Sunday, August 23, 2009
The good old days: when bishops knew how to bishop...
Archbishop James J. Byrne, S.T.D. (1908-1996).
My parents knew him when they were kids and they both, along with everybody else, said he was "stern."
He was the first Minnesota native to be archbishop.
And he was the first ever auxiliary bishop to the Archbishop of St. Paul.
And he was consecrated bishop when he was only 38 years old.
Episcopal motto: Ad Jesum Per Mariam.
Meet J.J. Byrne.
Born in St. Paul on July 28, 1908 he was the son of Mrs. Mary Byrne of 1379 N. Pascal St., St. Paul. He had five brothers and three sisters (his brother Tom was mayor of St. Paul from 1966-1970). He attended St. Columba Primary School, Cretin High School, Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary from 1924 to 1927, and the St. Paul Seminary from 1927 through 1933. He was ordained to the priesthood June 3, 1933. After studies abroad, Father Byrne received his S.T.D. degree from the University of Louvain in Beligum in 1937. His first church assignment was as curate of the Church of St. Peter in Mendota in 1937. From 1937 until 1945 he was professor of philosophy and theology at the College of St. Thomas, a part-time professor of theology at the College of St. Catherine from 1941-1947, and professor of theology at St. Paul Seminary 1945-1947. During the period 1941 through 1945 he also served as Academic Dean of the College of St. Thomas. On July 2, 1947, Father Byrne was consecrated titular Bishop of Etenna and Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul. He was the first every auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul. He became pastor of the Church of the Nativity in St. Paul on February 6, 1948, and he served in that capacity until his appointment as Bishop of Boise, Idaho, June 16, 1956. In 1962 he was appointed Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, where he was installed on May 8. He succeeded Archbishop Leo Binz who was installed as Archbishop of St. Paul. As Archbishop he attended the Vatican Council between 1962-1965. He retired in August 1983 and died on Friday, August 2, 1996 at the age of 88. He is buried in the crypt of the Cathedral in Dubuque, Iowa.
Archbishop Byrne passed away in a nursing home, Stonehill Care Center in Dubuque where he had been from 1993 until his death in 1996. A pity our clergy, let alone a bishop, often end up like this. We have to take better care of our priests and religious and do our best to keep them out of dreaded nursing homes.