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BYRNE, James J.

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Photo courtesy: Archdiocese of Dubuque

BYRNE, James J. (St. Paul, MN, July 28, 1908--Dubuque, Ia, Aug. 2, 1996). In 1962 Byrne replaced Archbishop Leo BINZ who was transferred to the archdiocese of St. Paul. He was the ninth prelate to head the Dubuque archdiocese and the first native of Minnesota to become an archbishop. (1)

Byrne graduated from St. Luke's grade school and attended Cretin High School for three years before enrolling at Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary. He was ordained at the St. Paul seminary on June 3, 1933. He studied one summer at the University of Minnesota and four years at Louvain University in Belgium where he received his doctorate in sacred theology on July 12, 1937. Returning to the United States, Byrne served as a professor of theology at St. Thomas College in 1937 and as dean from 1941 to 1945. From 1945 to 1947 he also taught theology part-time at St. Catherine's College. He served as the chaplain at Cretin from 1938 to 1945 and as the chaplain to the Sisters of St. Joseph and students at St. Catherine's in 1946 and 1947. On July 2, 1947 he became one of the youngest bishops in the United States when he was consecrated at the age of 38 as the auxiliary archbishop of his home diocese in St. Paul. (2)

Coming to Dubuque six months after the convening of Vatican II, Byrne chose a moderate course including a low profile in the community. A survey of community leaders in 1978 found the state's most powerful Catholic ranked eighth. Byrne considered the change from Latin to English in the liturgy an especially significant event.

Many crucial decisions occurred during Byrne's tenure as archbishop. In 1966 the Senate of Priests was established as an advisory body, one of the first priest senates in the United States. This led to such innovations as the Priest Personnel Board, responsible for pastoral reassignments and the archdiocese's self-insurance program.

In 1967 the Archdiocesan Board of Education was established. Adult education was started at the parish level. The following year, the Priest Personnel Board was established to manage the assignment or reassignment of priests in the diocese. In 1970 the Interim Pastoral Council, an advisory and consultative group, was begun. In 1971 Villa Raphael, a home for retired priests, was opened.

Considering prayer extremely important, Byrne urged local Catholics to pray daily before the evening news. Churches distributed four-inch-high cards with a picture of the Virgin Mary and the prayer "Hail Holy Queen" to place on the television as a reminder. On February 23, 1984, upon Byrne's retirement,Daniel KUCERA was installed as the tenth Archbishop of Dubuque.

Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation on August 23, 1983, and he was named Archbishop Emeritus of Dubuque. Following his retirement, Archbishop Byrne remained in the Dubuque area. He died while a resident at the Stonehill Care Center (operated by Franciscan Sisters) and was buried in the mortuary chapel of ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL along with other deceased bishops and archbishops of the archdiocese. Archbishop Byrne had earlier purchased a simple wooden casket from the monks of NEW MELLERAY MONASTERY and stored it at the Cathedral.



1. "1st Native Minnesotan to Become Archbishop," Telegraph Herald, May 6, 1962, p 1

2. Ibid.