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The many angles of the human heart


Last updated 2/26/2020 at 4:12pm | View PDF

The human heart has many surprising angles. Some we can see and some we just have to feel.

There are the angles of the stories told during February. Think about Valentine’s Day, the Hallmark Channel and Go Red for Women.

There are the many angles that make up the anatomy of the heart. Ventricles, valves and veins all working together in vibrant harmony. Finally, there are the angles of love. Expansive when we are attracted to someone and gentle when we need forgiveness.

The angle of this column is about a little girl who was born with Down syndrome and a hole in her heart. She didn’t live very long but ended up touching the lives of hundreds of other children and their families. How did this lovely child accomplish that? Meet the Ryan sisters.

Jean Marie Ryan was born on a cold January day to Bill and Mary Ryan, two of the finest people you will ever meet. Jean was the youngest child joining a large family of three boys and four girls. The girls, the above named Ryan sisters, are today some of my very closest friends. I continue to marvel at the goodness they create in beloved memory of their sister.

Mary Ryan Buddig, Eileen Ryan Seyfarth, Donna Ryan Coffey and Therese Ryan Rooney are household names for many who live in Hinsdale. They are the ones who organize shipments to hurricane victims and the ones who assign food trains when a family is hit with tragedy. They are the ones who find places for people to live after a fire and the ones behind some of the amazing impact of a place called Misericordia.

Misericordia is a campus of homes in the Chicago area that offers care and purpose for more than 600 disabled children and adults. It is run by an incredible woman named Sr. Rosemary Connelly. Sr. Rosemary is relentless when it comes to finding comfort and meaning for those who may have developmental and physical challenges.

Comfort is exactly what Mary Ryan received after she saw a roadside sign about Misericordia and drove herself to Sr. Rosemary’s office with her daughter. Jean Marie lived at Misericordia for about a year before she died, but her family has never forgotten the kindness and support they received.

The Ryan sisters began an effort more than 25 years ago that has encouraged hundreds of other volunteers to join the Misericordia Women’s League. Their combined efforts have helped the campus to grow beyond Sr. Rosemary’s wildest dreams. In fact, when you visit Misericordia, you enter through the beautiful Jean Marie Ryan Center and chapel.

“Their love and devotion to our mission in memory of their late sister, Jean Marie Ryan, has been inspirational,” said Sr. Rosemary. “Their

unselfish spirit of giving knows no bounds.”

Tomorrow night, the Ryan sisters are being honored at a big fundraiser in Oak Brook. They will receive the coveted Heart of Gold Award from the Women’s League and applause from more than 500 guests and Misericordia families.

The Ryan sisters teach us that who we love shapes what we become. And that, my friends, is the best angle of all.

— Teri Goudie of Hinsdale is a former contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected]


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