By Bob Uphues
The Rev. Robert Casey, who served as pastor of St. Barbara Catholic Church in Brookfield from 2009 to 2016, has been elevated by Pope Francis to auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Casey, 50, was one of three archdiocesan priests named bishops by the pope, who at the same time accepted the retirements of bishops George J. Rassas and Francis J. Kane. The appointments and retirements were announced by the archdiocese on July 3.
In addition to Casey, the pope appointed as auxiliary bishops the Rev. Mark A. Bartosic, who has served as pastor of Assumption BVM in Chicago and has been director of the Kolbe House Jail Ministry since 2016, and the Rev. Ronald A. Hicks, who has served as vicar general of the archdiocese since 2015.
All three men were classmates in the seminary and each was ordained a priest in 1994. All three are also fluent in Spanish and have an interest in Hispanic culture.
Rocco Palmo, author of the blog "Whispers in the Loggia," wrote that with the naming of the three new bishops "Cardinal Blasé Cupich's much anticipated backup has arrived."
Palmo pointed to the trio's deep background in Spanish language and Hispanic culture, noting that Hicks spent five years as a missionary in El Salvador and Casey's prior involvement as director of Casa Jesus, an archdiocesan program for Spanish-speaking men who were considering becoming priests.
"In light of the cardinal's laser-like focus on finding a new generation of prelates across the board who bear the smell of Francis [referring to the pope], The Blase's home-turf trio were deliberately chosen to each have an outsize impact, and thus will inevitably be viewed as models of Papa Bergoglio's rebooted concept of pastoral leadership far beyond Chicagoland," Palmo wrote in his July 3 blog post
Before coming to St. Barbara Parish in 2006, Casey spent four years as an associate in a parish on Chicago's North Side. He was named associate director of Casa Jesus in 1998. A year later, he assumed the role of director, and led that program four more years.
In 2003, Casey completed a 40-day pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain before taking the reins as pastor at Our Lady of Tepeyac in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago.
While there, Casey also founded Taller de Jose, which according to the press release announcing his appointment as bishop, is "a sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph that offers accompaniment to people in need."
Casey's relationship with the Congregation of St. Joseph continued upon his arrival at St. Barbara Parish in Brookfield, where CSJ nuns still play an important pastoral role. During Casey's tenure, the parish also underwent a significant change with the closure of St. Barbara School.
In 2016, he was assigned to be pastor of St. Bede the Venerable on Chicago's South Side. He will remain in that capacity until a successor for him is named.
Casey did not respond to an email from the Landmark seeking an interview.