A funeral Mass for Father Luke J. Byrne, SJ, was celebrated Feb. 3 at St. Francis Xavier “College” Church in St. Louis. Father Byrne, an educator, spiritual companion and college chaplain, died Jan. 27 in St. Louis. He was 84 years old, a Jesuit for 67 years and a priest for 54 years.
A memorial service will also be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at St. Francis Xavier Church in Kansas City, Missouri, where Father Byrne served for many years.
Luke J. Byrne was born May 5, 1935, in Kansas City, one of four sons of Luke J. and Catherine Byrne, all of whom predeceased him. He entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Florissant on Aug. 17, 1952, following his graduation from Rockhurst High School in Kansas City.
Upon completion of the novitiate and seminary in Florissant, he went to Saint Louis University to earn a bachelor’s degree and a licentiate in philosophy. He then taught Latin and English at Kapaun High School in Wichita, Kansas, from 1959-62, before earning his master’s in liturgy and religious education from the University of Notre Dame.
He was ordained a priest at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kansas, on June 9, 1965. He pronounced his final vows on Feb. 2, 1972, at St. Francis Xavier Church in Kansas City.
Following ordination and the completion of his theology studies, Father Byrne returned to Kapaun from 1967-70 as a religion teacher. He then served as pastor of St. Francis Xavier Jesuit Parish in Kansas City from 1970-75, after which he spent five years as president of Rockhurst High School, the Jesuit high school in Kansas City. He was the second alumnus of Rockhurst High School to serve as its president.
Father Byrne served in province administration in St. Louis as the provincial assistant for pastoral and international ministries from 1980-85. After a brief sabbatical, he returned to Kansas City, where he served on the Commission for Priestly Life and Ministry for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph from 1986-91.
In 1991, he began ministry as a retreat director at White House Jesuit Retreat in St. Louis. He remained in St. Louis for seven years before again returning to Kansas City, this time to Rockhurst University, as co-director of campus ministry. He then spent 15 years as the university chaplain. The soccer field at Rockhurst University is named in Father Byrne’s honor and he is a member of the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.
He returned to St. Louis for his final assignment, that of praying for the Church and the Society, in 2015. Father Byrne’s great joy was to celebrate the sacraments with the faithful, especially among young people.
Burial was in Calvary Cemetery.