A priest from the nation’s capital, who has attracted a following for his YouTube video series, has been picked to lead the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
Rev. William Byrne was introduced Wednesday as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, which encompasses the four western Massachusetts counties.
"I pray that my time as bishop of this community of western Massachusetts will be a season of hope," said Byrne.
The 56-year-old native of Washington, DC has spent his 27 years in the priesthood in various posts in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. He created a special ministry to Catholic members of Congress as pastor of a church on Capitol Hill. His most recent assignment was as a priest in a parish in Potomac, Maryland.
He said the listening he’s done as a priest helped prepare him to become a bishop.
"I am indebted to my parish experiences and fellow priests I have worked with for so many years side-by-side," said Byrne.
The office of bishop in the Springfield Diocese has been vacant since late August when the Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski became Archbishop of St. Louis.
One of the challenges Byrne will face is the strain put on church finances by the pandemic that has caused attendance at mass to plummet.
"Let's not get back to normal, let's get back to better," said Byrne.
Speaking at a news conference, Byrne said he looks forward to receiving a report from a task force, appointed by his predecessor, to recommend improving how the diocese responds to sex abuse allegations.
"The shameful history of abuse within the church represents a systematic failure to protect our most vulnerable members especially our children," said Byrne. "It must be acknowledged and atoned for continuously."
Bishop-elect Byrne has a big presence on social media, which he said he plans to continue.
"My mom said I never met a camera I didn't like, but what does she know," joked Byrne.
In addition to celebrating mass online, Byrne has also produced a series of YouTube videos called “5 Things with Father Bill Byrne” in which he presents Catholic teachers and offers life advice with a mix of reverence and humor.
The video series has been developed into a book.
For eight years, Byrne was chaplain at the University of Maryland, where Worcester Bishop Robert McManus, said he left a legacy.
"During that time 14 men entered the seminary and are now ordained priests and five women entered into religious life," said McManus, who introduced Byrne at Wednesday's press conference. McManus has been the temporary administrator in the Springfield diocese.
Byrne will officially become bishop of Springfield during a ceremony on December 14th at St. Michael’s Cathedral.