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Casey, John Brendan (1909–1985)

by J. Eddy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

John Brendan Casey (1909-1985), Jesuit priest and educationist, was born on 3 February 1909 at Clarence Siding, New South Wales, eldest son of Irish-born parents Maurice John Casey, storekeeper, and his wife Hannah Maria, née Lyne. Educated at St Joseph’s Convent School, Penrith, then by the Marist Brothers at Villa Maria, Hunters Hill, and at St Ignatius’ College, Riverview, Casey worked in the retail grocery business while studying analytical chemistry at Sydney Technical College. He entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in 1930 at Loyola, Greenwich, and took his first vows in 1932. Casey was one of the `new breed’ of Jesuits trained entirely in Australia rather than in Ireland or elsewhere overseas. Following a home juniorate (1932-33) at Greenwich, he was sent to St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point, to teach science, economics and mathematics (193436). Though intelligent and natively shrewd, he never enjoyed robust health, and he was not encouraged to attend university—a fact that diminished his self-esteem throughout his life.

After studying philosophy at Loyola College, Watsonia, Melbourne, in 1937-38, and at Canisius College, Pymble, Sydney, in 1939, he taught at St Louis’ School, Claremont, Perth, in 1940. He returned to Pymble for theological studies (1941-44), being ordained priest by Archbishop (Cardinal Sir Norman) Gilroy in St Mary’s Cathedral on 8 January 1944. After serving his tertianship at Watsonia during 1945, he worked at Riverview as division prefect and line teacher in 1946-48 and became rector of St Aloysius’ College in April 1948. Next year he returned to Riverview as rector. This rich period of his administration (1949-54) was followed by another term as rector (1955-61) of St Aloysius’. He proved to be both a skilled builder and a far-sighted policy maker, very influential in times of educational reform and systemic change.

After his success in Sydney, Casey spent two quieter years at Campion College, Kew, Melbourne, the residence of Jesuit university students. From there he was sent back to St Louis’, Perth, as rector (1964-66). When he returned to take charge (1967-68) of the house at Kew, his health was failing and he was suffering the effects of poorly controlled diabetes. In 1969 he went back to Pymble to recuperate but picked up sufficiently in spirits to resume living at Riverview in 1974. There he remained until his death, much loved and consulted by a wide variety of friends. A father-figure to many, he continued to perform his pastoral role. He died on 30 January 1985 at Darlinghurst and was buried in the Jesuit lawn cemetery, North Ryde.

In addition to holding high educational posts within the Jesuit Order, Casey was an important and respected figure in such professional bodies as the Australian College of Education (fellow 1961), the Headmasters’ Conference of the Independent Schools of Australia and the National Council of Independent Schools (Australia). He was a strong advocate of per capita public funding for each student and he persistently advocated the political alliance of Catholic and other private schools in defence of the independent principle and in negotiations for a more favourable outcome from both State and Federal governments in the perennial and vexed question of state aid.

Select Bibliography

  • J. W. Hogg, Our Proper Concerns (1986)
  • E. Lea-Scarlett, Riverview (1989)
  • D. Strong, The College by the Harbour (1997)
  • D. Strong, The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-1998 (1999)
  • Jesuit Life, Easter 1985, p 16
  • J. Casey personal file (Society of Jesus, Australian Province Archives, Melbourne).

Citation details

J. Eddy, 'Casey, John Brendan (1909–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/casey-john-brendan-12297/text22083, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 11 December 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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