Leading Legatus in the nation’s capital
Father Bill Byrne grew up in the nation’s capital as the youngest of eight children. He attended Georgetown Preparatory School and the College of the Holy Cross. He taught at Mater Dei School, a Catholic boy’s school, for three years before entering the seminary. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1994.
The 51-year-old priest spent five years at two different parishes before being appointed as the chaplain of the University of Maryland’s Catholic Student Center. He was the pastor of St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill while also serving as secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington. He is the current pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Potomac, Md., in addition to serving as a Legatus chaplain. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga
How did you discern your call to the priesthood?
I had been thinking about it off and on. The Lord puts it in your heart. My parents were daily communicants. We were raised in a house where the faith was loved. My uncle was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York, so I had a positive example of a family member who is a priest and it was a rich soil in which that could be nurtured.
What was your experience like as a chaplain at the University of Maryland?
It was a beautiful experience. We had 300 people coming to Mass when I started. When I left, it was over 1,000. There are 14 guys from my time there who are priests of the archdiocese or are in religious communities — and five women who are also in religious communities.
What was it like being the pastor of a church on Capitol Hill?
Most of my parishioners were from the House of Representatives and their staff. We had a very large and successful community of young adults. During the week, we would see the congressmen. I would do a monthly dinner for Catholic congressmen and give them opportunities to strengthen their faith and to have conversations that they otherwise wouldn’t be likely to have.
It was a great experience. We saw so many great young men and women. During my time there we would bring 40 people a year into our RCIA. Many of them were young congressional staffers who were really seeking the Lord .
How did you come to be acquainted with Legatus?
Through Legatus members and friends who spoke very highly of Legatus. They talked to Cardinal Donald Wuerl and asked him to start a chapter. He agreed, and I was assigned by Cardinal Wuerl to be the chapter’s first chaplain.
We haven’t been officially chartered yet, but we reached our 20th executive member. So we’ve made the jump from being in formation to the real deal.
What value do you see Legatus having in the life of the Church?
The gospel calls us to be the leaven of society. When you form leaders in our culture to be leaders in the faith community, it strengthens the Body of Christ in a way that allows those members to be able to speak with a certain confidence — and also to be strengthened by their camaraderie amongst each other.
Legatus shows that serious Catholic business leaders aren’t all alone out there. There are other men and women in leadership positions who are seeking to love the Lord as fully as possible.
What are your hobbies and interests?
I like to play golf. I have a dog, a boxer named Roo — and I’m a doggone good cook, too.
BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.