Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Casimir R. Bukala, SJ, who died on October 23, 2019, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 88 years old. May he rest in peace.
Casey was the son of Mary and Walter Bukala (deceased), brother of Stella Kuczynski, Helen Kosnosky, Joseph Bukala, and Theresa Lazor (all deceased). He was also uncle and great uncle to several nieces and nephews including Nancy and Billy (deceased).
Casey was born on July 14, 1931, in Cleveland. He entered the former Detroit Province on September 1, 1958 at Milford, Ohio, and was ordained on June 14, 1966 at Colombiere Center. He professed final vows on September 7, 1975, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Before entering the Society of Jesus, Casey earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy (1954) and a master’s degree in theology (1955) from John Carroll University. He also studied for one year at Case Western University (1955-1956) and spent two years serving in the army (1956-1958). While in the Society, Casey earned a master’s degree of philosophy from Loyola University Chicago (1963), a licentiate degree in philosophy from West Baden College (1967), and a Ph.D from Boston College (1970). His dissertation was titled Intersubjectivity in Sartre’s Dramatic Philosophy.
During regency, Casey taught English and religion at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (1962-1963). After earning his doctorate, Casey spent 45 years teaching philosophy at John Carroll University (1970-2016). He specialized in the study of phenomenology and existentialism, but he also offered courses about modern European philosophy, philosophies of love and friends, metaphysics, and the ethics of forgiveness.
Casey loved Jesus, was a devoted priest, and encouraged others to find God in their lives. He loved teaching—especially philosophy—and helped countless young men and women learn how to think clearly. His students remember him for his doodles and his wonderful stories.
Casey expressed and shared a particular passion for the topic of forgiveness. He created an “Ethics of Forgiveness” class and the Bukala Forgiveness Initiative at JCU.edu. “As we live our lives, it’s necessary to let go of many things, especially the bad,” he explained. “We’re all pretty much the same in being vulnerable. And hurts can impact us in a way that changes our lives forever. Yet with understanding and support, we can also come to understand that we don’t have to let these hurts fester within us, that we can let them go.”
Emphasizing that forgiveness is a gift the forgiver offers to him or herself, at least as much as it is to the forgiven person, Casey taught that sharing one’s stories is instrumental in healing. “Hopefully, everyone can find comfort and relief from the negative baggage they carry in life by sharing their stories,” he said. “A part of us dies when we hurt someone or are hurt by someone, as well as when we don’t forgive ourselves or others. There is no future without forgiveness.”
Casey’s many years of service and his devotion to John Carroll University and its students have won him the university’s Distinguished Faculty Award (1981), the Alumni Service Award (1999), the Alumni Medal (2002), and a centennial medal (1986).
John Carroll University’s magazine had this to say about Casey:
[He] was a longtime wrestling and football chaplain who was inducted into the Blue Streak Hall of Fame in 2005. That same year the University dedicated the concourse at Don Shula Stadium, Casey’s Concourse, in honor of his many contributions to Carroll…A principal interest Fr. Bukala developed is the topic of forgiveness…He created a course titled, “The Ethics of Forgiveness.”
Click here to watch a four-minute video tribute to Casey which was created when he was was honored with Jesuit Retreat House’s Ignatian Spirituality Award.
Click here to read A Jesuit’s Journey reflection by Fr. Bukala on his life’s ministry.