Coalisland priest who celebrated Silver Jubilee with Pope Francis tells of ‘overwhelming joy’

Coalisland Parish Priest, Fr Paul Byrne, with the Jubilee Cross of next in St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Photo via Coalisland Parish Twitter
Coalisland Parish Priest, Fr Paul Byrne, with the Jubilee Cross of next in St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Photo via Coalisland Parish Twitter
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Coalisland Parish Priest, Fr Paul Byrne, says he is “profoundly grateful” to God for the blessings bestowed on him during his 25 year career in the priesthood.

Fr Byrne celebrated his Silver Jubilee in the company of Pope Francis in Rome last week, along with 5,000 other priests in St Peter’s Basilica, and will mark the momentous occasion with a Jubilee Mass this Thursday, 9 June, in Holy Family Church at 7.30pm.

The popular Coalisland cleric was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Daly on June 2, 1991, in the same year as Fr Joe McKeever and Fr John Gates, also from the Archidocese of Armagh.

Since then Fr Paul has worked in a number of assignments beginning in the Parish of Armagh where he acted as Cathedral Master of Ceremonies. During his time there Blessed Mother Teresa came to open her convent.

Fr Byrne went from there to spend five years as hospital chaplain in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth.

In 2002 Cardinal Brady assigned Fr Byrne to Bessbrook, where he remained until his appointment to Coalisland in 2008.

Over the past 25 years, Fr Paul has had amassed many experiences which have had a great impact on his personal and priestly life.

He has shared the joys and sorrows of families in each of his assignments.

“Celebration is the word which best expresses the encounters of my pastoral life”, continued the Coalisland priest. “That includes celebrating important and significant moments in the lives of parishioners especially in the administration of the sacraments.”

At this very significant moment in his own life, Fr Paul says he is “profoundly grateful to God for my vocation and for God’s continuous guidance and abundant graces”.

He is especially grateful for the care and support he has received from parishioners over his life.

Fr Paul has had the special opportunity to have celebrated his 25th anniversary, which fell on Thursday, with over 5000 priests in Rome, on a retreat led by Pope Francis.

Speaking at the end of the retreat, following Mass on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica, Fr Paul expressed his “overwhelming joy” at being blessed by the experience.

“I knew that it would be a very special time in Rome being led in prayer by our Holy Father on the exact anniversaries of my ordination and first Mass”, he told the TIMES.

“However, to sit near him during the concluding Mass and to shake his hand afterwards, was joy beyond expectation. But this joy will be further enhanced next Thursday 9 June when I celebrate my Jubilee with members of my family and parishioners at Mass in Holy Family Church, Coalisland at 7.30pm.

“This is a small way I can say thank you to the people of the Parish, my family and others whose care and support has strengthened me over these 25 years.”