Fr. Thomas Rosica writes that anyone who has met Archdiocese of Toronto's newest auxiliary, Fr. Robert Kasun, are struck by his simplicity and genuine concern for others. Photo by Michael Swan

Kasun’s oil of gladness pours on Toronto

By  Fr. Thomas Rosica, Catholic Register Special
  • October 1, 2016

On June 17, we Basilians learned that one of our brothers, Fr. Robert Kasun, would become one of the four auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Fr. Bob is not the first Basilian bishop of Toronto. Denis O’Connor served as archbishop from 1899-1908.

Toronto’s newest auxiliary joins the ranks of the following Basilians who have been called to the episcopate in the Canadian Church: the late George Bernard Flahiff (1905-1989), who served as Cardinal Archbishop of Winnipeg; and current shepherds Ronald Fabbro, Bishop of the Diocese of London, Ont. and J. Michael Miller, Archbishop of Vancouver. Each of these Basilians served as educators, teachers and congregational leaders and have left their mark on the Church in Canada. Each has a reputation of goodness, discipline, knowledge and prayerful discernment of God’s will and of the good of their confrères, both individually and congregationally, that gained them admiration among their Basilian colleagues and among God’s people.

At the time of Bishop Kasun’s appointment, he was serving as pastor of an inner-city parish in the Archdiocese of Edmonton, where he was known and loved for his deep concern for people on the peripheries of society: the poor, needy and neglected.

I have had the privilege of knowing him since the first days of my Basilian life back in 1978. He was raised in Cudworth, Sask., a far cry from the thriving metropolises of Calgary, Edmonton and now Toronto — cities where Fr. Kasun was sent to minister to diverse flocks. I teased him many times, thinking of Nathanael’s question in the New Testament — “What good can come from Nazareth?” — and asking Fr. Bob, “What good can come from little Cudworth?” Robert Kasun is proof that greatness comes from little places off the radars of our maps!

What has struck me from the first moment of meeting him — and lasting all of these years — is a joyful simplicity, an acute ability to wisely assess various situations, a courage to speak his mind, and a deep, genuine concern for others. Several years ago when I preached the annual priests’ retreat to the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Calgary, where Kasun was serving as pastor of St. Pius X and then St. Thomas More parishes, I learned from the priests of the diocese how much he was esteemed, admired and loved by his brother priests. His contributions to Calgary were significant: serving on the Diocesan Presbyteral council and on the Board of Governors of St. Mary’s University College.

Since 2009, he has served as pastor of the inner-city Edmonton parishes of St. Alphonsus and St. Clare, where he and a number of parishioners taught English as a second language to temporary foreign workers, helping them to feel more at home in our country and Church. During his time in Edmonton, Kasun was respected as a passionate advocate for and friend of the lower-income and immigrant community.

During his homily at this year’s Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis called on the world’s priests to bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need, to stay close to the marginalized and to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”

“This is what I am asking you to be shepherds with the smell of sheep,” so that people can sense the priest is not just concerned with his own congregation, but is also a fisher of men,” said Francis. He added that a good priest anoints his people “with the oil of gladness,” by preaching the Gospel “with unction,” that is with the soothing, comforting words of God. If people leave Mass “looking as if they have heard good news,” then the priest has clearly done his job well, he said.

There could be no better words to describe Bishop Kasun’s Basilian priestly ministry all of these years. Where he has served during his years of priestly ministry, he has poured out abundant portions of the oil of gladness upon countless people.

As we joyfully welcome him into our midst in Toronto, I sincerely hope and pray that the Lord’s will and the Church’s ways become clearer to my brother Basilian as to why he was chosen for this important ministry, and that he know how badly needed in this local Church are his qualities of discernment, boldness, kindness, courage, proximity to God’s people and his fraternal presence to the many consecrated women and men who are such important members of this great archdiocese.

(Fr. Rosica CSB is Chief Executive Officer of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, and English Language Attaché to the Holy See Press Office.)

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