’d rather be or nothing I’d rather do than get as close to that experience as possible.”

A year after converting to Catholicism, he entered the seminary and began working toward becoming a Vincentian priest. Early on, he said his conviction was tested with a seminary trip to a poor community in Juarez, Mexico, across the border from San Antonio. The work was harrowing and dirty, digging latrines and anything else that was needed to serve the poor there.

“I thought, ‘This is not my thing; no way could I be a Vincentian,’” he said. “I was resigned to that for the rest of the trip.”

Then, on the way out of the settlement, he looked over and glimpsed a little girl standing on a trash heap, waving at him.

“I almost made it out of the dump,” he said with a pause and a deep breath, “but that little girl is still waving at me, and to me, she is Jesus: ‘Help me. Don’t leave me. Is there something you can do?’”

Fr. Milton was ordained in Perryville, MO, in 1991 and served at parishes in Missouri, Illinois, and Colorado before landing at Holy Trinity, where it began for him. He still plays the piano, and he and the people of the parish look after a homeless woman named Jackie who suffers from schizophrenia and has taken up residence in the parish parking lot, a shadow, perhaps, of that little girl in Juarez years ago.

“She’s our Jesus,” he says with a smile.