11 Images

Gallery: Sister Ryan

Sister Nuala Ryan, right, works to communicate and comfort a client at a recent Sunday service at Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona. After 23 years as the center’s music therapist and Catholic chaplain, Ryan is retiring in two weeks. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Fionnuala Ryan was the fifth of six children born to a customs officer and a homemaker in County Monaghan, in northeast Ireland. The church was a powerful force in her life from a young age; she entered the convent in 1951, at 18, joining the Sisters of St. Louis, a community of roughly 500 nuns. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Jay Riepma, center, hoists a chalice as fellow clients, Ruben Lopez, left, and James Patterson assist at a Sunday service given by Sister Nuala Ryan at Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona. At it’s peak, Lanterman housed 3,000 clients. Today, there are fewer than 500. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A priest once asked Nuala why she taught at Lanterman when she could have been elsewhere, when much of her flock cannot pray, or dance, or sing. Where else, she asked him, could she walk each day among saints? (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Clients Ruben Lopez, left, Tania D’Amore and James Patterson, right, enjoy a Sunday service at Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Client Jay Riepma leads a procession of other clients during a Sunday service at Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona. Originally opened in 1927 as Pacific Colony, the facility was built to detain the “feebleminded,” who were considered a menace. By 1946, more than 1,900 people lived in the facility. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Sister Nuala Ryan reaches out to clients as she conducts Sunday service. “Oh, we miss so much,” she said. “We get so busy, so caught in an agenda, and we forget even that heaven, or paradise, is really about presence. These clients are calling: be present with me. Sit with me. Laugh with me.” (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The facility was renamed the Frank D. Lanterman Hospital and Developmental Center in 1978, in honor of the state assemblyman who set up a network of regional centers to help care for mentally disabled Californians. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Sister Nuala Ryan connects with April Fulco as she conducts one of her last Sunday services after 23 years at Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona. While teaching music in the late 1970’s, Ryan was driving herself into depression and a nervous breakdown. She came to Lanterman as a music therapist in 1985 and began to heal. “These people healed me,” she said. “They taught me how to play. They taught me what it means to be beautiful – the beauty of the soul. They know no wrong. They forgive unconditionally. They love unconditionally. We can all learn from them.” (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Sister Nuala Ryan quietly recites a prayer moments before meditating at her Diamond Bar apartment, She will retire May 1 after serving as the Catholic chaplain at Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Sister Nuala Ryan swims every day at her Diamond Bar apartment. “I leave with a very healed being, a healed soul, a free person,” she said. “Looking forward to the next fray, the next phase of freedom.” (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)