Thursday, March 31, 2005


Hi All,

Well, there's not much to report from out here in Big Sky Country. I have some interesting neighbors: the people next door have a sort of "petting zoo" and there are something like seven cats, six peacocks, a bobcat (yes, a bobcat), horses, a dog, and many bison. It's like Wild Discovery. Note: Peacocks, while lovely to look at, are frightfully annoying and make a lot of noise. I hear they taste good...

I guess a lot of my time here is spent in a "pastoral capacity" as I take communion to shut-ins, attend multiple masses, do clerical work, and assist in any way I can. Oddly, I thought the shift from "rock star accordion player life" to "novice life" would be traumatic and yet I find the shift from "Crayola House" to "Active Ministry" to be much more lugubrious and slow-paced. If anything, I'm learning to be patient. At least I get to catch up on a lot of as-yet-unseen movies.

So that's it. I've received cards from two people - thanks to Debbie and Greg. The rest of you...well, I'd suggest writing sometime soon OR ELSE. After the long retreat my "Prayer Power" is frighteningly strong and, should I set my face against you and begin to pray for a terrible malady to befall you - such as nail fungus or scabies or death - you just might regret it!

Anyway, I hope everyone who reads this is doing well!



Tuesday, March 22, 2005


There's a musical for Oklahoma. There is not one for Wyoming. I have my mission.

Yeah, so I'm here. I haven't but a moment to write, so this must be quick. This is absolutely gorgeous country...the views are breathtaking. So is the altitude - I must admit to being a bit light-headed these last two days.

That's it. I just wanted folks to know that I got here safe and sound. I'll write something more sometime soon.



Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Vocation Story

Hey, two posts in one day!

The following story was written at the bequest of Janet O'Keefe, Br. Jim Boynton's assistant for vocations (actually, she's the brains and the looks behind the whole vocation operation). Anyway, it represents something of the bare-bones of my vocation story, with many elements and persons left out and some details that most people don't know about me (who knew I ever wanted to be a professional Irish musician?).

To be sure, it's written simply and in a pretty no-frills manner. It's senseless to exhibit one's rhetorical talent in a scintillating display of lexical agonistics, particularly if such a display is unnecessary. In short, why waste words and try to be flowery when people just want to know that you, too, struggled with listening "the call" in your life.

When I was a little boy, I can’t say that I ever entertained the notion of being a Jesuit. As far as I was concerned, my career option ranged somewhere between a superhero, a dragon-slayer, and a “helidopter” pilot (family lore recounts how I couldn’t pronounce the word helicopter). When well-intentioned aunts and uncles and grandparents would ask the fateful question, “Well, Ryan, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I soon learned that my Grandma Duns was happy if I told her that I wanted to be a teacher, that my aunts and uncles were supportive of my oh-so precise desire to be rich, and that my Grandma and Grandpa Hagan were most impressed if I coyly told them that I wanted to be a priest.
The idea of being a priest probably came to me in the first grade. I attended the parish school, went to Sunday mass with my family, and had family encouragement to think about it. To be sure, the idea wasn’t nearly as captivating as slaying dragons or rescuing people in my helicopter. But, true to the form of many young Catholic boys and girls, I took my turn at “playing mass” when my cousins and friends would come over. As I recall it now, I don’t think I was as much taken with the solemnity of the ritual as I was with what I saw as the highlight of mass: my homily!
Childhood notions of the priesthood aside, I did begin to answer the “What do you want to be?” question sometime after the fourth grade: I wanted to be a professional Irish musician. A physically awkward and un-coordinated youth, my parents saw fit to sign me up for Irish tin-whistle and accordion lessons. My sisters were heavily involved in Irish dancing and it seemed only fitting that the family troupe should be complemented with its own musician. I loved my Irish music and heritage and soon became very proficient on both instruments, winning awards and performing all over the United States.
In 1994, I entered St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland as a short, fat, red-haired kid who wore glasses and penny-loafers and played the accordion…not quite the cover model of GQ! Initially I struggled in school both socially and academically and found comfort in attending mass and in my music. Though I had only one Jesuit teacher, there was certainly a strong Jesuit presence on the campus and I can still recall being impressed by the Jesuits I met there. I had a deep respect for my parish priest, but there was something different about these Jesuits because, well, they were different. Watching them process in for mass was like watching the red carpet pre-show for the Oscars: there were venerable and legendary teachers, gentle souls and tough cookies, firebrands and peaceful souls.
As the time came for me to pick a college, I knew two things: first, I wanted to go to a Jesuit college and, second, I wanted to be either a British literature teacher or a doctor. I left St. Ignatius for college in 1998 rather different from how I entered: I had grown quite a bit, wore contact lenses, learned how to dress, and I played the accordion really well. Truth told, I did sometimes think about the priesthood but would quickly push the idea out of my head and replace it with ideas of being a teacher or a surgeon.
During my sophomore year I took a pretty heavy schedule of classes including one on the New Testament taught by a Jesuit. I loved it. I loved the material, I loved the class, and I was in awe of the professor: he was in turns obnoxious and sincere, worldly and committed, steely and gentle, sarcastic and witty. In short, he was my hero. A new desire to be a priest, to be a Jesuit, was awakened.
Then, one day, I made a most fateful mistake. I was sitting in chemistry class listening to the professor expound the wonders of phosphoric acid when I decided to practice my signature in the margins of my notebook:

Ryan Duns, MD
Dr. Ryan Duns, MD
Dr. Ryan G. Duns, MD

And then, on a lark, I wrote

Ryan Duns, SJ

I stared transfixed at the paper. I wrote and re-wrote it and, each time, my imagination was set on fire and I became excited about the very thought of being a Jesuit. After class I went to see my New Testament professor, told him that I wanted not only to become a religious studies major but also that I wanted to be a Jesuit.
After graduating in 2002, I decided to do a Master’s Degree in religion. The reasons were many, but largest among them was the fact that the growing popularity of Irish dancing had put my skills as an Irish musician in great demand. In a sense, I had a pretty neat life: I was a teaching assistant during the day, took courses in the evening, and on the weekends I’d travel all over the country playing Irish music. In a sense, I was living out the answer to the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. But there was something missing, something that money and degrees and music and travel could not fill.
The emptiness inside forced me to examine and pray through my life. I began to ask myself about my desires, about my hopes and dreams for the future. I thought back on all the ways I tried to answer the “What do you want to be” question: a student, a doctor, teacher, a musician, a priest. But none of these captured or spoke to the man I wanted to become. Over the course of several months, I stopped asking the “What” question and asked, instead, the “Who” question: “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” Through spiritual direction and prayer and with the support of family and friends I realized that my heart’s deepest desire is discipleship, to be a Companion of Jesus, to be a Jesuit.

No vocation story can capture wholly one’s sense of call. This is a good thing, for each of us is called in a different way, called in and through our very lives. My sense of call will differ enormously from your sense of call because each of us has his or her own relationship with the Lord. Further, our vocation stories do not begin the day we get married, enter a convent or seminary, or join a religious order; they begin, rather, when and where we start reflecting on how God has been working in our lives, calling us into deeper relationship, inviting us to be co-laborers in the building of God’s Kingdom. So as each of us prays our lives, let us not be afraid to ask at least two questions: Where are you leading me, Lord, and Who do I want to be?

New Address!

Here's my address from March 21-May 21

Ryan Duns
C/O St Stephen's Indian Mission
33 St Stephens Road
PO Box 250
St Stephens, WY 82524-0250

Saturday, March 05, 2005


Hello Everyone!

Well, it appears that the article in the Michigan Catholic attracted some attention and made it to the forums. I suspect, therefore, there'll be more Irish dancing people reading this - which may or may not be good!

Things have been pretty quiet around Loyola House. The biggest thing to look forward to is the "Vocations Promotion Tour" that will bring us to Cleveland for most of next week - so I'll be around, for those who are interested, from the 12th to the 18th. Most of my days are filled but, Michael and Brian, we'll have time on Sunday to get together for lessons. I leave for Wyoming on March 21st and I'll be back in Detroit on May 21st.

That's about it. As I said, it's pretty quiet. With any luck, something fun or interesting will happen that will force me to write.

Maybe I'll find some pictures to post...



Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame