Sister, Soldier, Colonel, Surgeon, Speaker: Catholic religious sister to address Republican convention

A surgeon, retired army officer, missionary and Catholic religious sister is among the featured speakers at this week’s Republican National Convention. The convention, which takes place over four days this week, will officially nominate President Donald Trump for reelection. What’s most remarkable, however, is the life of this consecrated religious.

For example, other than Saint Joan of Arc who led an army to battle, how many Catholic nuns—let alone lay men or women—can list “retired colonel” in their resumés?!

Sr. Deirdre “Dede” Byrne, POSC, was announced as a speaker on Sunday, and she has one of the most unique resumes of any speaker to address the convention. A retired colonel in the U.S. Army and a member of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Sr. Byrne has served overseas as both a soldier and a missionary.

Raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., one of seven children, Byrne graduated from Virginia Tech before starting medical school at Georgetown. She entered the Army while still in college as a way to cover her tuition, but she ended up continuing to serve our country in the Army for 29 years as both a doctor and a surgeon. 

Following medical school, Byrne worked from 1982 until 1985 in the field of family medicine. She was a full-time Army officer from 1982 until 1989. She then went on to serve as a missionary from 1989 until 1990, while remaining in the Army reserve.

In 1997—the same year in which she met Mother Teresa of Calcutta—Bryne completed a second residency in general surgery. She met the future saint while assigned to be on standby for any medical needs that might occur during Mother Teresa’s visit to Washington D.C.. 

From Colonel to Nun

During her time in the military, Byrne discerned a religious vocation—a call she felt she always had—and was encouraged by a priest to find a religious order that would not require her to give up her work in the medical field. 

Bryne’s discernment led her to the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, an Italian pontifical institute founded in the late 19th century with the primary apostolates of teaching and medical care. The order has been present in Washington D.C. since 1954.  

In 2002, Byrne entered formation with the Little Workers and professed her first vows in 2004. While in formation, she remained a member of the Army Reserve and was deployed three times.

After her deployment to Afghanistan in 2008, the religious order requested that she retire from the military, which she did in 2009, prior to professing her final vows in 2011. 

Bryne is scheduled to speak during the Republican convention. President Trump has praised her work in the military and medical fields in the past. She was featured in the President’s July 4, 2019, “Salute to America” address. 

“From our earliest days, Americans of faith have uplifted our nation,” Trump noted. “This evening we’re joined by Sister Deirdre Byrne. Sister Byrne is a retired Army surgeon who served for nearly 30 years.

“On September 11, 2001,” the President continued, “the sister raced to Ground Zero, through smoke and debris. She administered First Aid and comfort to all. Today Sister Byrne runs a medical clinic serving the poor in our nation’s capital. Sister, thank you for your lifetime of service. Thank you.” 

Not surprisingly, according to a profile from the GIVEN Institute, Sr. Bryne not only works at a medical clinic; she is also the superior of the Washington D.C. house of the Little Workers.

A truly remarkable Catholic woman!

Where will God lead you in your career and vocation?
Article by CNA with editing by CBJ editor.

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