It was a day of joy that Joe Ryan thought would never come, being baptised and receiving the holy sacraments all in one day, ending decades of longing for the former soldier.
In front of family and friends at the chapel in Cork’s Collins Barracks, The Glen man finally had his moment after missing out on baptism, communion, and confirmation as a youngster.
Taken in 1950 as a newborn baby from a family he has never known, Joe endured an horrifically cruel childhood of daily abuse and hard labour in industrial schools, and was denied the sacraments as a youngster because of his origins, a collective stain on the national psyche that can never be erased.
Despite his circumstances, Joe’s faith never wavered, the intense desire to receive the holy sacraments as an adult as strong now as they were as a child.
Joe credits three things with saving his life as he left behind 18 years of childhood torment — faith in God, meeting the late Geraldine who became the great love of his life, and joining the army in 1968, where he was accepted as an equal among peers.
Now a family man with children, grandchildren, and a great-grandchild that in his own words, he is “absolutely stone mad about”, Joe’s time finally came in front of his loved ones, friends, and fellow veterans in Collins Barracks.
Army chaplain Fr Ted Sheehan performed what is called a convalidation ceremony, which saw Joe baptised as well as encompassing the other sacraments he missed out on as a child through no fault of his own.
Fr Sheehan said Joe was the embodiment of Christianity with an unshakeable faith despite the trauma he has endured in his life.
“He is one of the finest men I have come across, and he has taught us all what it means to have strong faith. It was a privilege to be able to perform the convalidation ceremony for Joe, especially in front of his family and friends. His faith and devotion to God is remarkable and unshakeable. It is humbling.”
Joe Ryan served his country with distinction, he added, including a tour overseas in Cyprus.
Army veterans spoke of the huge respect that Joe commanded, not only as a soldier but because of his quiet dignity and steely courage as a man and friend.
Joe admits the scars of the abuse he suffered will never heal, but said that being baptised finally was one of the proudest moments of his life.
“I was delighted. I was lucky to get into army in January 1968, where I had 21 years, and lucky to meet Geraldine, my great love. I just wish she was here to see it.”
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