Read—and hear—Msgr. James Byrnes' journey to Tradition that is at times heart-breaking and inspiring!
In recent months I have written to you about some of the building projects underway in Society of St. Pius X chapels and schools around the United States. As inspiring as such projects are, some of the most exciting developments do not involve bricks and mortar. This month I am pleased to tell you of one such development, the welcoming to the Society of a gifted and talented priest, Msgr. James Byrnes, whose journey to Tradition is at turns both heart-breaking and inspiring.
Born in 1960, Msgr. Byrnes has no childhood memories of the traditional Latin Mass. Raised in New York by devout Catholic parents, he completed his studies in a conservative diocesan seminary and was ordained for the Archdiocese of New York in 1986. He was soon appointed to the faculty of the prestigious Cardinal Hayes High School for boys in the Bronx and spent the next 23 years working in various positions of school administration for the Archdiocese while earning a doctorate in Educational Administration along with numerous state certifications.
Although he was trained in a diocesan seminary and influenced in many ways by the erroneous ideas of the Second Vatican Council, from the time of his ordination Msgr. Byrnes began to sense that something was lacking in the modern liturgy. He prayed the new Mass as reverently as he could and, since he worked in school administration, was thankful to be freed from the whims of Novus Ordo pastors and parish liturgy committees.
Meanwhile, he prayed, and he read, and he discovered the beautiful treasures of the liturgy that were simply abandoned in the wake of Vatican II. He felt lied to, and realized that the liturgical reformers had isolated him and the rest of the faithful from the spiritual abundance of the past to which he and they were rightful heirs.
His efforts to discover and reclaim these treasures quickly led him to many well-known titles on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Michael Davies, Archbishop Lefebvre, and others. With all he now knew, he felt conscience-bound to act on this information. As Providence freed the Tridentine Mass, with the publication of Summorum Pontificum that very summer, he obtained the necessary items and said his first Latin Mass on September 15, 2007. Finally, after 21years as a priest, he experienced a sense of continuity with the priests of ages past who offered this very same Mass.
Having experienced the riches of the traditional liturgy, Msgr. Byrnes began offering the Tridentine Mass in the schools and parishes he served. He began to stay away from the new liturgy and, at one point, was able to avoid the New Mass for over six months until, being asked to fill in for a vacationing priest, he was exposed to some of the worst of the modern liturgical abuses. Horrified by what he saw, he vowed that he would never again say the Novus Ordo Mass. He now saw clearly the harm caused by the modern liturgy and pledged to no longer be an active participant in this widespread destruction of the Faith.
After being dismissed as principal in 2012, he took a four-month sabbatical to consider his options. The diocese wanted him to remain in active ministry, but that would mean exposing the faithful to a Mass that he knew to be harmful to their Faith. After much prayer, he realized that he could no longer fit in with the Archdiocese of New York. Saddened, but resolute, Msgr. Byrnes tendered his resignation, which was received by Cardinal Dolan on Ash Wednesday of 2014.
Msgr. Byrnes’ break with the archdiocese was not without costs. While he did receive some support from close friends, the eight priests ordained with him in St. Patrick’s Cathedral almost 28 years ago completely turned their backs on him. It seemed that the “fraternity of the priesthood” that they had been told about in the seminary was not a reality in the archdiocese. In contrast, Msgr. Byrnes has been overwhelmed by the mutual support and camaraderie he has experienced since joining the Society of St. Pius X. He now shares his educational and administrative talents with the school at Christ the King parish in Ridgefield, CT.
Padre Pio Academy
Padre Pio Academy is a far cry from the large, urban schools Msgr. Byrnes had devoted himself to. This school is a small and humble K-12 school, and classes are held in seven rooms in the basement of the church.
Yet Monsignor’s experienced eye sees great potential and he is taking steps to make his vision a reality. After decades of success in Catholic education, he understands the importance of keeping a high level of religious instruction and formation without sacrificing academic excellence in other subjects. A key part of his plan involves gathering a team of highly qualified educators to teach a challenging curriculum. He hopes to build the school and attract more students to the spiritual and academic treasures at this fine, small academy. But, he needs your help.
Msgr. Byrnes’ goal of a top-notch spiritual and academic program will benefit more than just the Academy’s current students. He is reaching out to those devout families who are trying to live a profoundly Catholic life without the help of a traditional Catholic school. The spiritual and academic wealth at this small academy are what good Catholic parents everywhere long to give their children.
Trusting in almighty God, Msgr. Byrnes walked away from everything for the sake of the Mass of All Time. Hoping to spend the remaining years of his priesthood working to recover what has been lost since Vatican II, he sacrificed his home, his salary, his pension—and not a few “friends”—over his decision to join the Society. Many of you have experienced similar loss and pain for refusing to compromise the Faith.
Msgr. Byrnes has the talent, the drive, and the expertise to build an academic program that meets his high standards. What he does not have are the necessary funds—for teachers, resources, and repairs—to turn this tiny school into a first class academy and exemplar of traditional education. I am counting on you to help Msgr. Byrnes raise the $100,000 he needs to start the next phase of his priestly life at home, in Tradition.
Will you help this courageous man put his talents to work teaching the Faith of our fathers to precious children in Ridgefield by sending a gift of $250—or more—to help with this work? After all Msgr. Byrnes has sacrificed, please consider a sacrifice of your own and welcome him as he begins this challenging apostolate.
Confident of your prayers and financial assistance,
I remain, sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Jürgen Wegner
United States District Superior
PS: With Msgr. Byrnes’ talent and the Society’s determination, along with your prayers and generous financial support, Padre Pio Academy is poised for success. I’ve always been able to count on your support when it is needed most. Please show Msgr. Byrnes a warm welcome through your ever-faithful generosity.
Msgr. James Byrnes
- Ordained in 1986 for the Archdiocese of NY by Cardinal O’Connor
- Assigned to the faculty of Cardinal Hayes High School for Boys in the Bronx, NY in 1991
- Awarded a doctorate in Educational Administration from Fordham University as well as New York State certifications in School Administration and Supervision, and School District Administration
- Appointed Dean of Studies supervising 65 faculty members and Cardinal Hayes High School’s full academic program in 1998
- Designated principal of John S. Burke Catholic High School in Goshen, NY in 2002
- Named Chaplain to His Holiness, granting him the title monsignor (granted by the pope to clergy who have rendered valuable service to the Church) in 2006
- Honored by Cardinal Dolan along with ten other priests of the Archdiocese of NY on the 25th anniversary of his ordination in 2011
To hear the remarkable story told by Msgr. Byrnes himself, please go to http://www.angeluspress.org/freeaudio for a free download or audio stream.