By Ann Marie Foley - 17 March, 2017
“Prayer led him to peace and trust and to the confidence that the past was in safe hands and the future was also in safe hands. God had turned his wounds into wisdom” – Bishop Martin Drennan.
“We are all sinners, but irresponsibility, infidelity and sin are particularly shocking in the lives of those who preach the Gospel,” said Bishop Brendan Kelly in his homily at the funeral Mass of Bishop Eamonn Casey yesterday (Thursday 16 March) at the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas, Galway.
He said that it was not a day to go over all the details, but added that 25 years ago it was “profoundly upsetting” for the Church and for people in general when it emerged that Bishop Casey had a son, Peter. In 1992 Bishop Casey resigned and left the country. He spent a number of years working on the missions in South America, and later in the south of England, before coming home to live in Shanaglish, Co Galway.
“He expressed his sorrow many times, apologised and asked for forgiveness,” said Bishop Kelly. “But people had been hurt and wounded … wounds that do not always heal easily or quickly. We remember these people too today. We acknowledge their suffering. We pray for continued healing and peace for them.”
Bishop Kelly, who is Bishop of Achonry, listed the achievements of Eamonn Casey. For example, as a young priest with the Emigrant Mission in London, he enabled many young couples to acquire their first home. His work on the international scene involved becoming the first chairman of Trócaire, and he was in attendance at Archbishop – now ‘Blessed’ – Oscar Romero’s funeral in San Salvador in March 1980.
The requiem Mass in Galway was celebrated by chief celebrant Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert. He sympathised with Bishop Casey’s brother, Father Mícheál Casey in Australia, with his sister Ita Furlong, with his son Peter Murphy and with Peter’s mother Annie (none of whom were present).
He also offered sympathies to the Casey family who were present, including Bishop Casey’s nieces and nephews as well as their children and grandchildren and their extended families.
He welcomed His Excellency Michael D Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann. He also welcomed concelebrating bishops and priests from various parts of the country and outside it, including Bishop Nicholas Hudson from London, who represented Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.
He expressed the regrets of Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam who were unable to attend because of their previous commitment to ministering the Sacrament of Confirmation.
There were more than 1,600 in attendance at the funeral service, which was followed by internment in the Cathedral crypt.
Bishop Martin Drennan, who presided at the reception of the remains of Bishop Casey on Wednesday 15 March, said that one lesson he would take from Bishop Casey’s life was that every Christian faces the task of turning their wounds into wisdom.
“He made mistakes and paid a high price for them,” said Bishop Drennan. He said that Bishop Casey’s love for the Church enabled him to accept retirement from active ministry and his move to Carrigoran Nursing Home also posed challenges which he faced with wisdom.
Bishop Drennan, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Galway and Kilmacduagh, said that Bishop Casey would have remembered the positives in his life, such as his time in London, and gradually he found peace with his past.
“Prayer led him to peace and trust and to the confidence that the past was in safe hands and the future was also in safe hands. God had turned his wounds into wisdom,” he said.
Born in Co. Kerry on 24 April 1927, Eamonn Casey was educated in Limerick and in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, from where he was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Limerick in 1951. Over the following nine years he worked as a curate in two Limerick city parishes – Monaleen and Saint John’s.
He was appointed to the Irish Emigrant Chaplaincy Service in England and between 1960 and 1969 the then Fr Casey pioneered the provision of housing for Irish emigrants to England. In 1963 he was appointed National Director of the Catholic Housing Aid Society by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Appointed Bishop of Kerry in 1969, Bishop Casey became the first chairman of Trócaire, the Irish Catholic Church’s overseas development agency, at its foundation in 1973. His advocacy for social justice gave him a public profile and his work in this area continued throughout his life. He was installed as Bishop of Galway in July 1976.
He is possibly most famous for his organising and hosting of the visit of Pope John Paul II (now Saint John Paul) to Galway on 30 September 1979, where the late Pontiff met and prayed with 300,000 young people from all over Ireland.
His final years were spent at Carrigoran Nursing Home in Co. Clare, where he died peacefully on Monday 13 March 2017.