Société des Missions Africaines - Province d'Irlande

Casey Henry né le 6 mai 1941
dans le diocèse de Down & Connor (Irlande)
membre de la SMA le 25 juin 1960
prêtre le 20 décembre 1965
décédé le 6 février 2009

1966-1969 archidiocèse de Lagos, Nigeria
1969-1976 diocèse de Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria
1976-2008 diocèse de Down & Connor
2008-2009 Dromantine, retiré

décédé à Down Patrick, le 6 février 2009
à l’âge de 67 ans


Father Henry CASEY (1941 - 2009)

Henry James Casey was born at 5 Moram Ring, Andersonstown, Belfast, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, in the diocese of Down and Connor, on 6 May 1941.
He died in Downpatrick Hospital, Co Down, Northern Ireland, on 6 February, 2009.

Henry James (Harry) Casey was the eldest of a family of five boys and two girls born to Henry Joseph and Letitia (nee Milligan) Casey who lived in Andersonstown, Belfast. Henry senior was an inspector in Short Brothers and Harland Ltd (aircraft manufacturers). Letitia Casey hailed from Ardglass where the family was involved in the fishing industry. Harry’s maternal aunt, Sister Comgall (Milligan), was a Sister of Our Lady of Apostles. Harry was baptised in St. Nicholas church, Ardglass and confirmed in St. Mary’s church, Dunsford. He received his primary education at St. Joseph’s School, Ardglass, and St. Teresa’s, Glen Road, Belfast. For his secondary education he attended the Christian Brothers’ St. Mary’s Grammar school, Barrack Street, Belfast. In particular he remembered the influence exercised on his vocation by Brothers O’Neill and Gillespie and the assistance given to him by a Mr. Cashman who gave him special tuition in Latin to help on the road to priesthood.

Harry’s first contact with the S.M.A. came during the war when among the army chaplains visiting Ardglass were S.M.A. priests, Danny Watson, Pete Moore and Louis Kinane. In September 1959, having completed his Senior Certificate Examination, Harry came to the S.M.A. ‘Spiritual Year Program’ at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, where he joined a class of 45 students, including 7 sent by the Dutch S.M.A. Province. Harry took his first Oath of Membership of the Society on 25th June 1960. In the following September he came to the Society’s major seminary at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down, where he studied philosophy and theology. On 15th June 1965 Harry became a permanent member of the Society. He was ordained a priest on 20th December 1965 by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman’s Cathedral, Newry, Co Down. He was one of a group of seventeen ordained on that occasion.

There was some doubt as to whether Harry would be ordained with his class. The Parish Priest of Ardglass, Canon McKee, had made a strong representation that he should be ordained in Ardglass. Archbishop Boyle from Johannesburg, South Africa, a classmate of Canon McKee in Maynooth, had been retained to preside over the Ordination. However the Society did not give permission. Harry celebrated his first Mass in St. Nicholas’ Church, Ardglass, on December 21st. At the time Canon McKee was very ill in Downpatrick Hospital and unable to attend. Harry was assisted by Fr. Jim Skelly, the curate, and Fr. Tony Farquhar (later Bishop of the diocese). After Mass Harry took Holy Communion to Canon McKee who died early the next morning.

After ordination Harry was appointed to the Archdiocese of Lagos, in southern Nigeria. He was to serve in this jurisdiction until 1976. He sailed for Africa in October 1966, travelling with Fr. Paddy Braniff, via Liverpool. On arrival in Lagos he was greeted by his aunt, Sister Comgall. He spent the next six months in the Tyrocinium in Ibadan, where he was introduced African life, learned the local languages and prepared for the active ministry. His first appointment, lasting three years, was to a rural parish situated among the Ijebus. He adapted well to the local food and the stifling tropical heat and, with a good grasp of Yoruba, particularly enjoyed visiting the many remote outstations. Later he was appointed to the great city of Lagos with its incessant traffic jams, open sewers, milling crowds and oppressive heat. This he found more trying. In April 1970, after his first period of leave spent in Ireland, he returned to the diocese of Ijebu-Ode which a year earlier had been carved out of the Lagos Archdiocese and placed under the leadership of Bishop Anthony Saliu Sanusi. Harry was to spend six happy years in this jurisdiction ministering in Ibonwon (1967-1969), Surulere (1969), Ijebu-Igbo (1970), in Iperu-Remo (1972) and in the Cathedral Parish where he served as Administrator until 1976. His diverse ministry saw him involved in a leper settlement, a hospital, a cooperative rabbit farm, the pastoral care of numerous outstations and the planning and conduct of courses for catechists and lay leaders.

Tragically, on 11th November 1975, Harry’s youngest brother, Comgall, was killed in Belfast in the context of the political troubles of that time. Harry managed to get home for the funeral and provided much-needed comfort for his parents and family. In the following year he obtained permission to remain at home. He was accepted by Bishop Philbin of Down and Connor diocese, and was appointed to Downpatrick, taking up residence in the parochial house, Ballykilbeg Road. Seven years later, in 1983, the subsequent bishop, Cathal Daly, transferred Harry to St. Columcille’s parish, Ballyhackamore in East Belfast, where he ministered for the next eight years. In this latter ministry, located in an area where only 10% of the population were Catholic, Harry recorded that relations with the ministers and people of the other denominations were most cordial and that practical ecumenism was the norm. In addition to his parochial work here he ministered to a large specialist hospital and a Marie Curie Nursing Home for the terminally ill.

Harry celebrated the silver jubilee of his ordination in 1990. In 1991 he was transferred to the parish of Greenville where he served until 1994 when he was stationed at St. Mary’s parish, Newtownabbey. In 1997 he was appointed to Ballymartin, near Newry, Co Down. In May 2008, with great reluctance, because of increasing ill-health, Harry retired, spending a short time at Blackrock Road and then taking a short sabbatical at Dalgan Park. Afterwards he went to live in the S.M.A. house at Dromantine, although he was to spend as much time as he could in the family home at 15, Quay Street, Ardglass. As a gradual deterioration manifested itself Harry was frequently hospitalised. During Christmas 2008 he was admitted to the Erne hospital, Enniskillen and later transferred to Downpatrick hospital. After extensive treatment he was released to his home in Ardglass. However, on Sunday 1st February, he was re-admitted to Downpatrick hospital where he died five days later.

Harry came from a typical Belfast family with all the warmth and welcome that description signifies. The family home in Koram Ring was an open house for all who called there and Harry’s parents were people of exceptional warmth and wisdom. The family connection with the fishing-port of Ardglass, through Harry’s mother, was very strong and for all of them the house on Quay street, a mere 30 miles from Belfast, was a second home. Harry was to spend many of his final years there and chose it as his final resting place.

He is buried in the cemetery adjoining St. Nicholas’ parish church, Ardglass, Co Down, Northern Ireland.