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 | By Michael Spath

Meet Father Ryan Riley

Ryan Riley is an average guy who lived the college “frat boy” life. He tried to separate himself as far as he could from his faith, but only when he embraced God, did he understand his purpose.

What was the process that led you to the priesthood?

Serving Mass and watching Father Robert Kolenski, our pastor at the time, intrigued me and drew me into the Mass as a kid. We moved when I was in the seventh grade, though, and being the “new kid,” I was more concerned with fitting in. Over the course of my high school years, my faith life decreased and the thought of priesthood waned. My faith in God and the Church were the furthest things from my mind. When the chaos of college stopped, the silence of living alone really moved me to start thinking about where my life was headed. In the silence, the Lord found a way of reaching me again. I found myself starting to go back to Mass occasionally and, in the context of confession, I asked the priest if it were possible the Lord might be calling me to the priesthood. The priest got up and left! He came back with that day’s Grand Rapids Press. In the religion section was an article titled “Grand Rapids’ man’s road to priesthood an unusual one.” It was a story similar to my own. I saw this as a little nudge from the Lord.

What has the journey been like?

A roller-coaster. There have been a lot of highs and lows in discerning and preparing for ordination. In the seminary, the Lord asks each one of us to confront the messiness of our lives – our sinfulness, our pasts, our weaknesses, the lies we’ve begun to believe about ourselves. Jesus asks us to face our humanity. Formation takes time because Jesus wants this time with us. He wants to purify and heal us. All of this takes a lot of humility – something I wasn’t accustomed to. I didn’t realize how much my own ego got in the way of authentic discernment and formation. So, this journey has been one of learning to trust and to surrender myself.