WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pope Francis has appointed Father William D. Byrne, a pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, to head the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts.
He succeeds Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, who was installed Aug. 25 to head the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Rozanski headed the Springfield Diocese from 2014 until June of this year when the pope named him to St. Louis.
Byrne, 56, has been pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, Maryland, since 2015. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington June 25, 1994.
His appointment was announced in Washington Oct. 14 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Vatican nuncio to the United States.
“Pope Francis has chosen one of our most beloved and successful pastors” to head the Springfield Diocese, Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in a statement.
“Father Byrne will bring the heart of a pastor to his new appointment and enrich that local church with his talents and energy,” he said. “We wish him well even as we acknowledge his loss to the Archdiocese of Washington. He will always carry with him our prayers and deep admiration.”
Byrne was born Sept. 26, 1964, in Washington. He attended Georgetown Preparatory School in the Washington suburb of Rockville, Maryland, and he received a bachelor’s degree in English from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
He studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and received a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology in 1992 and a licentiate in sacred theology in 1994, both from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
After his ordination to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1994, Byrne was assigned to the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland, as parochial vicar where he served until 1995 when he was assigned as parochial vicar at the Shrine of St. Jude in Rockville.
From 1999 until 2007, he served as the chaplain for the University of Maryland’s Catholic Student Center in College Park, Maryland. He was named pastor of St. Peter’s Parish on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2007 where he served until 2015.
From 2009 until 2015, while serving as pastor of St. Peter’s, Byrne also was secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington. In 2015, Byrne was named pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac.
Byrne’s ministry also includes service on the Archdiocese of Washington’s vocations team (1998), formation board (2002-present), priest council (2003-2006), priest personnel board (2006-2009) and the archdiocesan administrative board (2009-2015).
He also has been a member of the board of directors of St. Ann’s Infant and Maternity Home, the Catholic Youth Organization and Redemptoris Mater Seminary, as well as having served on the advisory board of the Lay Leadership Institute.
The bishop-designate is known for his creative approach to ministry, according to Father Patrick Agustin. “Energy and joy exudes from him. He loves the priesthood and serving the Lord and the church,” he told the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper.
This spring during the coronavirus shutdown, before being ordained to the priesthood, Agustin assisted at Our Lady of Mercy Parish as a deacon. There he was reunited with a pastor he had known when Byrne was the chaplain at the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland.
At Our Lady of Mercy, Father Agustin said, he was able to witness Byrne’s creativity in continuing to serve his people, noting that after celebrating a livestreamed Mass on Easter, the pastor invited parishioners to drive by the church for an Easter parade, and from a social distance he greeted them and gave them a blessing. Cars pulled up at the parish church for more than an hour that morning.
As the chaplain at Maryland’s Catholic Student Center, Byrne combined two of his favorite things — prayer and food — to draw students to Wednesday evening eucharistic adoration, followed by meals prepared by some of their moms. Several “Catholic Terps” inspired by his example have become priests for the Washington Archdiocese.
In 2016, Pope Francis named Byrne as a Missionary of Mercy for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Besides being known for his enthusiasm for his faith, Byrne also is known for his for his sense of humor. He wrote an award-winning “5 Things” column in the Catholic Standard, and mixed faith and fun for YouTube, exploring such topics as “5 Ways to Get Ready for Heaven” and “5 Gifts for Your Priest.”
Contributing this story was the staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.