Almost nine decades of a life less ordinary

The former Bishop of Galway Eamon Casey, who passed away on Monday afternoon at a Co Clare nursing home, was born in Co Kerry on April 24 1927.

He was educated in Limerick and at 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 - before being appointed to the Irish Emigrant Chaplaincy Service in England. Between 1960 and 1969 the then Father Casey pioneered the provision of housing for Irish emigrants to England and in 1963 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 passionate advocacy for social justice and for those marginalised by inequality gave him a significant public profile and his work in this area continued throughout his life. Following the retirement of Most Reverend Michael Brown after 39 years as bishop of Galway, Bishop Casey was installed as his replacement in July 1976.

Over the next 16 years he worked to ensure that the diocese of Galway responded effectively to a very significant growth in the urban population. Bishop Casey dedicated new churches in Barna, Quirke Road, Headford Road, Ballybane, Maree and Knocknacarra as well as his particular favourite – the Chapel of Saint Columbanus, adjacent to the campus of the then UCG.

In a time of extraordinarily high bank interest rates, Bishop Casey established the Meitheal Programme, whereby individual parishes could borrow development finance from a central fund at a nominal cost. He also was instrumental in establishing Galway Social Services as well as outreach services for members of the Travelling Community and prisoners at home and abroad. Never afraid to express his views clearly, Bishop Casey was present at the funeral of his murdered friend Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador when the liturgy was interrupted by bombs and intense gunfire which left almost 50 mourners dead.

Bishop Casey also voiced strong objections to the visit of Ronald Regan, the president of the United States of America to Galway in 1984 because of American foreign policy particularly in Central America. Perhaps the highlight of his time in Galway however was his organising and hosting the visit of Pope John Paul II (now Saint John Paul ) to the city on September 30 1979 to meet and pray with 300,000 young people from all over Ireland. Bishop Casey resigned as Bishop of Galway in May, 1992 following disclosures that in 1974, as Bishop of Kerry, he fathered a son.

Subsequently Bishop Casey worked as a missionary priest with the Society of Saint James in Ecuador until 1998 when he returned to parish ministry in the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton in the south of England. In 2006 he came home to live in Shanaglish, near Gort, Co Galway and subsequently at Carrigoran Nursing Home in Co Clare in 2011 where he died peacefully on Monday.

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