In the Public Square with: music man Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan at St Mary's Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Jake Ryan at St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Jake Ryan is as comfortable performing on stage as he is behind the scenes as a producer and event co-ordinator. A musician and a devoted uncle, he has had a hand in organising some of the largest events in the recent history of the local Church, and he’s just 24. We find out what makes him tick, and what makes him run in the other direction…

Through your work in event management for the archdiocese, you are privileged to share in people’s joys but are also present for some of their greatest struggles. How do you cope with that?
I treat each event with great respect and am truly humbled to serve people across their life – both the good and bad. For me, it is important to keep the balance of work, social, public and private life so that I can continue to do what I do without burning out.

What is the most disastrous thing that has happened during a performance or production you’ve been part of?
During an event I was a part of, I was told of an elderly man who was very unwell and suffering a heart issue. A packed cathedral Mass was just about to begin, and we needed to care for this man, and ensure that respect was kept for his dignity and his situation.

What is your irrational fear?
Snakes!

What would the name of your debut album be?
The Most Random Collection of Music You Will Ever Hear – Volume 1.

What’s the best advice your dad has ever given you?
‘There are some things you just can’t control.’ I’m still struggling to accept that.

Name three things that have shaped your love of music.
My faith, the wide variety of music educators I have been privileged to know and the great experiences of performing I have been a part of.

Where have you always wanted to travel?
The Holy Land. It would be great to walk in the footsteps of the faith you believe and see it all come to life.

How has WYD – including planning Sydney archdiocesan pilgrimages to Madrid and Rio – shaped your view of youth ministry? What are we doing right, and where can we improve?
I feel so privileged to have worked with WYD at such a young age – it gave me a great experience of the church and the impact that events like WYD have. The danger can be that we become ‘event focused’ whereas youth ministry must be about journeying with people through their life – the good and bad and making sure that we always connect people with their parish, or a community.

Who are your favourite bands or artists?
Mumford and Sons, Coldplay, Josh Groban.

You turn 25 next month – how does your life now measure up to your expectations for this age?
I just take one day at a time. I never have expectations of what it should be, but rather what it could be.

Which archdiocesan event made you most proud?
In 2014, the archdiocese was asked to host an ecumenical prayer service in honour of the work and leadership of Dame Marie Bashir. I felt so honoured to be a part of this event as it brought together leaders of all religions. The prayer service was held on 11 September, and to be in St Mary’s Cathedral praying for peace and unity around the world was a moment I will never forget.

If you could share one Catholic hymn with someone who has had no exposure to the Mass or Catholic culture, what hymn would you choose and why?
A few years ago, the song Lord, I Need You was released by Matt
Maher. It was based on an old hymn, Lord every hour I need thee. The text of this speaks of our need as the faithful, and as the Church, to admit that in the end, we all need God, which is what it is all about.

What is your musical guilty pleasure?
I love watching live musical theatre. I wish I had more time to be a part of it! I am always impressed by the dedication that amateur societies give to producing shows that incorporate both young and old with a variety of experiences and skills. I have been involved in a few shows and they are great experiences and a lot of fun!

Who is your favourite saint and why?
I don’t have a favourite as such; however, I strongly appreciate and connect with the work of St John Paul II. It was inspiring for me to read about his early life, his journey through adversities and, as a young Catholic, to witness him at the end of his pontificate.

When have you most struggled with your faith?
At the sudden loss of people I love or have known, all the blessings and assurances of faith can be very testing.

How did you find your way out of that period?
It took a while; however, I understand the purpose of faith exists for those times. Journeying with God through the mess and confusion proves continually to be a moment of grace and maturity for me.

What do you enjoy about working in the Sydney CBD?
I am always amazed by the variety of people that you see and interact with while working in the CBD. There is a great mix of cultures (and food!).

Who most inspires you?
There are many people that inspire me for different reasons; however, people who have experienced great challenges in their life and yet continue to walk in humility and with an openness to life inspire me to keep going.

If you could say one thing to every visitor to St Mary’s Cathedral, what would it be?
‘Be still.’ It is easy to be overwhelmed in such a building; however, we all need to take time to remember that God speaks to us in the silence and stillness.

How will you celebrate your birthday?
Good food, good drinks and with good friends.