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February 15, 2006     529 Words

Ronan Tynan, M.D.: Faith-filled Irish Tenor

CINCINNATI—Doctors told Ronan Tynan’s parents that he might never walk. Schoolmates taunted him about his lower-leg deformity. By age 20, his legs were amputated below the knee, yet he went on to win 18 gold medals in the Paralympics, set 14 world records, and became a physician. He now he inspires millions with his world-class voice. Life has not been easy for this Irish tenor, but Ronan’s Catholic faith and his deeply religious family have been his foundation from the beginning.

Ronan’s life is the subject of St. Anthony Messenger’s March cover story, “Ronan Tynan, M.D.: Inspirational Irish Tenor.” Author Gerri Paré delves into his humble, Dublin-roots, his medical and singing careers, plus the faith that has made it all possible. After February 20, the article will be posted at:

Born in 1960 with focamelia, his frail lower legs were one-quarter shorter than normal and his splayed feet had but three toes each. On the advice of doctors, Tynan was kept in a hospital for his first three years until his mother decided to take him home, fitting him with painful braces. “My mom knew exactly what she wanted for all her children,” Ronan says. “She carved my footsteps in the sand, you could say.”

After he was involved in a motorcycle accident, doctors ordered a dual amputation. With his prosthetic legs, Ronan trained to compete in the Paralympics. Representing Ireland, he triumphed in shot-put, discus and long-jump.

Soon after, a doctor suggested Ronan take up medicine, and he wound up earning a medical degree from Dublin’s Trinity College. As if studying for a degree in medicine weren’t enough, Ronan’s dad suggested that he attempt singing professionally. Ronan won a national singing competition and, the following year, he went to France where he won an international operatic contest. His first album, The Impossible Dream, sold a million copies.

Still, Ronan put practicing medicine first, opening a clinic in County Kilkenny and specializing in orthopedic-sports injuries. His passion for singing refused to diminish, however, and he became one of the three Irish Tenors in 1998. Their concerts and recordings drew a massive following. Soon America beckoned. In the aftermath of 9/11, he consoled families by singing hymns at the funeral Masses of firefighters and police officers. Out of that came the invitation from the New York Yankees to give his moving rendition of “God Bless America” at their baseball games whenever he is in town.

Sustaining him throughout his busy, remarkable life is his faith. “Dad and I always had a special saint: St. Thérèse, the Little Flower,” he says. “We confided our greatest needs and I suppose our darkest thoughts. My mom was a devotee to the Blessed Virgin. And the Rosary was a major part in our lives growing up.”

Ronan’s enduring faith, which he calls “the most important part of my life,” can best be summed up in a quote that reflects his journey: “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”


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