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Mary Perkins Ryan papers

Collection MS-2003-030: Mary Perkins Ryan papers


  • Creation: 1932-1951

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of the correspondence of Mary Perkins Ryan, writings by and about Ryan, and notes and other ephemera. The correspondence primarily consists of letters to Ryan from religious men and women about her book Speaking of How to Pray (1944). The articles and essays by Ryan deal with Catholic liturgy, spiritual life, and religious education. Writings of note by Ryan include her thesis, "The Interests in Poetry in America Today is Largely Due to the Efforts of Amy Lowell," a series of religious essays for St. Joseph Magazine (1945-1946), two essays published in The Essay Manhattanville, and a book index. Writings also include articles about Ryan and reviews of her books At Ease in the Catholic Church (1938) and Speaking of How to Pray. Other materials include Ryan's handwritten notes, lists of addresses for New England and France, lists of names from her time at Sheed and Ward, and various items concerning Catholic liturgy.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note

Mary Perkins Ryan was born in Boston, on April 10, 1912, the youngest of four children of Charles Bruen and Elizabeth (Ward) Perkins. Ryan entered the school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Connecticut at the age of thirteen and graduated in 1927. After a year and a half traveling and learning in Europe, Ryan returned to the United States. She entered the College of the Sacred Heart, Manhattanville in 1929. During her four years at college, Ryan majored in English and edited the college magazine, The Essay. Mary Perkins Ryan married John Ryan in 1942.

After graduating in 1932, Ryan worked in a variety of secretarial positions and with the publishing firm Sheed and Ward. While at Sheed and Ward, Ryan met Leonard Feeney, SJ. She encountered him again when she returned to New York City and he provided her with an idea for her first book, At Your Ease in the Catholic Church (1938). Perkins also authored Speaking of How to Pray (1944); worked at the Liturgical Institute at the University of Notre Dame starting in 1950; co-edited The Art of Teaching Christian Doctrine (1957) with Austrian Jesuit Johnnes Hofinger; served as the founding editor of The Living Light (1964-1972), a publication of the United States Catholic Conference; authored the controversial Are Parochial Schools the Answer? (1964); edited Professional Approaches for Christian Education (PACE) from 1973 to 1988; and continued to work as a freelance writer from the 1970s through the 1980s. Throughout her life, Ryan authored, edited, or translated over 25 works on the topics of theology, philosophy, and liturgy.

Mary Perkins Ryan died on October 13, 1993.


Bryce, M.C. "Mary Perkins Ryan." The Living Light 12 (Summer 1975): 276-281.

Hughes, Kathleen. How Firm a Foundation: Voices of the Early Liturgical Movement. Chicago, IL: Liturgical Training Publications, 1990.

O'Hare, P. "Mary Perkins Ryan (1912-1993): Mulier Furtis." The Living Light (Spring 1994): 3-8.


0.75 Linear Feet (2 containers)

Language of Materials



The papers include manuscripts, correspondence, articles, and other publications of twentieth-century author and editor Mary Perkins Ryan. Much of the correspondence deals with Ryan's book Speaking of How to Pray.


Arranged into three series: I. Correspondence; II. Notes, addresses, and programs; and III. Writings.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.

Mary Perkins Ryan Papers
Sarah K. Nytroe, 2004; revised by Ray Hartley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States