Sister Dede Byrne

Olivia Sobkowicz, Staff Writer

What makes someone inspiring? What makes someone worthy of our admiration? These are two of the many questions that we ask ourselves when we are deciding if someone is inspiring or not. Each and every one of us has female role models in our lives. It may be our mother, a politician, or an athlete. One woman who inspires me and many others is Sister Deirdre “Dede” Byrne. Sr. Dede is a sister and the Mother Superior of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts community, a surgeon, a physician, and a retired colonel. As a surgeon, she is allowed to perform free surgeries for those who otherwise would not be able to afford them. Over this past year, Sr. Dede has impacted many lives. In February of 2022, Sr. Dede assisted a family from Afghanistan in escaping from the Taliban. After the family was safe, she received a call from them, thanking her for all she did in aiding them, but instead of taking the praise and the thanks she said, “I didn’t do anything. It’s all God”. Sr. Dede lives in the District of Columbia and in March of 2022, her medical license was suspended due to her refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccination because of the use of aborted fetal cells in the vaccine. Over a span of ten days, patients whom she was supposed to care for were not allowed to receive the medical treatment that they needed because the district was punishing their doctor on the basis of her religious beliefs. However, Sr. Dede fought back, filing a lawsuit against this verdict, and ten days after her medical license was suspended, it was restored. She received a religious exemption from the vaccination, and she was permitted to return to her work. Sr. Dede also travels across the coast, giving speeches talking about standing up for the Pro-Life movement. Over Easter break, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Sr. Dede. 

Sister Dede has made amazing contributions to our society, not just this past year, but over the last couple of years as well. On August 26, 2020, she spoke at the Republican National Convention, advocating for the Pro-Life movement. In March of 2021, Sr. Dede began fighting against the COVID-19 vaccines because of the use of fetal cells and the questionable benefits of the vaccination. During my interview with her, she stated, “I’m not only Pro-life but I’m Pro-Eternal Life”.  Throughout my entire interview with Sr. Dede, there were many highlights, but below are the answers that stand out to me the most.  

How has being a doctor and a colonel affected your life as a religious figure? 

Sister Dede: “In a military sense and a medical sense there is always someone who is ahead of you, who is better than you. As a sister, it is the same. There are people who are teaching and guiding you and telling you what to do. We don’t enter medicine knowing everything and we don’t enter the military knowing everything and we don’t enter the religious life being a spiritual giant. In all three lifestyles, there is always someone who you look up to, to train and guide you.” 

What led you to become a sister in the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart? 

Sister Dede: “So when I stopped seeking and looking and became empty of my own will, that’s when I found the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts. The sisters invited me to live next door to them. I felt God calling me to be with a community that was very traditional and lived a very deep prayer life and that still donned the habit.” 

What is your favorite thing about being a sister? 

Sister Dede: “I love being able to get up every morning, knowing that God has a mission for me for that day which is to bring the love of Christ to somebody.” 

Did you always want to be a sister? 

Sister Dede: “I felt called to become a religious sister many years ago when I was a little girl. I was drawn and attracted to missionaries and religion. When I was your age, I was always reading books on missionary life and Mother Therese.” 

During the time when you were not allowed to work as a physician and surgeon, were you ever afraid that it would not work out and you would not be permitted to return to your work? 

Sister Dede: “No because God is in charge, and I knew that he had a plan for me.” 

How have you heard God speak to you and has that changed over time? 

Sister Dede: “It’s not that it’s changed over time but that we are more attuned to his tweeting and his SMSs.” 

What kind of doors has He opened for you? 

Sister Dede: “He’s opened the doors to us to expand this convent into a medical convent. He’s opened the doors for me, especially after the RNC talk, to help others. So, the doors have opened in a more mysterious way of being able to reach out to people worldwide.” 

What is the hardest commandment from God to follow? 

Sister Dede: “When it comes to thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not kill doesn’t mean only physical but it means gossip. If we say something about someone it could be the source of death for someone. It would be to keep things more to yourself that is the hardest thing.” 

After talking to Sister Dede and looking at her work so far, it is clear that she is dedicated to changing the world that is around her for the better. She has fought, and is still fighting, against vaccines, abortion, and now, euthanasia. Only a few weeks ago, a close friend of Sr. Dede’s was euthanized. She was chronically, but not terminally ill. Sr. Dede and other close friends of the deceased have now taken up the fight against euthanasia.  

We all have dreams, whether they are big or small depending on the person, but we still have them. I asked Sister Dede if, when she was in high school, she ever expected to do what she has done in the past couple of years. She replied, “I felt God calling me to go into medicine and the religious life. But what I envisioned is little in comparison to what has occurred”. Everyone likes to hear inspiring words, so I asked Sr. Dede if there was anything that she wanted to say to us here at Notre Dame Prep. She said, “In 1997, I was able to be Mother Therese’s physician for a week. For the week that she was in Washington D.C. I never left her side. When she was getting on a jet to leave, I got to sit at her side. Saint Therese of Calcutta told me these words, ‘Keep your eyes on the cross. No matter what you do keep your eyes on the cross’. So now I’m going to add to this because it was through the cross that we received our redemption”. Sr. Dede lives her life trusting that Christ will lead her where He needs her to go. 

So why do I think that Sister Dede is an inspiring Catholic woman? That’s simple. It’s because she does not hesitate to stand up for herself, her community, and her beliefs. Shut down by the government due to her religious beliefs, she took a stand. Sr. Dede did not bow to those who were restricting her, but she stood up tall and defended the truth. Sr. Dede is inspirational because of the work that she does, protecting life that cannot protect itself. She is inspirational because of the loyalty she has to her friends, even when they are gone. Sr. Dede is inspirational to me because of the courage that she possesses.  

Sister Dede is a sister, a surgeon, a retired colonel, and an inspiration to women of all generations. Thank you, Sr. Dede, for giving me the opportunity to meet and interview you.