On March 1, Deacon Ryan Sales officially became a new Campus Minister for the University of Dallas.
Dcn. Sales hails from Northern Alberta, Canada and he carries quite a resume. He has been in the military, and he also has experience as a paramedic, a police officer and a homicide investigator. He converted to Catholicism in 2005 and he credits his wife and the Virgin Mary for his conversion.
Dcn. Sales’ path to the diaconate was, as he says, an “atypical” one. He became close friends with two of his parish priests and they thought it would be great for him to serve at Mass with them as a deacon. So, Dcn. Sales approached the vocations director.
Dcn. Sales said: “I had no idea what a deacon was, what a deacon did. So, he was shocked at my ignorance, and said: ‘You need to do some growing. You’re also way too young.’ So that was kind of the end of it, but despite the atypical genesis of the vocational call, a seed had been planted in my heart.”
Dcn. Sales moved to the Philippines and lived there for a couple years with his family. On their return to Canada, Dcn. Sales and his wife decided that they would start living out their lives as “intentional disciples of Christ.”
The call to the diaconate resurfaced in Dcn. Sales’ mind and he decided to tell his parish priest that he was interested in becoming a deacon. Funnily enough, or perhaps, providentially enough, the parish priest turned out to be the director of the diaconate, with a class set to start in a few months.
Dcn. Sales began formation in the fall of 2014 and was ordained a deacon in June of 2018.
Dcn. Sales quipped, “I was ordained at 39, so my nickname in several places is ‘baby deacon,’ because I am quite young compared to the majority of deacons.”
Sales says three stages led to him becoming involved in campus ministry. At a certain point in his career, Sales took a break from policing and started to work for his diocese. Then his bishop asked him to become the director of youth camps.
“It was funny because I didn’t like kids,” said Dcn. Sales. “I liked my own kids, but I didn’t like kids, and so when he asked me, I laughed at him. I thought he was pulling my leg, but he was serious about it. So, being an obedient child of God, I said yes and I became the director of our youth camps.”
Dcn. Sales cites this experience as “Stage 1.” “It was probably one of the most significant conversions in my life,” said Dcn. Sales. “I had staff that were college students and then the kids at the camp, and it completely changed how I engaged with youth.”
“Stage 2” was as follows: Dcn. Sales completed his masters in Divinity at Newman Theological College in Alberta and decided to leave the police force. He had gone back to policing after working as the youth director for four years, but he then decided he was ready to move on. It was his 25th anniversary from when he had first put on the uniform.
“Stage 3” was more in-depth. While studying for his masters, Dcn. Sales read a book that dealt heavily with vocation. As Dcn. Sales tells it, the book talked about vocation throughout one’s life and how so often the vocation of youth is undervalued.
Dcn. Sales said: “The vocation of our youth is something that’s under-appreciated. So, what better way to raise an appreciation for the vocation of our youth, and what better way to help our youth live out that vocation, than to work in campus ministry, which is really on that point of transition between the time before and what we view as the time after, and to maybe start instilling in people an appreciation that your vocation has already started.”
Dcn. Sales cites two reasons for coming to UD. He has family in Dallas and he recognized the unique Catholic culture of the university.
“It was the very intentional and beautiful way that Catholicism is being lived out here,” said Dcn. Sales. “It’s vibrant, it’s exciting, it’s orthodox. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to receive grace and the benefits of being on the journey with all of you, all of the students, the staff, and faculty.”
Dcn. Sales will be dealing with faith formation and providing various retreats throughout the year. Once he gets his faculties, he will also be able to assist at Mass on campus.
On providing faith formation, Dcn. Sales said: “You know, a big thing for me is I’m not just here if people are in [a] spiritual crisis. If they need somebody who is willing to journey with them, roll up their sleeves and walk with them through this very challenging thing called life, I’m always available.”
Dcn. Sales is “huge into” helping people and praying with them, specifically the Rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours. He even has an internet-based prayer ministry on Instagram.
“My door, phone, email, smoke signal, whatever, I’m always available,” said Dcn. Sales. “Please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you see me on campus, come say hi. I’m an open book, I think I’m very approachable. If people want to pray the Rosary or pray the Liturgy of the Hours, give me a call.”