Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Natalie Binversie reflects on the life of Sister Cecilia Byrns, a gracious, faith-filled woman, and outstanding musician.
Dorothy Catherine Byrns was born on March 28, 1922 to Lester and Agnes (Malz) Byrns. She was baptized at Immaculate Conception Church in Rhinelander, Wisconsin the following month on April 9th. Dorothy grew up in a close-knit family. Her Mom was quiet and religious, her Dad was quiet and a man of integrity. She had one younger sister, Rosemary, who was always special to her.
Dorothy met the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity when she went to elementary school at St. Mary’s School in Rhinelander. Sister Concilio and Sister DeCarmel made a positive impression on her for their kindness and being helpful to students who struggled. Dorothy grew up knowing that she wanted to be a Sister. In her words, “There was no splashy, vibrant vocation story; just a quiet knowing by which God called me.
On May 3, 1936 Dorothy wrote the following note to Mother Generose:
Dear Reverend Mother,
I should like very much to enter the convent and be there for the Reception. I am completing the eighth grade this year and am 14 years old. Would you kindly send me a list of things required for a girl on entering? Dorothy Byrns
On May 7th Dorothy’s pastor wrote his recommendation:
Venerable Dear Mother Generose,
Replying to your inquiry of recent date, myself can unhesitatingly recommend both Dorothy Byrns and Inez Owens, now seeking admission to your Community. Both come from excellent Catholic homes and Miss Byrns’ standings, particularly, both in studies and in conduct have been exceptionally high. She will be graduated from our eighth grade, while Miss Owens is now completing her second year at High School. Praying God to prosper your Community and recommending myself to your gracious prayers.”
Dorothy was accepted into the Community in June of 1936. At the time of her Reception a year later, she received the name that she wanted, Sister Cecilia, after St. Cecilia, the patroness of music. Music was always an important part of her family. Sister Cecilia began taking piano lessons when she was in kindergarten. The Aunt who paid for these lessons continued to do so until she went to the Convent. Because music had been such an important part of her life growing up she wanted to teach the joy of music to others.