Father Byrne, a widower, raised a family before becoming a priest

One might expect to find vestments, a chalice and religious books among a priest’s belongings.

But some more unusual items also graced the assisted-living apartment of Father Bernard Byrne: photos of his seven children, 16 grandchildren, his late wife, Marion, and a golden retriever named Brawny.

Known to many as Father Bernie, he was a lawyer for 40 years and a widower before becoming a priest for the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin. 

Father Byrne died Dec. 22 at age 86.

A funeral Mass was held Dec. 29 at St. Vincent de Paul Church with interment at Calvary Cemetery, both in Omaha.

Father Byrne, a Brooklyn, New York, native, served in the Marine Corps before studying law at St. John’s University in Queens, New York.

He was licensed to practice law in several states, including Nebraska, where he and his wife raised their children. She died of leukemia at age 51.

Father Byrne retired as an attorney at age 65, but wanted to do more, according to an article in a Wisconsin newspaper.

He became a seminarian in Wisconsin at age 67, studying for three years before being ordained in 2006. 

After several years of parish service and retirement in 2011 from the Superior diocese, he moved to Omaha, where he served as an associate pastor at St. Wenceslaus Parish from 2011 to 2015. He then served as a chaplain at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue for several months.

“He loved being a priest,” Father Byrne’s daughter Marian Holden, of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, said in a eulogy. “For some, winning the lottery would be a dream come true. For my dad it was becoming a priest.”

Yet he remained involved with his family, Holden said. “He was a good dad and would do anything for his family.”

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