l-r: Fr Marcus Francis, Fr Craig Butler, Fr Nathaniel Brazil, Mons Dave Bell, Fr Bill Casey, Emeritus Bishop Owen Dolan, Fr Dave Gledhill S.M., Fr Joe O’Sullivan, and Fr John Roberts.
60 friends had gathered in the Chapel of the rest home on June 1 to celebrate Fr Bill’s 50 years of ordination to the priesthood.
Emeritus Bishop Peter Cullinane led the Vigil Mass at Holy Family Church in Whanganui on Monday 10 June.
“Everyone held a deep appreciative love, admiration and respect for Fr Bill,” Bishop Peter said. “He didn’t have any glamour, flair, a pedestal or a high profile to get our attention. He was a humble unassuming priest who had an ability to relate and be at-home with people, reflecting the qualities of being the good shepherd.”
His requiem Mass was led by Fr Tom Lawn from New Plymouth at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Opunake the following day.
Fr Bill was from Ballyoporeen, County Cork where former US President Ronald Regan’s ancestor come from. Growing up on a dairy farm he had 1 brother and 4 sisters. His sister Teresa became a Presentation Sister and worked in the Taranaki until retiring back to Ireland.
After his education the young Bill went back on the farm to work, until his father suggested he consider becoming a priest. He was the last group of Irish priests to come to New Zealand.
He had a natural fondness for the land.
“He loved animals and always had a good vegetable and rose garden: three crops of potatoes yearly!” said long time friend and parishioner John Reynolds from St Patrick’s Parish in Patea. “During his time in Taihape he made the headlines in the local newspaper for growing roses on the council berm.”
Fr Bill enjoyed the rural parishes where he related well to farming families. He is fondly remembered as having a soft heart. If he heard of a parishioner struggling, he would visit immediately.
“He had a quiet spirit of faithfulness and was a companion for the underdog,” said John Reynolds.