OBITUARY : Father Charles (Byrne) C.P.
(d. 12th December 1933, aged 64 years.)
We deeply regret to announce the death of Father Charles (Byrne), C.P., a member of the community of St. Mungo’s Retreat Glasgow, which occurred on December 12th, after an illness of comparatively brief duration.
Known in the world as Francis Byrne, the late Father Charles was born at Gilltown, Co. Kildare on June 2nd, 1869. His early studies were made at the well-known College of St. Thomas Aquinas Newbridge. Some years later, having felt called to the religious state, he entered the noviciate of the Passionist Congregation at St. Saviour’s Retreat Broadway, and on the completion of his year of probation, he made his profession on March 10th 1897. He pursued the usual course of ecclesiastical studies at St. Joseph’s Retreat, Highgate, London and in due course was raised to the priesthood in Westminster Cathedral by His Eminence Cardinal Bourne on February 27th 1904. Some years ago Father Charles was the recipient of many congratulations from a host of friends far and near on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee of ordination.
During the course of his priestly life Fr. Charles was attached to various houses of the Congregation, and his name and his memory are held in benediction in such widely separated centres as Dublin, London Enniskillen, Belfast and Glasgow. At different periods he filled the office of Vice-Rector of Holy Cross Retreat, Ardoyne, Belfast, and of St. Gabriel’s Retreat, Enniskillen.
During the Great War, Fr. Charles formed one of the numerous band of Passionists who volunteered their services to assist in giving spiritual aid and consolation to the thousands of Catholic troops who took part in the conflict. As Chaplain to the Forces, Fr. Charles was attached to the Hospital at Port Suez, Egypt. He also performed excellent work on the hospital ships in the Mediterranean, and at the Base Hospital on the island of Lemnos.
A man of considerable experience in the guidance of souls, Fr. Charles won golden opinions from all those with whom he came in contact. Possessed of a fund of unwearied patience, he was always ready to give assistance and advice to those who came to consult him in their difficulties. In fact, it may be truly said that Fr. Charles was a model of self-sacrifice; he never spared himself in attending to the poor. the sick and the suffering. His duties often called him to the hospitals and to the prisons, where he was untiring in giving consolation and spiritual help to those who needed it. His greatest happiness lay in the exercise of this practical spirit of charity; and he would perform even a trifling Service with the air of one who received a favour rather than bestowed it. By his brethren in the Congregation Fr. Charles was loved and esteemed. His genial sense of humour and genuine kindliness of heart endeared him to all. All through his life, his own uprightness of character made him the unflinching opponent of any form of injustice; zealous for the interests of the poor and the oppressed, he ever stood by them in the hour of need, when otherwise they would scarcely have had a friend to espouse their cause. Their prayers of gratitude frequently went up on his behalf; now that he is no more, their sorrow will be great and uncomforted.
For some months before his death, Fr. Charles was obviously in failing health. Soon he recognised the seriousness of his condition, and like the good soldier of Christ that he was, he prepared himself as he had prepared many others for the crowning blessing of a peaceful and happy death.
Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated at St. Mungo’s Church, Glasgow, and the funeral took place immediately afterwards. The crowded congregation testified to the esteem in which the deceased Passionist was held by the parishioners of St. Mungo’s, to whose spiritual and temporal interests he had devoted the last years of his life.
(ex. “The Cross”, January 1934, Vol. XXIV, p. 371)
FR. CHARLES OF THE MOTHER OF GOOD COUNSEL.
On the morning of December 18th Fr. Charles of The Mother or good Council passed to his eternal reward. Known in he world as Francis Byrne, he was born atGilltown, Co Kildare, on 2nd June 1869. As a boy his early studies were made at the College of St Thomas Aquin, Newbridge. The call to the priesthood and religious life led him in his young manhood to seek admission into the Congregation of the Most Holy Cross and Passion, and leaving all things in due course he entered the Novitiate at Broadway where he was admitted to profession in the year 1897
On the completion of his ecclesiastical studies at St Joseph’s Retreat, Highgate, London, he was ordained priest in 1904 at Westminster Cathedral by his Eminence Cardinal Bourne occurred no born. For almost 30 years his priestly life was spent in active work and in consequence he left the seal of his saintly and loving personality in most of the towns and cities of the Irish and English Province where our houses are established
Possessing an amiable disposition which was singularly Christlike, and a heart keenly sensitive to human needs, Fr Joseph lived mainly among the sick and poor, and like his Divine Master, was father and priest to all. He was in every sense a priest for the people. In London, Dublin, Belfast and Glasgow where the greater part of his missionary life was lived, he laboured with the unrelenting zeal, and many are the homes where his name will be honoured were many a day.
That he was highly esteemed by his own brethren and respected by all those who were fortunate to live with him in is ample testimony to his charity which, above all, was the crowning virtue of his life. Nowhere, perhaps, can charity be most severely tried then in community life, and the fact that Father Charles was revered in every Retreat in which he lived and chosen as confessor and councillor by his brethren, speaks volumes for the perfection which this virtue had attained in his life. Gentle and unobtrusive, without the smallest degree of harshness in his composition, his ways were moulded in imitation of his gentle Master, and kindliness breathed from his every gesture endearing him to all who passed his way.
His obedience was childlike in its simplicity, and superiors are always found him a docile subject ready to undertake with the cheerfulness and a task imposed on him. Twice during his life he heard the office of vice and rector ship — onerous which he did not seek and fridge his humble ways did not wish.
At the outbreak of war are he offered his services as chaplain, and many a broken spirit during the was Halloween years was supported by his fatherly care. When peace was restored he returned immediately to was monastery to the religious observance and has worked just as if he had never lifted.
About four years ago he was transferred from Mount Argus Dublin, to St Mungo’s, Glasgow. But considerably advanced in years he accepted the change with his usual cheerful spirit and took up his duties with the willingness which a divide those in the community much younger and stronger than he was. He was appointed chaplain to Duke Street prison as well as having church of the district of the parish. Regularly every morning the visitors the Catholics of the prison giving advice and hearing confessions. Even when these unfortunate creatures were released he kept in touch with them as well as the court and tried his utmost to keep them on the straight road. In his district, too, he moved among the people and was particularly zealous in his care of the sick. Such work in a city in a city such as Glasgow was bound to have an undermining effect on the vitality of one advanced in years, and Fr, Charles’ health eventually broke down under the strain. Towards the end of the summer he was forced to take to his bed.
At first as was thought that his illness was only a passing indisposition, but as the weeks went by it was soon realised that grave complications had set in that he would never again take up duties at St Mungo’s. All that medical skill could do was done for him, but he was beyond recovery. The frame was broken and Fr, Charles turned his face towards his everlasting home. During his illness, his patience and resignation edified those who attended on him, and like a true Passionist he accepted his suffering, which was almost unbearable, with a calmness and sweetness which only lovers of Jesus crucified can understand. As the end drew near, the last rites of the church were administered to him by Fr Basil who had faithfully attended him since his health broke down and was present at his bedside when he passed away. He died on the 18th of December 1835 during the octave of our Lady’s glorious feast. All during his life he had an intense devotion to the Mother of God, and it was significant that he should be called home four days after the celebration of her greatest feast.
Solemn Requiem mass was sung on Thursday 14th December by Very Rev Father Provincial, after which the interment took place at St. Kentigern’s cemetery. His grace the Archbishop of Glasgow presided at the obsequies and pronounced the final absolutions. They Cannons of the Archdiocese and a large gathering of both secular and regular clergy were in the choir. The church was crowded with a devout and mournful congregation, and as the funeral wended its way to the cemetery the streets of the city were lined with people – a further testimony of the esteem in which Fr. Charles was held.
May his good soul rest in peace.
Colman of the V11 Dolours,