Brother and sister who are bishop and nun say faithful parents helped foster vocations

Bishop William Byrne and Sister Dede Byrne Springfield Bishop William Byrne and his sibling Sister Dede Byrne speak to EWTN News’ Catherine Hadro at the 2024 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., Feb. 8, 2024. | Credit: EWTN News/YouTube

For Bishop William Byrne of Springfield, Massachusetts, and his sibling Sister Dede Byrne, it was their parents’ daily devotion to the Eucharist that helped foster their openness to religious life.

“They were both daily Massgoers,” Sister Dede told EWTN News’ Catherine Hadro at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

“My father was a thoracic surgeon. He went to work every day. But he made Mass the priority. Mom raised eight brats. But she also went to Mass every day as well,” said Sister Dede of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Sister Dede and Bishop Byrne were both speakers at the annual event on Thursday, attended by Catholic and pro-life leaders and faithful across the nation.

Byrne agreed with his sister during their joint interview: “I think you’re right. The daily Eucharist.”

“My two best friends growing up, their dads were daily communicants: Tony and Mark. And I remember thinking, ‘Oh that’s what dads do,’” the bishop said.

Bishop Byrne highlighted “that powerful example of strong men, who begin their day with the Eucharist.” 

The siblings are two of eight children. Sister Dede was asked what it‘s like to have her younger brother be a bishop.

“It‘s a gift from God and I guess a demonstration of our parents‘ love for one another,” she said.

Bishop Byrne humorously responded: “I always say I‘m so glad my mom and dad weren‘t called to the priesthood or religious life. [Or else we] wouldn‘t be here.”

When asked if there are any other vocations in the family, Bishop Byrne said “not yet [but] we‘re praying for another generation.” 

“He always says ‘There‘s two in religious life. The rest are religious,‘” Sister Dede said about her brother and siblings.

Asked what role humor plays in their faith lives, Bishop Byrne responded: “I think that life is challenging enough. You need to make sure that you recognize joy.”

“I think it’s more than just humor, it‘s about joy. And even in the most challenging situation, God’s in charge. So if you just can trust, then you’re not going to take yourself or the situation too seriously, while you’re taking God completely seriously,” he added.

Sister Dede said that “we have to show joy because that’s how we bring others.”

“Our mission is to be pro-life and pro-eternal life to bring everyone with us,” she said.

“I’ll quote Bishop Byrne — a bishop I used to know, I still do — that he used to say ‘What’s a grumbly Catholic? A Protestant maker,’” Sister Dede said.

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“So we have to draw people to the Catholic faith, we have to let them know that it’s a beautiful journey with Christ, a Eucharistic journey with Christ,” she added.

The two were also asked about humility and how their relationship has helped them with that virtue.

“Well, I can say from the very beginning, Bishop Bill has always been sort of the ... center of the family in the sense that being a priest is more than just a brother. He brings Christ to everyone and we all feel that way, everyone in the family feels that way,” Sister Dede said.

Bishop Byrne said that “for me, there are two things that happen when I show up to a parish: If I don’t have my dog, the first thing people ask is ‘Where is Zelly?’” 

“And the second thing people do — or maybe the first, depending on who it is — they’ll say, ‘Are you Sister Dede’s brother?’” 

“So that immediately keeps me grounded to know that there are two more important in my family than me: my dog and my sister,” he said.

Sister Dede said that in community life, it’s like “another family.” She added that their 101-year-old mother lives in her religious community and serves her by “rolling up my sleeves.”

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“So I try to do hands-on with her, cleaning her and whatnot, so that’s the reality in life,” Sister Dede said.

Concluding the interview, Bishop Byrne asked viewers to pray for the success of the National Eucharistic Congress taking place in July. As many as 80,000 Catholics are expected to attend the worship event July 17–21 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, home to the Indianapolis Colts.

“I just want people to pray for the success. Pray especially, by name, those in your family and friends who have walked away. And invite them home. The worst thing they’re going to say is no. The best thing they can say is ‘okay.’ So keep praying, keep inviting, keep smiling,” he said.

Sister Dede noted that her order is 130 years old in 2024. 

She encouraged people to make even just a “short visit” to the Blessed Sacrament and “they’ll realize how sanctifying and powerful that is. Not only receiving him but also just spending time with him.”

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