Giving Back, with Gratitude
Father Ryan Lewis ’95 is not a St. Paul native—or even from Minnesota—but he loves the University of St. Thomas as much as someone who grew up in the surrounding neighborhood.
Father Lewis is pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Omaha, Neb., where he was born and raised. After he discerned a possible vocation to the priesthood in high school, it was “a very happy combination of me wanting to go to St. Thomas and the archbishop wanting me to go to St. Thomas” that led him to the university, he said. He enrolled in St. John Vianney College Seminary (the largest undergraduate seminary in the United States) at St. Thomas and enjoyed the experience of living and praying with other seminarians as part of the larger campus of students.
“There were such incredible and wonderful priests who provided good priestly role models,” Father said, as well as other influential St. Thomas staff members, such as Dr. Don Briel, director of the Center for Catholic Studies, and Dr. John Boyle of the Theology Department.
Father Lewis graduated from St. Thomas with a double major in political science and philosophy, and a minor in Catholic studies. He continued his priestly studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained in 1999 at the Cathedral of St. Cecilia in Omaha. In the 12 years since his ordination, he has served in parishes and as a high-school chaplain and teacher, has earned licentiates in sacred theology and canon law in Rome and Washington, D.C., respectively, and has served in several archdiocesan roles in Omaha, including as a judge on the Metropolitan Tribunal and as vice-chancellor.
Much of the credit for his success and advancement Father gives to his thoroughly gratifying St. Thomas experience. “It was such a positive atmosphere—a truly family atmosphere,” he said. “I loved the students, the teachers and the staff. It was a marvelous way to discern a vocation—to either priestly or married life—because of the wonderful people and opportunities.”
Father Lewis has shown his gratitude to St. Thomas through consistent giving to the Annual Fund, as well as by naming the university in his will. As a result of this planned gift, he was invited to become a member of the Finn Heritage Society, which pleased him immensely. Since then, he led a retreat for Finn Society members on the St. Paul campus.
In addition to providing financial support, Father Lewis encourages Omaha alumni of St. Thomas to continue their engagement with the university, as well as connects with Omaha seminarians who attend St. John Vianney. Showing his love for St. Thomas comes naturally to Father Ryan Lewis, and the university is very fortunate that he does so.