James Byrne (bishop)

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The Most Reverend

James J. Byrne

Archbishop of Dubuque
James Joseph Byrne.jpg
ChurchCatholic Church
AppointedMarch 7, 1962
In officeMay 8, 1962–August 23, 1983
PredecessorLeo Binz
SuccessorDaniel Kucera
OrdinationJune 3, 1933
by John Gregory Murray
ConsecrationJuly 2, 1947
by Amleto Giovanni Cicognani
Personal details
Born(1908-07-28)July 28, 1908
Saint Paul, Minnesota
DiedAugust 2, 1996(1996-08-02) (aged 88)
Dubuque, Iowa
Previous postAuxiliary Bishop of St. Paul
Bishop of Boise
MottoAd Jesum per Mariam
(To Jesus through Mary)

James Joseph Byrne (July 28, 1908 – August 2, 1996) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He was Archbishop of Dubuque from 1962 to 1983, having previously served as Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul (1947–56) and Bishop of Boise (1956–62).

Early life and education[edit]

James Byrne was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Philip Joseph and Mary Agnes (née McMonigal) Вyrne.[1] One of nine children, he had five brothers and three sisters; one of his brothers, Thomas R. Byrne, served as Mayor of St. Paul from 1966 to 1970.[2] Another brother, Robert Byrne, was an instructor of Latin at Saint Thomas Military Academy. After graduating from parochial school, he attended Cretin High School in St. Paul.[1]

Byrne enrolled at Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary in 1924.[2] In 1927, he continued his studies for the priesthood at St. Paul Seminary.[2] He earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in 1933.[1]


On June 3, 1933, Byrne was ordained a priest by Archbishop John Gregory Murray at St. Paul Cathedral.[3] His first assignment was as a curate at St. Peter's Church in Mendota.[4] He continued his studies at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, where he earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology degree in 1937 with a thesis entitled: "Idea of Development of Doctrine in Anglican Writings of John Henry Newman."[1]

Following his return to Minnesota, Byrne served as professor of philosophy and theology (1937–45) and academic dean (1941–45) at the College of St. Thomas.[1] He was also a part-time professor of theology at the College of St. Catherine (1940–47) and a professor of theology at St. Paul Seminary (1945–47).[2] In addition to his academic duties, he served as a chaplain at local religious institutions.[4]


St. Paul[edit]

Ordination history of
James Byrne
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byAmleto Giovanni Cicognani (Apos. Del.)
DateJuly 2, 1947
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by James Byrne as principal consecrator
Francis John DunnAugust 27, 1969
Lawrence Donald SoensAugust 17, 1983

On May 10, 1947, Byrne was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and titular bishop of Etenna by Pope Pius XII.[3] He received his episcopal consecration on the following July 2 from Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, with Bishops Thomas Anthony Welch and Francis Joseph Schenk serving as co-consecrators, at St. Paul Cathedral.[3] He selected as his episcopal motto: Ad Jesum Per Mariam (Latin: "To Jesus through Mary").[2] As an auxiliary bishop, Byrne served as pastor of the Church of the Nativity in St. Paul (1948–56).[4]


Following the death of Bishop Edward Kelly, Byrne was appointed the fourth Bishop of Boise, Idaho, on June 16, 1956.[3] His installation took place at Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on August 29 of that year.[3] He remained in Boise for nearly six years.


Archbishop Byrne's coat of arms over the main entrance into St. Raphael's Cathedral, Dubuque

Following the appointment of Archbishop Leo Binz to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul, Pope John XXIII named Byrne the ninth bishop and seventh archbishop of Dubuque on March 7, 1962. He was installed as archbishop by the Apostolic Delegate on May 8, 1962, in St. Raphael's Cathedral. Archbishop Byrne would serve as the leader of the Dubuque Archdiocese for 21 years.

From 1962-1965, Byrne was present at all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council. Following the council he was responsible for implementing the reforms promulgated by the council within the archdiocese. During his time in office, Archbishop Byrne maintained a relatively low profile in the community. He was noted for asking that Catholics join him in a televised recitation of the Rosary before the evening news, and had cards produced that people could place on top of their television sets. Archbishop Byrne also encouraged the growing cooperation among the Roman Catholic and Protestant seminaries and colleges in Dubuque and often accepted invitations to participate in seminars and to speak to classes. On one occasion, in an airport, he encountered a Protestant seminarian he had come to know through these activities who was going to interview for a parish position and offered his blessing for his success and for his future ministry. He also devoted as much time as he could to visiting those who were hospitalized in Dubuque.

In 1966 the archdiocese was one the nation's first diocese to establish a Priests' Senate. The following year the Archdiocesan Board of Education was established, and adult education was started at the parish level. The Priest Personnel Board was established in 1968 to advise the archbishop on priest assignments in the archdiocese. In 1970 an Interim Pastoral Council was developed as an advisory and consultative group. Villa Raphael was opened in 1971 as a home for retired priests.[5] On October 4, 1979, Pope John Paul II made his historic visit to Iowa with Archbishop Byrne serving as his official host in his role as "Primate of Iowa." Byrne was also Chancellor of Loras College.

Pope John Paul II accepted Byrne's resignation on August 23, 1983, and he was named Archbishop Emeritus of Dubuque. Following his retirement, Byrne remained in the Dubuque area. He died while a resident at the Stonehill Care Center (operated by Franciscan Sisters) in Dubuque on August 2, 1996, 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 Abbey and stored it at the Cathedral; this was the casket in which he was buried.


  1. ^ a b c d e Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig.
  2. ^ a b c d e "The good old days: when bishops knew how to bishop..." ORBIS CatholicVS. 2009-08-23.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Archbishop James Joseph Byrne". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015.[self-published source]
  4. ^ a b c "OTHER DEATHS". The Gazette. 1996-08-04.
  5. ^ http://www.encyclopediadubuque.org/index.php?title=BYRNE%2C_James_J.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Leo Binz
Archbishop of Dubuque
1962 - 1983
Succeeded by
Daniel Kucera
Preceded by
Edward Joseph Kelly
Bishop of Boise
1956 – 1962
Succeeded by
Sylvester William Treinen
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul
1947 - 1956
Succeeded by