Family, friends and fellow priests who gathered to celebrate the funeral of Bishop Morgan Casey remembered the bishop as a man who deeply loved serving others, particularly those on the margins.
“His most special gift was letting us know how much he loved us and how much God loves us,” said Tony Casey, Bishop Casey’s brother. “Morgan’s life work was an example of how God loves us and wants us to care for each other. I believe he saw the face of God when he looked at the faces of the poor.”
Bishop Casey died July 27 in St. Louis. He was 87 years old.
Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski celebrated the funeral Mass on Aug. 6 — Bolivian Indepence Day — at St. Mary Magdalen Church in Brentwood, where Bishop Casey served as assistant pastor after his ordination to the priesthood in 1962. In 1965, Bishop Casey volunteered for an assignment to the archdiocesan missions in Bolivia, where he continued to serve for nearly 50 years.
Bishop Casey was ordained a bishop on Jan. 28, 1984. He served as auxiliary bishop of La Paz for four years. In 1988, he was appointed head of the Vicariate of the Pando, moving into a mission territory in northwestern Bolivia, where he remained until his retirement in 2013.
Bishop Eugenio Coter, who succeeded Bishop Casey as head of the Vicariate of the Pando, traveled to St. Louis to concelebrate the funeral Mass. Archbishop Emeritus Robert J. Carlson, Bishop Emeritus Robert Hermann and dozens of priests from the archdiocese were also present.
“Bishop Casey lived a life of generosity and total dedication to the people of Bolivia,” Bishop Coter said.
Father Don Schramm, who served in the archdiocesan mission in Bolivia in the 1970s, recalled in his homily some of Bishop Casey’s accomplishments: overseeing the building of a school, a parish center, a hospital and a clinic for people with disabilities; helping to revitalize the seminary and increase vocations among young Bolivians; growing prison ministry outreach throughout the region.
Several times a year, Bishop Casey would journey into the jungle aboard a small boat to bring the sacraments and Jesus’ message of hope and love to people in remote villages.
The Gospel reading proclaimed at his funeral came from Matthew, chapter 25: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
“I can’t get over how well that fits Bishop Casey — all the ways he reached out to the marginalized, those who had been overlooked in many ways,” Father Schramm said. Father Schramm is retired in residence at St. Charles Borromeo Parish.
Father James Michler served in the archdiocesan mission in Bolivia for nearly 25 years, witnessing Bishop Casey’s leadership and ministry.
“[Bishop Casey] was the kind of person who was always thinking about others,” Father Michler said. “He wasn’t afraid to go out of his way, and he treated people with generosity.”
When Bishop Casey would be out of the country visiting St. Louis, the faithful in Bolivia missed him greatly, Father Michler recalled.
“People asked about him with great concern and great affection,” he said. “I never heard anyone in Bolivia criticize Bishop Casey.”
When Father Michler flew to Bolivia to begin his ministry there, he sat next to Bishop Casey on the airplane; when he returned to St. Louis at the end of his assignment, Bishop Casey was there to pick him up.
“It was easy to talk to him, easy to get to know him,” Father Michler said. “He knew how to have a good time, and he knew how to take care of people. It was just a blessing for me to be in his presence.”
After Bishop Casey retired and returned to St. Louis in 2013, he loved living with his brother priests at Regina Cleri, Tony Casey said. He made a point to get to know every employee at the residence, and he even returned regularly to St. Mary Magdalen Parish, hearing confessions there until he was no longer able to drive.
Bishop Casey lived his final days at Mother of Good Counsel Home and passed away peacefully as family members prayed the Rosary around him, Tony Casey said.
“This is a day to celebrate Bishop Casey’s life, and because of the way he lived, we have a lot to celebrate,” said Tony Casey.