Newly appointed bishop of the Mzuzu Catholic Diocese John Ryan has set tone for the “enormous task” ahead, saying he will not relent being a voice of the voiceless as was his predecessor, the late Joseph Mukasa Zuza.
Yesterday, The Nation visited the bishop-elect for the first ever interview since Head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis appointed him the leader of the greater diocese in the Northern Region.
Speaking from his Tusha House in Luwinga, Ryan, a professor of mathematics at Mzuzu University (Mzuni), likened the simplicity of Zuza—whom many remember as a man of the people and a champion for the vulnerable—to ideals of the Pope whom he admires profoundly.
He said: “There is a striking resemblance between Bishop Zuza and Pope Francis. I am challenged to carry on the legacy that Bishop Zuza had left behind.
“I am committed to live simply, to be available to the poor and speak for the voiceless. Even the Pope does as much.”
The Irish missionary, who has served in the Northern Region for 38 years since he arrived aged 26 as priest in 1978, is sometimes spotted driving an old Subaru which he has kept in his garage since his service at St Mathias Parish in Misuku Hills, Chitipa.
In the hilly terrain with fertile soils and hard-working farmers, the locals cherish him for buying a 4×4 vehicle which travelled from the tricky setting to Chitipa town every day to ensure the locals had access to decent markets even though the road was almost impassable.
In Mzuzu, the priest, who founded St Steven’s Parish in Kasantha north of Karonga, is credited with founding Ungweru which uplifts orphans, vulnerable children, widows and other needy groups.
His homestead comprises two hostels where two girls and a boy from poor background are lodging as he supports them to attain quality education at Joel Private Secondary School.
Ryan mentioned the vastness of the diocese and parishes as well as the prevailing economic downturn as the major challenge to his tenure.
However, he counts on the enthusiasm of the faithful, priests, sisters and all sectors of the church to meet the expectation of Catholics scattered in Mzimba, Nkhata Bay, Likoma and part of Rumphi.
Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga described Ryan as a gift from God in terms of spirituality and education.