Father Colman Byrne, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1881-1948)

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Born George Byrne on October 4, 1881, he was the son of Philip Byrne and Marie Carroll. He was an orphan at an early age due to the death of both his parents. He spent his boyhood years as a resident of the New York Archdiocesan Orphanage operated by the Sisters of Charity. From there he entered the Passionist Preparatory Seminary, St. Mary’s, Dunkirk, New York and after a few months went to the novitiate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began the novitiate year March 14, 1897 but did not complete the period of discernment due to bad health. Rather than be sent home he was sent to Louisville, Kentucky and pursued some studies. Once he regained strength he took his vows on July 21, 1891. His religious name was Colman. He completed studies at St. Michael’s Monastery, West Hoboken, New Jersey and was ordained a priest there on December 17, 1904 by Bishop John J. O’Connor of Newark, New Jersey. After sacred eloquence he held the position of vice-master for a year followed by the office of vice-director of students and professor at the preparatory seminary for a year. In 1908 he was professor of philosophy. In 1909 the newly created Holy Cross Province in the United States appealed to the eastern province of St. Paul of the Cross for priestly assistance. Father Byrne and another priest were sent for five years. During this time he was assistant pastor and vicar at Holy Cross Monastery, Cincinnati, Ohio. When that assignment ended he returned back east and was a preacher of parish missions and renewals. From 1915 until 1917 he was pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Dunkirk. At the 1917 Provincial Chapter he was elected rector of St. Gabriel’s Monastery, Brighton, Massachusetts and from 1920 until 1923 was rector of St. Joseph’s Monastery, Baltimore, Maryland. He then was a preacher again for six years. In 1929 he was appointed vicar of West Springfield, Massachusetts until 1932. He then moved to Brighton and was a preacher until he was elected provincial in 1935 and re-elected in 1938. At that time he moved to the residence at Riverdale, New York after which he was assigned to St. Mary’s Dunkirk as a member of the community. Two years before his death he had a serious eye infection and his health began to decline. A spinal disorder set in and he was sent to St. Clare’s Hospital, New York City where he died. He was known as “The Silver Fox.”

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