The Rev. Norman Casey, who served as priest in churches in or near the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, Ontario; as a member and co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP); and as the church’s suicide prevention minister for eastern Canada, is being mourned as a “gentle servant of God” and an “anchor” for the emergent Indigenous Anglican church.
Casey died Monday, Jan. 20, at the age of 71, after struggling with a long illness.
“Everyone feels that this is a substantial loss to our community, and I think that this is going to be a hole that will be impossible to fill,” National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald said in an interview Jan. 22.
It’s hard to be concise about Casey’s contributions to the church, MacDonald said, because they were on so many levels. In addition to his vocation as priest, his work in suicide prevention and his service in other areas of the church, Casey played a vital role in inspiring and guiding ACIP.
“He was an anchor in the work of ACIP, in the period, I think, of its most fruitful and consequential work, along with [co-chair Bishop] Sidney Black,” MacDonald said. His leadership, he said, gave Indigenous Canadian Anglicans “a sense of stability and forward movement that allowed them to do the work of visioning and believing that great things could happen.”
Casey served as co-chair of ACIP, the council that oversees Indigenous ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada, from 2010-2016. He was also a member of the healing response committee, which administers grants from the Anglican Healing Fund.
Casey, MacDonald said, had an amazing gentleness of character that manifested itself in his leadership.
“I think first and foremost he will be remembered as one of the most kind and winsome of people that one has ever met,” he said. “He made every single person he encountered feel important and special…. He had a unique capacity to speak the truth clearly in a way that did not alienate people from one another. So he was able to say things that might be harsh on the lips of someone else…in a way that delivered the power of the truth, but was receivable on the other side.”
“There’s a tremendous sadness at this loss, and certainly a coequal desire to carry on the work that he did.”
In an email interview, Black, Indigenous bishop for Treaty 7 territory in the diocese of Calgary, said Casey was a “gentle servant of God” whom he deeply missed.
“I believe the church will remember Fr. Norm as a very good friend,” Black said. “There are times in our worlds where a word of encouragement, a kind word or a smile lights up the heart of a troubled soul. This was Fr. Norm’s signature. The church will remember Fr. Norm’s kind spirit, humble heart, and his generous hospitality.”
ACIP, Black said, deeply appreciated his servant leadership, and his ability to keep up its morale and commitment. “As much as he loved them, there was also that blessed and profound reciprocity by the council,” he said.
Casey’s leadership at the seventh Sacred Circle of 2012, in particular, was “inspired and dedicated,” Black said, as was his work on the basic substance of amendments to Canon XXII, which concerns Indigenous ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada, in the lead-up to the 2019 General Synod.
The passing of these amendments at the 2019 General Synod laid the foundation of the self-determining Indigenous Church in the Anglican Church of Canada.
“May all the good he did, things that were important to him, continue to bless our lives and communities,” Black said.
Born and raised in Saint John, N.B., Casey completed a B.A. in philosophy at McMaster University, where he went on to earn master of religious education (1998) and master of theology (2000) degrees. He was ordained in 2000, after which he served numerous roles in Brantford, Ont. and the Brantford-area parish of the Six Nations until his death. Casey was priest-in-charge, for some years, of Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks in Brantford (a National Historic Site of Canada) and was padre of the Six Nations Veterans for 18 years, according to an obituary published in the Brantford Expositor newspaper.
“His heart has always been with the Six Nations community,” the obituary states.
Casey is survived by his wife Donna; mother Eleanor; children Jennifer and Joel, John and Tawnya, Aaron and Sarah, Adam, and Sarah; and grandchildren.
Visitation for Casey will be at Styres Funeral Home, Ohsweken, Ont. on Friday, January 24, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and a funeral service is to take place at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Ohsweken, on Saturday, January 25, at 11 a.m.