Jesuit alumnus awarded MBE for refugee resettlement

Sean Ryan
Sean Ryan

In the recent New Year’s honours list a former pupil of Mount St Marys College, Sean Ryan (known as Sean Fogarty when he was at school), received an MBE for his pioneering work on refugee resettlement. 

Sean Ryan’s own story has a particular edge to it and explains where he found the tenacity to develop such pioneering work in refugee resettlement.  Working in the arts in the time of austerity has been a precarious existence for many people.  A professional musician and creative educator, Sean saw his award-winning teaching initiative scrapped owing to cuts in education funding, and then had his house repossessed and his family placed in emergency homeless accommodation.

It was his involvement with the charismatic Maranatha community in Manchester that opened up new horizons.  Inspired by a chance encounter with the founder of  Maranatha,  Dennis Wrigley,  and seeing the quiet work they were doing at both a local and national level and how seriously they took prayer,  Sean marshalled his resources, determined that others would not have to go through a similar trauma to his own.

Drawing on all his resources and with support from Citizens UK, Sean mobilised his parish of St Monica's in Flixton and became the first Home Office-approved Community Sponsor in the UK.  As Sean said, “In prayer, I was told to stand up for refugees. Then Pope Francis made his call….. the next day.  I believe God called me to help make it happen, and he opened every other door.”

In light of this work, he was then offered a part-time position as Refugee Resettlement Officer for Caritas Salford Diocese, which later became full-time.    A few months later he was appointed National Coordinator for the Catholic Church in England & Wales, which now means he gets to visit Dioceses and parishes all over the country.  “My job is to encourage, help equip and support Catholic communities (and indeed many others of all faiths and none) as they answer the call of Pope Francis to take in a refugee family within their own community.”  Sean also works closely with the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy, where Samir, the father of the resettled family, cooks for the chaplaincy’s weekly night shelter. 

Samir’s is a great success story. He is gaining valuable experience as Commis Chef at a local Spanish restaurant.  And his dream to become a Head Chef with Middle Eastern cuisine looks set to come true, as he has recently been head-hunted for a new venture by a friend of St Monica’s parish. According to Sean, "Community sponsorship really is the most rapid, enduring and only way to enable refugees to rebuild their lives".