5 takeaways from Bishop-elect William Byrne’s interview with The Republican

By Anne-Gerard Flynn
December 06, 2020

Bishop-designate William Byrne of the Springfield Diocese, accompanied Nov. 23 by his dog "Zelie," performed the Rite of Blessing for the new In the Beginning preschool at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Parish in Agawam.
Photo by Don Treeger

Bishop-designate William Byrne's “5 Things with Father Bill: Hope, Humor, and Help for the Soul” was released Oct. 16.

Bishop-designate William Byrne, who will be ordained Dec. 14 as the 10th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, is the author of the recently published “5 Things with Father Bill,” that tackles diverse topics and offers brief insights on each.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston will be the principal celebrant and consecrator for the invitation-only Episcopal Ordination and Installation Mass at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s Cathedral.

Byrne has been a parish pastor for more than two decades in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and his ministries there have included outreach to Catholic members of the Congress as well serving as chaplain for the University of Maryland’s Catholic Student Center in College Park, Maryland.

Here are five takeaways from his recent interview with The Republican.

On outreach to young people and families:

“When you look at the youth you do not say to them, ‘Are they the future of the Church?’ No, they are the present of the Church. They are the Church right now. Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me.’ He was not just saying that – Christ was recognizing this is evangelization. If we can have a place where children feel safe and the youth thrive as the people God is calling them to be, this transforms families and makes sure God is working in the hearts of moms and dads across the diocese. Even if some schools have closed, it does not mean that God cannot do marvelous things.”

On oversight of diocesan procedures and implementation of recommendations for addressing allegations of clergy sexual abuse:

“I cannot do something about other dioceses but I can do something about Springfield and we are headed in a very positive and important direction in terms of accountability and transparency.”

On evangelization today:

“What we see from Saint John Paul through Benedict and into the pontificate of Pope Francis is a continuation of the same basic evangelism – evangelization but with different and fascinating focuses. Francis is calling us to the power of accompaniment. It is not a new concept but rather an awakening in us. We are called to meet people where they are and not push them from behind or drag them from in front but to walk with them. We need to make sure we go out into the periphery, whether it be material poverty, spiritual poverty, whether it be an impoverishment of our own experience of church itself, and bring Christ. I take very seriously the last line of Mass, ‘The Mass has ended go in peace.’ What I am saying is, ‘Get out of here. Go out and bring Christ to the world,’ and that I think is the empowerment of the laity to proclaim the gospel to the world.”

On his faith experience working with diverse groups of parishioners:

“When you are a city pastor you have the people who are your parishioners and then you have the homeless. You are interacting with many varying degrees of people. In the suburbs it is another demographic but it brings you in contact with other groups. My experience in working with the poor and then working with congressmen, though not comprehensive, is that each of them has their poverty, each in their own way, just as I do and the call is to help each one of them get closer to Christ.”

On a priest’s role in responding to tragedy:

“When someone has a tragedy, it is like they were thrust into the deepest, darkest forest and they do not know where to go or what to do. They cannot even see their hand in front of their face. And so, my role as a priest is to step in there with a torch, which is the gospel, and say, ‘Take my hand. It is not going to be easy but we can make it.’ I started a support group for people who lost kids in my last parish. When a child dies, when that happens, you go to their house. You are not intruding.”


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