The only priest to be ordained in the Limerick Diocese this year says he sees his ministry and the challenges facing the Church as an opportunity for a “new beginning”.
David Casey, 56, was ordained by Bishop Brendan Leahy at Saint John’s Cathedral on Saturday last, fulfilling a call he got as a child but one he put aside until the time was right.
Son of the late Noel and Teresa Casey, David – who is from O’Connell Avenue in the city – says he fully appreciates the challenges facing the Church but that they present an opportunity to build again.
“There needs to be a new beginning and it’s heartening to hear Bishop Leahy speak about this so often. Personally speaking, I am definitely making a new beginning coming into ministry at this hour of my life. It is also a time of new and much needed beginning for the Church and we are seeing the seeds of that being sown,” he said following his ordination.
“At a resources level alone, there are great challenges. There were five retirements this year in the Diocese and one ordination this year. Many of my colleagues in Britain are put into parishes on their own after barely a year and Ireland will catch up on that,” he added joking that he looks at his ordination at 56 years of age as more of a “slow response” rather than a late vocation.
“I did feel this call as a young man but I put it aside. I had a friend who gave the homily at my first Mass and he spoke about the Pre-Vatican II approach to priesthood when ordination was seen as an ‘arrival’ but it is now looked at as more of a launch, an entry into a ministry of service.
“There is a great sense of fulfilment, having put it off for so long and then having answered the question. This is the way for me,” he said.
One of six children, four brothers and one sister, David’s father Noel died when he was just three years old and he was raised at their O’Connell Avenue home by his mother Teresa, whom he said was very much foremost in his mind at his ordination.
He worked in real estate and in the antique trade but began planting the seeds of his future priesthood back in the 1990s when he studied Philosophy & Theology and did a Masters in Spirituality at the Milltown Institute, graduating with his Masters in 1997, the year his mother passed away.
He submitted to ‘the call’ over four years ago when he began his studies for the priesthood at The Pontifical Beda College in Rome, which was founded in 1852 to form older men and often convert clergymen for Catholic priesthood.
“I was there for four years and it was a great experience. It was a compact programme and I would have done much of my studies before I went there through my time at the Milltown Institute so I was not following the exact same programme as others,” he added.
Speaking at the ordination, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy reiterated Pope Francis’ call for priests to be men of mercy.
“A lot of people today are wounded – as a result of the financial difficulties, as a result of scandals in the church, as a result of the rapidly changing developments in technology that can paradoxically leave people so alone together.
Bishop Leahy also emphasised the importance of a sense of ‘mission’ among priests today.
“The Church is never an end in itself. As we read in the Gospel today, Jesus sent his apostles to ‘go out’ and we are to go out ‘so that the world might believe’. The world; not just those who come to Mass. Not just those who pay the dues. All the recent Popes have emphasised mission.”
Continuing, Bishop Leahy added, “We need to provide platforms for young people to meet the Church as living communities. All of us, the lay faithful and priests, need to work together in a pastoral option for young people.”