Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend remembers Blessed Solanus Casey

This 1954 photo shows Father Solanus Casey standing in front of what was then the St. Felix Friary in Huntington. The friary now is the the St. Felix Catholic Center. (Courtesy of the The Capuchin Province of St. Joseph in Milwaukee)
This photo from about 1950 shows Father Solanus Casey sitting at his desk in what was then St. Felix Friary in Huntington. (Courtesy of the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph in Milwaukee)
After Catholic sainthood candidate Father Solanus Casey left in 1956 from what was then St. Felix Friary in Huntington, the friary preserved his room. The room, which contains Casey's desk, bed and wall phone, continues to be preserved at the building, which now is the St. Felix Catholic Center. (News-Sentinel.com archive photo)

Blessed Solanus Casey will be remembered and honored today in the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, a place where he spent most of the last 10 years of his life in retirement at the former St. Felix Friary in Huntington.

Diocesan Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades asked the Vatican for permission to celebrate a special memorial day for Casey, who was known for his deep spiritual conviction and compassionate ministry to the poor and those in need of healing.

The Vatican, which granted the request, recognizes Casey as blessed, which is one step away from sainthood.

The permission from the Vatican to celebrate Casey on the diocese’s liturgical, or public worship, calendar “is a gift from the church to the people of this diocese, in recognition of the fact that Blessed Solanus lived and served among us and continues to have a very strong spiritual impact locally,” said Brian MacMichael, director of the diocesan Office of Worship. “His example strengthens our faith in Christ, and we hope that our local devotion to him will play a part in his eventual canonization as a saint.”

Churches around the diocese were invited to remember Casey today at Mass or with a special event. Today is considered an optional memorial for Casey rather than a true “feast” day typically associated with a Catholic saint.

One of the biggest remembrances will be at St. Felix Catholic Center in Huntington — the site of the former St. Felix Friary — where people can attend a Mass at 12:30 p.m. today. That will be followed at 2 p.m. by a ceremony during which Rhoades will bless a statue of Casey.

DIFFICULT PROCESS

Getting Vatican permission to add a person with local connections to a diocese’s liturgical calendar is not easy, MacMichael said.

People recognized as “blessed” in the Catholic Church already have been recognized as having a degree of holiness and that a miracle has occurred through their intercession with God, he said.

Because the person hasn’t been canonized yet as a saint, however, the church typically limits liturgical recognition of the person to communities or geographic areas important in the saint candidate’s life, MacMichael said.

To get Vatican approval, the diocese had to add Casey to its liturgical calendar, apply for Vatican approval to celebrate the day here and then receive that approval, he said.

“Without having the blessed inscribed on the local calendar, it’s not allowed for the faithful to publicly celebrate the blessed’s Mass or even to publicly invoke him/her in prayers, represent him/her in sacred artwork in the church, etc.,” MacMichael said.

However, Catholics can pray to the blessed person on their own, he added. Many people, including some who met Casey while he was stationed in Huntington, continue in prayer to ask him to intercede for them with God.

“Permission for a blessed to be added is not easily given – we’d actually had a request for another blessed rejected in the past because the historical connection to the individual was not deemed strong enough, MacMichael said.

As far as he and Rhoades know, this diocese and the Archdiocese of Detroit are the only Catholic dioceses with Blessed Solanus Casey on their liturgical calendars, he said.

THE HISTORY

Born Nov. 25, 1870, Casey joined the Capuchin religious order in January 1897, it said on the website of the Father Solanus Guild in Detroit.

The guild, which includes Capuchin religious order members and lay people, formed in 1960 to share the story of Casey’s life.

Casey reportedly struggled with some of his academic training, so he was ordained a simplex priest, which means he didn’t have the authority to hear people’s confessions or to preach sermons using Catholic doctrine, the guild history said.

From about 1904 to 1924, Casey served at two parishes and a friary in New York City, the history said.

From 1924-1946, he was stationed at the Capuchins’ St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, where he assisted the poor and needy, the history said. While there, he co-founded the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, an expanded version of which still operates today, and also became known for healings that occurred through his prayer and asking God to help people.

In April 1946, the Capuchins sent Casey to what was then St. Felix Friary in Huntington for rest and semi-retirement, the history said. But people soon learned he was there and would come to ask his help with healing or needs in their lives.

In spring 1956, Casey returned to Detroit to receive medical treatment, the history said. He died there at age 86 on July 31, 1957.

THE CAUSE FOR SAINTHOOD

In 1966, the Father Solanus Guild launched the process of seeking to have Casey declared a Catholic saint, based on his faith and life.

In July 1995, he was declared venerable, the first step toward a declaration of sainthood. Last November, Casey was beatified and named blessed at a Mass at Ford Field in Detroit.

Casey 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.

OTHER LOCAL CONNECTIONS

Casey is one of three people with local connections who have been involved in the process to become a Catholic saint:

• Declared a saint in 2006, St. Mother Theodore Guerin was a nun who came to Indiana in 1840 from France 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, who was named blessed in 2013, 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. The sisters started a hospital in Lafayette and began teaching children. To train more people to serve as teachers, they founded a college in Lafayette that moved to Fort Wayne in the mid-1940s and now is known as the University of Saint Francis.

LEARN MORE

• For more about the life and sainthood cause of Father Solanus Casey, go to the Father Solanus Guild website.

• To report a favor or miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Solanus Casey, click here.

RELATED STORIES: Read previous News-Sentinel.com stories about Father Solanus Casey

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