We announce the sad news of the death on 6th December 2021 of Fr Dominic Arthur Byrne. Increasing health concerns necessitated admission to Kingston Hospital on 2nd December and he was Anointed the following day.
Condolences are extended to Fr Dominic's family, friends, colleagues and parishioners of St Theodore of Canterbury, Hampton-on-Thames where he had been Parish Priest since January 2019, and to former parishioners in other parishes.
Fr Dominic’s mortal remains will be brought to St Theodore’s, Hampton-on-Thames on Sunday 19th December at 6pm. There will be Mass at 6.30pm celebrated by Bishop Nicholas Hudson.
On Monday 20th December Fr Dominic’s mortal remains will be brought to Westminster Cathedral before the Funeral Mass at 12.30pm with the Cardinal presiding and Fr Jimmy Garvey preaching.
Fr Dominic was a member of the Deceased Clergy Association.
We pray for the repose of his soul, assisted by words from Journal of a Soul, the autobiography of Pope St John XXIII:
Death is the future for everyone.
It is the Last Post of this life and the Reveille of the next.
Death is the end of our present life, it is the parting from loved ones;
it is the setting out into the unknown…
Death, like birth, is only a transformation, another birth.
When we die we shall change our state, that is all.
And with faith in God,
it is a easy and natural as going to sleep here and waking up there.
May the soul of Fr Dominic, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Fr Dominic Byrne, Parish Priest of St Theodore of Canterbury, Hampton-on-Thames died at the age of 66 at Kingston Hospital just four days after being admitted for emergency treatment. It was known to him and to those close to him that he had health issues that would shorten his life. But he lived life to the full and brought much joy to the lives of many. His untimely death on 6 December shocked and saddened many, and since his death stories of his life continue to be shared among those who knew and loved him.
Dom, as he is known to his family and close friends, was born in Birmingham on 28 February 1955. His parents, Arthur and Bernadette, had four other children, born after their brother. When Dominic was two years of age the family moved to Beckbury in Shropshire and after another couple of years to Wellington in the same county where they settled.
The young Dominic went to the local Catholic primary school and then to the local boys’ grammar school from 1965-71. He was academically bright, with a particular interest and ability in languages. At school he learned to play the piano and he developed this talent to become an accomplished pianist. At school he enjoyed drama. It was not surprising that his faith, abilities and interests prompted application to the seminary for A level education and vocational discernment.
He went to Ushaw College near Durham. However, in 1973, having been at Ushaw for two years he left to pursue studies in law at Queen’s College, Oxford University. At Oxford he developed his interests in student politics, amateur dramatics and social life. The degree he was awarded could have been stronger but his broader education was strengthened by his extra-curricular endeavours, including involvement with the Catholic Chaplaincy.
After graduation Dominic studied for Civil Service exams and in 1977 he began work with the then-Foreign Office Department for Overseas Development for eight years in London and overseas, rising to Principal with his own Section. His work involved countries including Bangladesh, Ghana, Zambia, southern Africa and Malawi.
While living in Malawi he encountered an elderly Dutch missionary priest and conversations with him, and a retreat with the Carmelites, reignited Dominic’s sense of vocation to the priesthood. He applied to the Diocese of Westminster and was sent to the Venerable English College, Rome in September 1985. He was awarded a Licence in Moral Theology, STL.
Dominic was ordained to the priesthood on 19 July 1991 in Wellington by Bishop John Crowley who was then an Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster. Fr Dominic’s first appointment as a priest was to Enfield where he served from 1991 to 1993. He then spent a short time at Westminster Cathedral before taking up his appointment as Assistant Priest at Osterley where he became Parochial Administrator. This was followed by a few months as Assistant Priest in Kenton before he went to study canon law in Leuven, Belgium in 1995 where he remained for five-and-a-half years.
In 2001 Fr Dominic returned to the Cathedral, briefly, before taking up his appointment as Parish Priest at Shepperton where he served from 2001 to 2007. During this time he lectured at Heythrop College, London University and he gave assistance to the Marriage Tribunal as Defender of the Marriage Bond, and he helped to process applications from priests overseas requesting temporary supply ministry in the diocese. His next appointment was to Hendon where he served as Parish Priest from September 2007 until he took up his appointment as Parish Priest at Hampton-on-Thames after a few months’ sabbatical with the Redemptorists in Tucson, Arizona.
Fr Dominic was Parish Priest at St Theodore’s, Hampton-on-Thames from January 2019 until his death. During this time ministry became restricted due to the coronavirus, but parishioners were understanding and rallied to give all the support that was possible, aware that Fr Dominic had evident health issues. He maintained the practice of telephoning his mother every day at 6pm.
As a priest in parish ministry Fr Dominic could be, and usually was, exceedingly kind, caring and compassionate. But he did not suffer fools gladly. On occasion he could react badly to some people or situations and then regret any harshness of word or deed. He paid careful attention to the preparation of his Sunday homilies, and he was interested in what his fellow priests might be intending to say in theirs.
He wanted his parishioners to have an adult faith, nurtured not only by his homilies but also by their own reading, study and reflection. As a teacher, Fr Dominic used the knowledge gained from his study for a JCL and then a JCD to educate and inspire his canon law students at Heythrop. He was proud of his four-cornered biretta with its green pompom, but not too proud to laugh at it!
He helped his students to understand that canon law is directed towards the pastoral care of people, with compassion and honesty, and their salvation. His extensive knowledge and his willingness to share it, coupled with anecdotes from parish life, made him a valued and much-loved lecturer and a respected and convivial member of the Canon Law Society.
Throughout his life Fr Dominic maintained and developed interests from his early years, including theatre, ballet, classical music, opera, musicals, languages, politics, genealogy and astronomy and, perhaps above all, food and cooking. His tastes were truly universal for both food and drinks. His family and friends enjoyed the lavish hospitality with accomplished cuisine.
An exceptionally generous and kind host, Fr Dominic quickly put his guests at ease, especially when his sharp wit and acute mimicry were part of the event. Many will recall enjoying an apéritif with their host who would move between the drinks trolley, the cooker and his piano to play whatever piece of music he was currently practising. Many would agree that his minestrone soup was like no other! His collection of cookery books seemed to outnumber his library of theological and canon law tomes. He rarely seemed to use the same recipe twice.
Meals with Fr Dominic were always occasions of both serious and frivolous conversation, merriment and laughter, especially when he was prevented from taking himself too seriously. He was as attentive to the needs of his exotic cats as he was to his guests. After supper a visit to the garden to observe the rings of Saturn through the state-of-the-art telescope was not uncommon, or being shown recent additions to his collection of silver objects in the display cabinet. His sense of adventure and desire for that which was new was not confined to the kitchen; his range of interests and lively mind were admired by all who knew him.
At times Fr Dominic seemed to need the approval of others; he could have times of self-doubt and could be easily wounded. This was a result of his deep sensitivity. But we cannot doubt the approval he will receive from the God whom he knew, loved and served as a priest, ministering love and compassion to God’s people in their variety and frailty. May his family and friends be consoled in their grief, and may the soul of Fr Dominic rest in peace and rise in glory.