Tribute to Fr Des Byrne – RIP
One of the many things Fr Byrne will be remembered for is the Confraternity of St Michael which began in 1991 with only a few members. The first meeting was held in the meeting room at the back of the Church at St Francis De Sales Oak Park in Melbourne.
It then moved to the School library and then onto the Parish Hall. Little did Fr Byrne know just how much the Confraternity would grow over the coming years.
People would come from all over Melbourne and Country Victoria for the weekly meetings at 7.30pm on a Wednesday night come rain hail or shine. Membership grew to well beyond expectations.
The fruits of Fr Byrne’s labour over the years of the Confraternity produced vocations to the religious life, marriages and countless life long Catholic friendships.
Father those vocations, marriages and numerous Catholic children are your legacy.
Thank you Father Byrne for all you did and may you rest in peace.
The Requiem Mass for Father will be held this Friday the 11th of April 11am at St Mary’s Star of the Sea West Melbourne. The Rosary will be prayed the night before also at St Mary’s 7pm.
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Some Reflections upon the last 24 years of Fr Byrne – by Michael Smith
Fr Byrne will never be forgotten. A man of courage and conviction, one who inspired many young Catholic to live the Faith and uphold Christ and His Church.
A man who was often mocked by his peers for his enthusiasm and audacity to stand up against the tide of opinion. A phenomenal preacher and a modern day Elijah.
May the Lord embrace Fr Byrne as he enters eternal bliss and reunite with his former ‘Magnificent Seven’ colleagues.
I would like to say that both my wife and I have such brilliant memories of Father Byrne. He was a real father in every way. When I was a full time student, just married with a baby, he would “accidentally” slip me some money, often quite a large amount, and never expected anything in return. He was so cheerful and so strong in the faith. A truly wonderful man.
When I first came to Melbourne, I already knew the great reputation of the Oak Park parish, the Confraternity of St. Michael the Archangel, and Father Byrne. I was so happy when it worked out that I would be living within the Oak Park parish, and was able to join the Confraternity. Looking back from a distance of almost 20 years, I can clearly see what an extraordinary thing the Confraternity was, and what an extraordinary priest was Father Byrne. He was a man of great faith and amazing energy, and so full of love for us young people. He was determined to help us to holiness. He always began the Confraternity meetings with the Rosary, telling us that if we didn’t begin with prayer, it wouldn’t work out at all. How true this is for all aspects of our lives!
As a parishioner, I really appreciated the reverence with which Father said Mass, and the regular devotions he led at the parish. I also got to know Father’s sermons – there were quite a few that he would repeat on a regular basis. We would smile to ourselves after a few words, thinking “Oh, this is the _____ sermon.” But Father knew what he was doing! All that repetition meant that we really learned his lessons by heart, not just by memory. And I still find myself quoting Father Byrne’s wisdom to this day.
One favourite memory of mine is how, after Confraternity meetings, we would all be standing around, talking and enjoying each other’s company for quite a long time. Father would often say, “Don’t you lot have homes to go to?!” But his eyes would be sparkling and you knew that he was just loving it!
Through the Confraternity, Father Byrne touched the lives and deepened the faith of hundreds of people, and helped forge many lifelong connections – and that’s aside from all the marriages he celebrated, and all the children he baptised. His work and devotion has deeply affected more than one generation, and we are all privileged to have been among them.
Rest in peace, Father, and may God reward you abundantly for the uncountable blessings you brought to us all!
Here’s my thoughts on our dear priest…
How does one give ample tribute to such a priest? God is probably doing that now. He has won the race and fought the good fight. There is so much to rejoice about!
I first heard of Fr Byrne and his confraternity from Fr Laurie Cusack. He was telling us that the group had been set up to educate the youth in the their faith and hopefully to provide a good meeting place for like minded Catholics to meet and marry.
I must admit I was really embarrassed about going in case people thought I was a desperado, and I vowed not to end up with anyone from this group. But Fr Byrne was more than a match for me! He prayed awfully hard – and 18 years and 7 kids later, I’m in the same boat as many of the members of the Confraternity. And very happily too!
Having been so deprived of Catholic teaching at our “Catholic” schools, my sister and I began travelling from the South Eastern suburbs to Pascoe Vale for the Confraternity of St Michael meetings. We were hooked from the first night. Arriving late, we snuck in quietly and took front seats. Father Byrne was talking about “ordinary” and “extraordinary” magisterium, saying “and I teach this to my grade sixes, folks”. My jaw nearly hit the ground. His grade sixes! I had been through 13 years of Catholic schooling and never even heard the term magisterium. What else had I missed?
It was all so interesting, so beautiful and fulfilling. From over our side of town others started hitching rides. In other parts of Melbourne, still others were coming, and the Confraternity’s numbers swelled. Why? Why was Father Byrne so successful in an age when youth had drifted from the faith, and were, supposedly, disinterested in their faith?
We were so hungry for the Truth, and for some of us our faith was barely surviving. He was so humble, and fed us what was needed – the Church’s teaching in all it’s beauty. He always differentiated between Church teaching and his opinion. And he prayed a Rosary for us all everyday.
But he didn’t only stop at Catholic teaching. he encouraged us in our daily lives to live as good Catholics. I once lamented to him saying “Where are all our saints? Why haven’t we any saints now?” to which he replied “I hear their confessions all the time”. He ran retreats for us and seminars with overseas speakers. World Youth Day pilgrimages, prayer rallies – he did them all. And he joined in our fun, showing that a holy life is a joyful one.
I shall never know how he managed to do it all and run his parish, but we are all forever in his debt. I particularly remember 2 things: He told me that every night he used to beat his pillow crying “what are they doing to my Church?!”, until one night God sent
the thought “It’s not YOUR Church”, and that’s when he started trying to do what he could to improve the situation. And he often prayed that God would send him a terrible disease or cancer so he could offer it up and make reparation to God. (God chose not to answer that one!) He was a beautiful, generous soul who worked continuously for the Church’s good. Even in his later years he was still helping others, hearing confessions at St Mary’s in West Melbourne.
I shall never forget his humour and goodness, nor his drawings (!), and I am continually grateful for the happy life that his teaching has lead me to and for the faith that is our every breath.
Fr Byrne was one of a kind. He was a tough, wiry character, and he needed to be. He spent 30 years of his priestly life swimming against the tide. But if things got him down, he didn’t show it. The thing I remember most fondly about him was his engaging smile. He was a natural teacher and thrived on his Wednesday night lectures to the Confraternity. He never seemed to run out of energy and he wasn’t embarrassed by the Church’s teaching on contraception. In fact, he proclaimed it as often as he could. Perhaps that’s one reason why there were scores of children at his funeral on Friday. He had a number of topics that he loved to preach on, but his
masterpiece was called, “Napoleon, Moscow and Modernism.” In it, he foresaw the decline of modernism in terms of the defeat of Napoleon’s Grande Armee in Russia in 1812. I will always treasure the gift of faith that Fr Bynre has fostered in me. At a time when so many of my acquaintances were abandoning their faith, he proved to be a life saver. He didn’t try to be ‘relevant’; he just taught us about Jesus Christ. His legacy is in the faith that he fostered and the community that formed around it. Let us pray that those to whom he has ministered and were his joy here, will be his eternal recompense. Amen.
Father Des a man of God. It was an honour to attend his farewell mass. As in the days of St Francis De Sales the church was full. Father Des captured our hearts and has left an imprint forever because he taught the catholic faith to the fullest. This holy man of God was never afraid to tell it how it is… The world has lost a great preacher, as our father in Heaven has called him home. Yet he will live on, not only in the hearts and minds of all who heard this holy man but in the lay Catholics who will now commence a novena asking for his intercession so that in pleasing God Fr Des may one day be favoured amongst saints… God Bless Fr Desmond Grayem Bryne
Pat, John and Peter
Fr Des Byrne, an authentic man, a true priest and a dear friend to so many. Thank you for being the man you were by bringing the ‘homeliness’ of our God to us. I have likened Fr Des to a timeless catholic wallpaper!.. Let me explain. In a time in the early 90’s when I first attended the confraternity Fr Des provided a ‘home away from home’ with his genuine interest and love for passing on the faith. He was always there, familiar, entertaining and informative and he just seemed to have the gift of making a big group of young people feel at home. At times, like wallpaper, you took his presence for granted, at times felt like it needed updating, at other times noticed something different in the pattern and other times just happy to know he had the ever confident twinkle in his eye that this was the Lords work! Like a homely lounge room, his presence created a space where we could learn to love our faith and learn to be for others. He taught me the timelessness of our faith and the real truth in living a full life if we can treasure it. Fr Des, I thank you for how you lived your life. I only knew a small part of it, but it became a big part of mine as you provided the opportunity and environment where I met my wife and gave us the courage to step out into the deep.God love you. Look forward to meeting again in the Kingdom! Shawn
A quote that Father liked “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!”
― Hilaire Belloc
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in the hour of battle,
be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the
devil, May God restrain him we humbly pray and do Thou O
Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Powerof God cast into
hell, satan and all the other evil spirits who roam through the
world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen
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Posted on 07/04/2014, in Catholic Homeschool Australia and tagged Father Byrne, Father Des Byrne, Fr Byrne, Fr Des Byrne RIP, St Francis De Sales Oak Park, The Confraternity of St. Michael the Archangel. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.