On Saturday, November 18, Catholics from across the country and the world traveled to Detroit, MI, to witness the beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey, a Capuchin friar with ties to Wisconsin. Those pilgrims included the entire student body and many staff members from St. Lawrence Seminary in Mt. Calvary.
Beatification is the third step of four in the process of the Catholic Church declaring a person a saint. In order to achieve this honor, a person’s life must have been lived in the service of God. Candidates are first declared a Servant of God, then a Venerable Servant of God. After the second step, through the intercession of the Venerable, a God-granted miracle must occur—like healing an incurable disease or illness that medicine or science cannot explain. When the Pope has examined all of the collected evidence, he alone can elevate the person to the status of Blessed through his beatification. It was this declaration that Fr. Solanus received on Saturday.
The Blessed Fr. Solanus Casey - Wisconsin Native
Fr. Solanus was born in a small village near the Mississippi River in Wisconsin. Born to Irish-American immigrants, his family was devoutly Catholic and he felt the work of God in his life from a young age, so it was natural for him to seek to join the clergy. To that end, he attended St. Francis High School Seminary in Milwaukee, but, finding challenging the lessons conducted in German, he had poor scores and the superiors told him that he might find more success with a religious order.
The order he joined was the Capuchin Franciscans based in Detroit. While there, he was known for his simplicity in life—devoting himself to the poor and the sick—and his ability to affect the lives of those with whom he interacted. He acted as the porter, answering the door and meeting the faithful who came to Capuchins seeking solace, food or shelter.
The Capuchins, Fr. Solanus’ order, were established in the United States at St. Lawrence Seminary, and the Capuchins continue to run the school, so the school administrators planned for the student body to attend the beatification. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students and staff, who made the trip in a single day.
SLS Alumni and Student Participate in Beatification Ceremony
They departed early Saturday morning on five coach busses, arriving in Detroit for the ceremony held at 4 p.m. at Ford Field. They, along with more than 60,000 other faithful devotees, witnessed the Mass over which His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Amato, the prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the representative of Pope Francis, presided.
Two St. Lawrence alumni were integrally involved in the Mass. Fr. Edward Foley, OFM Cap., (SLS Class of 1966) the Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality and Professor of Liturgy and Music at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, was the principal coordinator of the liturgy and music for the celebration, and he conducted the orchestra and choirs during the celebration. Additionally, Peter Kolar (SLS Class of 1991) served as the pianist and accompanist for the Mass.
Current SLS senior Mico Macaraeg was also involved in the Mass as he had the honor of reading one of the multi-lingual intercessions. Kolar remarked, “The formation and education received at St. Lawrence across generations has a direct connection to Fr. Solanus’ path to sainthood. It was truly a special day in our church’s—and in particular, the Capuchin and SLS community’s—history.”
After the beatification Mass, SLS students were able to tour the Solanus Casey Center, located at the Capuchin’s monastery in Detroit. There, they prayed over the tomb of Fr. Solanus—like so many people have done since his death in 1957. It is through his intercession that many believe they have been healed of illness and disease.
The miracle attributed to Fr. Solanus’ intercession that elevated him to Blessed was that of Paula Medina Zarate who was living with an incurable and deforming genetic skin disorder. In 2012, after praying at Fr. Solanus’ tomb for the needs of everyone she knew, she heard a voice that asked her what she needed for herself. She prayed for her skin to be healed and immediately she felt a heat pass through her body. She noticed afterward that the scales of her disease had begun falling off her legs and arms and it continued to do so. Knowing the stories of Fr. Solanus’ intercession, the group from SLS valued the time they were allowed to pray at the tomb.
The group concluded their trip with a meal at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which Fr. Solanus helped to found in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression. In his job as porter, he was first to witness the growing hunger of Detroit’s residents who knocked at the monastery door, and he would often tell the friars, “They are hungry; get them some soup and sandwiches.” The students and staff were humbled to learn that the two kitchens that the Capuchins now run still serve up to 2,000 meals a day to the residents of Detroit.
Fr. Solanus Beatification Sparked Inspiration in SLS Students
After their meal, the students and staff boarded their busses to return to the hill in Mt. Calvary. The SLS pilgrimage may have been short, but it certainly affected many. As current SLS freshman Aidan Loop explained, “The Beatification of Father Solanus Casey was an amazing experience. I’ll never forget what it was like to look out and see tens of thousands of people, all assembled to commemorate and celebrate the life of a holy man who lived a life of service for the sick and poor. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to participate in that celebration and will cherish it forever.”
Senior Isaiah King concluded, “When I heard the biography of Father Solanus during the Beatification, I was inspired by his life and how he viewed the world. It made me think of others and their problems and also made me want to put others before myself. I hope he will keep inspiring people, like he inspired me.”
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