by Msgr. Steven Ferrari
On his upper right shoulder were tattooed the words: VENI VIDI VICI.
The middle-aged man pumping gas into his SUV at the pump in front of me didn’t look like a Latin scholar. But his large tattoo opened up a way of conversation on this quite warm early autumn day. No, he answered my query, he was not a student of an ancient language, but rather more of a Roman historian. Since his retirement from the medical profession, he now pursues his lifelong passion of studying the Caesars and their entourage.
When he inquired of my knowledge of Latin, I remarked that I had studied it for four years over 50 years ago in high school seminary. “Yes, I’m a Catholic priest,” I remarked. To which he asked if I used to “say Mass” in Latin. (Do I look that old?! I thought.) No, I answered, by the time I was ordained in 1980, the Mass was firmly in the vernacular. (How about that word for a Latin derivative?)
After he pulled away, I thought about my Latin teacher all those years ago. Msgr. (then ‘Father’) John Casey introduced me to the language upon which so much of our present-day English vocabulary is based.
Besides being a very good teacher, Msgr. Casey has always been a great example of priesthood for me. In May of this year, he celebrated his 65th anniversary of ordination. I was privileged to concelebrate his jubilee Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Queens Village. I couldn’t help but admire and appreciate once again his great contribution to my own formation as a priest and a friend. At the age of 90+ years, Msgr. Casey is still going strong.
On Nov. 16, Msgr. Casey will be honored by the Kathie and Christopher Lawler Foundation for the Extraordinary Needs of Senior Priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn at its 12th dinner-dance to be held at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston. The goal of the foundation is to supplement and enhance the diocese’s existing programs that assist more than 160 senior priests as they move into the next chapter of their lives.
None of us know how the “next chapter” of our lives may unfold, but for Msgr. Casey I personally wish to say: “Ad multos annos!”
Msgr. Ferrari is the pastor of St. Teresa’s Parish in Woodside.