At St. Alphonsus parish, Bishop Bob Kasun (left) worked with Fr. Mark Gazin and parishioners to create a welcoming community. Photo from Western Catholic Reporter

Kasun has ‘a true pastor’s heart,’ says Edmonton's Archbishop

By  Glen Argan, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 2, 2016

EDMONTON – When Fr. Robert Kasun learned that Pope Francis wanted him to become a bishop, one of his first reactions was, “I’ve never in my life done anything extraordinary. I’m just an ordinary simple pastor.”

But Toronto’s new auxiliary bishop takes solace from the fact he will be responsible for the archdiocese’s central zone, an area with a high percentage of immigrants and people on low incomes. It’s an area of Toronto where Kasun lived for 12 years while doing his studies, being formed for the Basilian priesthood and teaching at St. Michael’s College School.

When being interviewed , what Kasun most wanted to talk about was the English as a second language programs for temporary foreign workers run out of his former parish, St. Alphonsus.

The parish runs two sets of 10-week English classes twice a year for foreign workers. People come from all over the city and beyond to take the popular classes.

Ten Saturday mornings is not enough time to get a handle on a new language, but many had learned English in their homelands. Mostly, the classes are an effort at “trying to build a rapport.”

“They were so appreciative of any little thing you would do.”

The ESL program is the most successful of the programs Kasun and other Basilians set up after assuming responsibility for St. Alphonsus and St. Clare parishes in 2009. The parish has run an annual neighbourhood street barbecue, a collective kitchen for women and various forms of outreach.

As to their success, Kasun is frank: “None of them have worked out too well. It’s hard to find ministries that ordinary people in the pews can do with small numbers of volunteers and no money.”

What has been successful are the various drives for food, clothing and household goods run in St. Alphonsus and St. Clare for other agencies.

“The parishioners always responded really well,” he said. “Whenever I asked the stewardship committee for something, it was there in abundance.”

The Basilians worked with parishioners to redefine the parishes’ mission to be one of outreach in the inner city and even around the world.

“Otherwise, there might not be a reason for St. Alphonsus to exist.”

“In the service of his people, Fr. Kasun has demonstrated a true pastor’s heart, especially for the needy and neglected,” Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said. “The Archdiocese of Toronto is blessed to receive the many gifts that he will bring to the exercise of his episcopal ministry.”

(Western Catholic Reporter)

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