Fr Des Byrne, RIP

Fr Des Byrne, RIP

Father Des Byrne, a diamond jubilarian priest, died last night.

Kairos published a panygeric to him on the occasion of his sixtieth anniversary of priestly ordination two years ago.

He was parish priest of Oak Park for longer than I have been alive (33 years), but he is best remembered for the Confraternity of St Michael, a remarkable apostolate which formed a generation of young Catholic leaders in Melbourne.

By the time I moved to Melbourne it was winding up, so I had no direct involvement. (I started uni in 2000; Fr Byrne retired in 2002.) However, I quickly became familiar with the Confraternity, and with the name of Fr Byrne, because – or so it seemed – every orthodox Catholic under 40 had reaped its fruits.

I didn’t meet the man himself until I was in the seminary, and I quickly learned Fr Byrne possessed a forceful will, and an indifference to human respect. I guess these qualities are necessary in anyone who bucks the trend and defies the establishment.

In recent years, I saw him regularly, and he frequently expressed his desire to die. Not in a morbid and self-pitying way, but in a faithful and hopeful way. His energy was spent, and he desired the promises of Heaven more than the delights of earth.

It’s significant, I think – or apropos, anyway – that Fr Byrne died on the Vigil of the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Here we are, contemplating our Lord’s power over death, and the promise of our bodily resurrection. Moreover the raising of Lazarus is so rich in the symbolism of sacramental confession, that this is what I preached on this weekend. For a priest who was so dedicated to that sacrament, and who persuaded many others to love and frequent the sacrament as Fr Byrne did, I can think of no better tribute.

May his good deeds go with him, and may he rest in peace.

14 Comments

  1. Seb James
    Apr 6, 2014

    Sounds like a Saint… R.I.P.. and in my prayers… thanks for sharing Father.

  2. Helen Eldridge
    Apr 6, 2014

    Reconciliation is a gift given to us from Jesus. Our Lady of Medjugorie has spoken about reconciliation and the Parish of Medjugorie is renowned for reconciliation. It is here that I discovered the true meaning of this very special sacrament. May God reward Fr Des Byrne for promoting this sacrament. RIP Fr Des.

  3. Simon Hogan
    Apr 6, 2014

    Great Story Fr. John!
    But I last what to share this link this is Grand National in England . I know some people woul love this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfNpAewK4m4&feature=youtu.be
    Did anyone back Tom Hogan horse last week I did give you the tip last Saturday if you look at my coments! Well I didn’t have and money I hope someone else did! Well now this some drama at the start of the Grand National http://www.racingpost.com/news/horse-racing/grand-national-jockeys-mutiny-after-stewards-inquiry/1633205/latest/#newsArchiveTabs=last7DaysNews
    May I asked is anyone heading to the Warrnambool May Races this year! Keep Well from Simon the Pieman.

  4. Andrew Rabel
    Apr 6, 2014

    A wonderful tribute you have written to this fine man, Fr John. It gives me great encouragement to know there are priests like you, that are continying the fight for the principles Fr Byrne stood for. All his hard work, and the blood, sweat and tears this involved, was not in vain.

    • MuMu
      Apr 7, 2014

      I believe Fr Byrne is a saint. He saved the faith of many orthodox Catholics in the worst days of the modernist drought afflicting the Church from the 70s on to the present day.

      One of his most endearing qualities was to validate the angst good Catholics suffered from widespread sacrilege and heresy rife in the parishes and by encouraging these Catholics to stand strong and true. He never tried to pretend that everything was OK or to defend blatant disobedience among priests and religious.

      He was a beautiful priest who grew even more luminous as he aged. At his Diamond jubilee celebrations he told the congregation from the pulpit how fortunate we were to attend the Church of St Mary Star of the Sea, West Melbourne, because we were generously supplied with the Sacrament of Reconciliation throughout the day “whereas we have the tragedy of many, many parishes across the archdiocese which do not have regular confessions”.

      Fr Byrne was a rebel for Christ and the true Church to the end. God bless him; what an example to young priests. I hope someone writes a book about him one day soon.

    • Dennis
      Apr 8, 2014

      Hi Andrew, we have posted a tribute to Fr Byrne here as well
      http://catholichomeschoolaustralia.com/2014/04/07/tribute-to-fr-byrne-rip/

  5. Pat,
    Apr 7, 2014

    Father Des Brynes, simply loved, A true disciple of Christ Jesus , A great defender of the Most holy Catholic Church a Man Of God.. He is now a saint in heaven the world has lost one of the best preachers in Melbroune, since Father Brynes retired i have not been able to find a priest with such knowledge, love ad true teachings of the fulness of our faith as him… I truly believe that we “who” know this holy man should continue to make him known through out the world and certainly ask him to intercede for all of us… Father Des you are loved, May you enjoy the glory that had been awaiting you all these years, as i wipe away the tears from my eyes i thank God that he gave us a holy man who taught so many the true faith….

    Fr Des Byrne

  6. marie
    Apr 7, 2014

    In memory of a holy priest, Father Byrnes. May you rest in God’s peace.

  7. Samuel
    Apr 7, 2014

    Does anyone know when the funeral is?

    • Fr John
      Apr 7, 2014

      The funeral is at 11am this Friday, at St Mary Star of the Sea, West Melbourne. Archbishop Hart will preside, and Bishop Elliott will preach.

      There is a Vigil at 7pm Thursday, also at St Mary’s. This will include 15 decades of the Rosary and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

      • Samuel
        Apr 7, 2014

        Thank you father!

  8. Joseph Sleigh
    Apr 7, 2014

    Fr Byrnes married Gail and I at St Francis De Sales in 1978. He baptised our children Michael and Renee. When Mick worked at the Fish Market he would take fish to Fr Byrne. Fr Des loved my wife’s roasts especially the roast potato and Lamb. He helped our family on many occasions. He said a beautiful Benediction. His Novenas were great. His Mass and Sermons, top notch. He was devout to the Rosary. He was a father figure to many. He was much Loved as a mentor for life. May The Holy Trinity and Mother Mary welcome Fr Des with open arms. Earth’s loss is Heaven’s gain.

  9. Simon Hogan
    Apr 7, 2014

    Hello again I just like to mention about death of the jockey Nathan Berry! He was very well liked ! If you what do something donate some money if you like http://www.njt.org.au/ I also like to mention the US Golf Masters starts! Hoping Marc Lieshman can win from Warrnambool! Now music Bec and big river trio are playing at outside a Royal Hamilton store on this Thursday in a store called Victoria gift store in Gray Street! The golf is on 7mate for free to air people! Nathan Berry funereal is on tommorrow at Rosehill they would showing it on tvn! That’s enought for me tonight!

  10. shawn mclindon
    Apr 10, 2014

    Thanks for a great tribute Fr John! This man, this priest was truly a legend.

    I liken Fr Byrne to a timeless catholic wallpaper! Let me explain.

    In the days of the early 90’s in Melbourne he provided a ‘catholic home away from home’ for so many, including myself. He had the gift of making many feel at home. At times you wouldn’t notice him, at times you would think the wallpaper needed updating, other times you would notice a pattern on the paper that you hadn’t seen before, and other times the familiar discussions on the patterns made for constancy and familiarity in a world of youthful ambition and changing whims. But most of all he provided for us a ‘home’ where love could grow. Home, the place where real love grows best. He encouraged us to love our faith, to be for others and the fruits of many commitments and re-commitments to our faith is his legacy.

    Personally, I gratefully thank Fr Des for the opportunity of meeting my wife in an environment that gave us the courage to step out into the deep.

    God love you Fr Des, a great man of God!