Groups from Fort Wayne, Huntington heading to Father Solanus Casey beatification Saturday in Detroit
The lives of Jan Scher and Father Solanus Casey have been connected for 70 years.
That will continue Saturday when Scher, of Huntington, leads two busloads of area residents to the Mass at 4 p.m. Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit where Casey will be beatified by the Catholic Church — putting him one step away from sainthood.
Other people from the Fort Wayne area will travel there in their own vehicles.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” said Alex Fiato of Fort Wayne, like Scher a local proponent of sainthood for Casey, who served from 1946-1956 at what was then St. Felix Friary in Huntington.
A number of staff members of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and its newspaper, Today’s Catholic, also plan to attend the beatification Mass, as do a few Today’s Catholic freelance writers, said Jodi Marlin, Today’s Catholic editor.
The Mass in the home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions is expected to draw 60,000 people, a report from the Archdiocese of Detroit’s news service said. All tickets already are taken.
Casey, who was a member of the Capuchin religious order, will be eligible to be declared a saint if Catholic Church leaders verify a miracle takes place after his beatification that results from a person asking in prayer for him to intercede for them by bringing their request to God.
“That’s why I’m spreading the word,” said Scher, 70, director of the Father Solanus Guild-Huntington Extension, which shares Casey’s story in the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. “I hope that miracle comes from this Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese.”
The Father Solanus Guild is based in Detroit, where Casey ministered to the sick and needy from 1924 to 1946 at the Capuchin order’s St. Bonaventure Monastery. The guild shares information about Casey and assists with the effort to have him recognized as a saint.
After more than 20 years of ministry in Detroit, Casey was sent to St. Felix in 1946 for rest and to recover from illness, said Gabriela Mayo, retreat coordinator for the St. Felix Catholic Center, which now occupies the former friary grounds at 1280 Hitzfield St. in Huntington.
Casey, who died in Detroit at age 86 on July 31, 1957, had been at St. Felix only a few days before the word got out and the parking lot began filling up with people seeking him, Mayo said.
In Detroit, and in prior assignments in New York City, people had sought his advice or his prayers for help for themselves or a loved one, the Father Solanus Guild said on its website, http://solanuscasey.org. Many believed his prayers for them produced healing or God’s granting of other requests.
Scher’s parents were among those who sought his help.
She wasn’t breathing when she was born, she said. The medical staff finally got her to breathe, but they didn’t know how long it would continue.
Her parents took her to see Casey at 1 week old.
“Father Solanus blessed me, and he said I would be OK,” she said her parents told her.
“I feel his presence with me today,” added Scher, who now is retired after a long career as an elementary school teacher in Huntington County.
Many people going with her to Detroit on the two 55-passenger tour buses — one will leave from Huntington and the other from Fort Wayne — also are people who knew Casey or who learned of him through older family members or friends, she said.
Casey also is well-known around Huntington, especially among Catholics, Mayo said.
She often hears stories about him from people who attend the Mass for the Sick: An Interceding with Father Solanus at 1 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month at St. Felix.
Since the Vatican announced in early May that Casey would be beatified, Mayo also has had tour groups of non-Catholics asking to visit to learn more about him.
After Casey went back to Detroit for treatment of his illness, the friary preserved his room, 234.
That continued after the Capuchins moved out and sold the friary in 1978 to the United Brethren Church, which vacated it in 2009. The Mary Cross-Tippmann Foundation of Fort Wayne bought the property and renovated into the St. Felix Catholic Center, which offers space for retreats and prayer.
The center also has preserved Casey’s room: Visitors can see his bed, desk and the black wall phone he used to speak to so many people when not meeting them in person, Mayo said.
Visitors to St. Felix have come from as far away as Florida and California in the United States and from Bolivia, Pakistan and Mexico, Mayo said. They either heard about Casey via word of mouth or had read about him.
She has received a lot of questions recently about whether St. Felix will become a holy shrine where people come and pray for help and healing by asking Casey to intercede for them with God.
That could bring a lot of people to Huntington to seek Casey’s help or to thank him for help they have received.
“We’d like to see it become that,” Mayo said. “I imagine it will be in time.”
For Catholic news coverage of Saturday’s beatification Mass for Father Solanus Casey, check:
• Today’s Catholic, the newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, on Nov. 22 at www.todayscatholic.org or in its print edition on Nov. 26.
• Our Sunday Visitor, the national Catholic newsweekly based in Huntington, at https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly.
• Nov. 25, 1870: Born Bernard Francis Casey on, on a farm near Oak Grove, Wis.
• Jan. 14, 1897: Joined the Capuchin religious order and was given the name Solanus.
• July 24, 1904: Ordained a simplex priest of the Capuchin religious order after reportedly struggling with his academic training. As a simplex priest, Casey didn’t have the authority to hear confessions or to preach sermons using Catholic doctrine.
• About 1904-1924: Casey served at a friary and two parishes in New York City, including as doorkeeper at the friary.
• 1924-1946: Casey served at the Capuchins’ St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, where he assisted the poor and needy. He co-founded the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in 1929, an expanded version of which continues today.
• April 1946: Casey began semi-retirement at St. Felix Friary in Huntington.
• Spring 1956: He returned to Detroit to receive medical treatment.
• July 31, 1957: Casey died at age 86 in Detroit.
• July 1960: The Father Solanus Guild is formed in Detroit to share the story of Casey and his faith, to archive information about his life and work, and to assist with efforts to have him recognized as a saint.
• 1966: The Father Solanus Guild begins the process to try to have Casey declared a saint in the Catholic Church.
• July 11, 1995: The Catholic Church declared Casey a Servant of God, which carries the title of Venerable and is the first step toward being declared a saint.
• May 4, 2017: Pope Francis announced Casey would be beatified, which carries the title of Blessed and is the second of three steps to sainthood.
• Nov. 18, 2017: Beatification Mass at Ford Field in Detroit, where Casey officially will be declared Blessed.
• For more about the life and sainthood cause of Father Solanus Casey, go to Father Solanus Guild at http://solanuscasey.org.
• To report a favor or miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Solanus Casey, go to http://solanuscasey.org/claimed-miracles.
PATH TO SAINTHOOD
In the Catholic Church, saints serve as role models for the faithful. People also can ask saints to pray to God on their behalf. Here’s a brief summary of the Catholic Church’s sainthood process, based on information provided by the Father Solanus Guild in Detroit and the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph in Milwaukee:
• The process of examining a person’s life for possible sainthood normally can’t begin until five years after his or her death. If, after initial review, the Vatican approves continuing that process, the person is called “Servant of God.”
• If additional church investigation determines the person lived a life of unusual or heroic virtue, he or she can be declared “Venerable” and a worthy role model for people.
• If continued review finds the sainthood candidate died a martyr or the candidate’s intercession with God on someone’s behalf resulted in a miracle, the candidate can be beatified and declared “Blessed” and in heaven. Miracles typically involve a healing that can’t be explained by current science or knowledge.
• To be eligible for canonization as a saint, church investigators must verify a second miracle attributed to the saint candidate has taken place after his or her beatification. A saint is considered to be in heaven and worthy of public veneration by all Catholics.
Along with Father Solanus Casey, two religious women with ties to northeast Indiana also have been involved in the sainthood process:
• St. Mother Theodore Guerin: Declared a saint in 2006, Guerin, a French nun, came to Indiana in 1840 and founded the Sisters of Providence religious order at St. Mary-of-the-Woods near Terre Haute. In 1846, she also helped found St. Augustine Academy, the first Catholic school in Fort Wayne.
• Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel: Named Blessed in 2013, Bonzel founded the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration religious order in 1863 in Germany. At the request of the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, she sent several sisters to northern Indiana in 1875 to minister to German Catholics. They started a hospital in Lafayette and began teaching children. The need to train teachers led to the creation of a college in Lafayette that moved in the mid-1940s to Fort Wayne and grew into today’s University of Saint Francis.