Rev. Fr. Michael Byrne
This missionary spent many years on the African Continent.
Michael Byrne was born on 24th December 1866 at Edenpark, Knock, Co. Mayo. Among his family members were a relative who witnessed the Knock Apparition: he was a cousin of Dr Joseph Cunnane, Archbishop of Tuam. He worked on the family farm following National School studies.
Byrne was aged twenty-four years during 1890 when he entered Blackrock College, Dublin to continue with second level education. He was sent to France after five years in 1895 for further studies. During 1898 an attempt was made to launch a senior Scholasticate for Ireland at Rockwell College: Michael was amongst the handful of students sent there to study theology.
When Fr. Michael was consecrated to the apostolate during 1900: he was appointed to Sierra Leone in Africa. He was reluctant as he feared ‘the white man’s grave’ (as the area was known) but he obeyed his superior. He is remembered there as an excellent preacher. Even Protestants turned up to hear him preach in St Edward’s Cathedral. It was reported that they were particularly impressed by his sermons on the Golden Jubilee of the Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
He was Chaplain to the military in Freetown of which there were several Irish soldiers.
Fr. Byrne tutored students in several mission schools.
Fr. Michael Byrne on occasions replaced confrères in Bonthe, Sherbro & Moyamba several times.
Unfortunately following a severe bout of fever, he was advised to take a holiday in Ireland. In 1906 he returned following convalesce. The fever returned later without any warning that was to prove fatal when he was just forty-one years of age.
Fr. Byrne’s demise occurred on 23rd December 1907. He was assisted in his last hours by Bishop John O’Gorman also Fr Dan Lynch.
While Fr. Byrne was in France he was amongst those who took part in the great novitiate of 1896-97 when three separate novitiates had to be arranged to cope with the large numbers.