Born in Ireland in 1837
Taking of the habit at Sicklinghall on July 31, 1858
Perpetual oblation at Jaffna on May 21, 1860 (No. 518)
Died in Jaffna on May 22, 1860.
Robert Bonaventure Byrne was born in Ireland in 1837. He began his novitiate in Sicklinghall on July 31, 1858. In a December 22, 1858, letter to Bishop de Mazenod, Father Prosper Boisramé wrote: “Robert Byrne, novice. Loves a great deal to pray to God. A bit scrupulous. Not neat enough, nor sufficiently adept. The Provincial had sent him here to make a school teacher out of him. Unfortunately, in my first interview with him I noticed that he was too deaf for that. He has been given the job of doing the dishes, etc.”
Bishop Semeria was asking for English-speaking brothers to work as school masters in the English-speaking college of Jaffna, a college founded by Bishop Bettachini, something his successor wanted to develop and improve. At the end of his novitiate, Brother Byrne was sent to Ceylon with Brother Joseph Brown. They arrived there in December of 1859. In a January 10, 1864 report on the conditions of the schools Father César Mola wrote that the two brothers had not received any special training to prepare them for teaching. “We will strive,” he added, “to achieve the best results we can […] What they knew, they could teach […] what they did not know, they could conceal it by means of a prudent silence […however] the school would certainly profit from being under their direction, and it will owe them a debt of gratitude that it would never know how to sufficiently repay.” (Missions O.M.I., Vol. 3, 1864, p. 478, 483-484).
A short time after his arrival, Brother Byrne suffered an attack of pleurisy and died on May 22, 1860 at the age of 23 years, having made his perpetual oblation the day before. On July 7, 1860, Bishop de Mazenod wrote to Father Boisramé in Sicklinghall concerning the death in Ceylon “of Brother Byrne who was already beginning to make himself so useful in the school our Fathers have opened at Jaffna and which is one of the finest things they have been able to undertake […] This dear brother Byrne has died, partly through his own fault, after an illness of several days. He died in the manner we could expect from such a virtuous young man. He made his religious profession shortly before leaving to go and praise God in Heaven with our brothers who have preceded him. But his loss leaves a very regrettable void in the school …” (Oblate Writings I, Vol. 3, No. 94, p. 158).
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
G.A.: There is no dossier on this Brother;
correspondence from Bishop de Mazenod to Father P. Boisramé.
Archives of the Anglo-Irish Province: Register of the takings of the habit.
Philip, Jesuthasan, o.m.i., Our Tribute, Vol. I, Colombo, 2001, p. 14-15.