A Catholic Church friar who spent 10 years in semi-retirement at the former St. Felix Friary in Huntington now is nearly one step away from being eligible to be declared a saint.
In early May, Pope Francis authorized the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints to decree a miracle attributed to the intercession of the late Father Solanus Casey had been studied and approved, the Vatican announced. Intercession refers to a person asking in prayer for Casey to pray to God for the help the person is seeking.
Casey, who died July 31, 1957, in Detroit, now is eligible for beatification and the title of "Blessed." The Vatican has not yet set a date for the ceremony officially bestowing Casey with the title of blessed.
If church officials investigate and approve one other miracle attributed to Casey's intercession after his beatification, he will be eligible for canonization as a Catholic saint.
"We are very overjoyed he is going forward to beatification," said Alex Fiato, a member of the Father Solanus Knights of Columbus group in Fort Wayne. The Knights of Columbus is an international charitable fraternal organization affiliated with the Catholic Church.
While Casey was alive, he was considered a very holy man, and people came from all over the United States to see him, Fiato said.
If he becomes a saint, Casey would be the second person with ties to northeast Indiana to be canonized a saint, following St. Mother Theodore Guerin.
Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel, the founder of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration religious order that operates University of Saint Francis, also is one step away from being canonized a saint.
Born Bernard Francis Casey on Nov. 25, 1870, on a farm near Oak Grove, Wis., Casey joined the Capuchin religious order Jan. 14, 1897, and was given the name Solanus, the Father Solanus Guild in Detroit said on its website, http://solanuscasey.org. The guild, which was formed in July 1960, shares the story of Casey and his example of faith, archives information about his life and work, and assists with efforts to have him recognized as a saint — including starting that process in 1966.
Casey, who reportedly had difficulty with some of his Capuchin academic training, was ordained a simplex priest of the religious order on July 24, 1904, meaning he didn't have the ability to hear confessions or to preach sermons using Catholic doctrine.
He spent his first 20 years in ministry serving at a friary and two parishes in New York City, the guild website said. His duties at the friary, his first assignment, included serving as a doorkeeper. Over time, people came to the door to seek his counseling, and many reported they experienced cures after seeking his help, the website said.
Known for his holiness and compassion, Casey then served from 1924 to 1946 at the Capuchins' St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, where he also tried to assist the poor and needy, the website said. His ministry included co-founding the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in 1929, a ministry that continues in expanded form today.
In late April 1946, Casey began his semi-retirement at St. Felix Friary in Huntington. He stayed there for 10 years before returning to Detroit in spring 1956 to receive medical treatment. He died in Detroit a little more than a year later at age 86.
While in Huntington, people continued to seek him out for help and prayer, with many reporting healings of illnesses, injuries and family problems, The News-Sentinel reported in 1994.
The Capuchins moved out and sold the friary in 1978 to the United Brethren Church, which vacated it in 2009, a 2012 News-Sentinel report said. The Mary Cross-Tippmann Foundation of Fort Wayne bought the property at 1280 Hitzfield St. in Huntington and has renovated into the St. Felix Catholic Center, which offers space for retreats and prayer.
Efforts to have Casey declared a saint really started moving in July 1995, when the late Pope John Paul II declared Casey "venerable," or worthy of reverence because church investigation found he lived a life of heroic virtue. Those promoting Casey's cause for sainthood now will be seeking to identify a miracle that takes place after his beatification and is credited to his intercession with God.
The 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 prayer to 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 Dioces 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.