November 21, 2017, Detroit, Michigan – About 20 Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates were among 67,000 faithful who gathered November 18 at Ford Field in Detroit to witness a historic event: the beatification of Father Solanus Casey (1870-1957).
Born in Oak Park, Wisconsin, Bernard Casey joined the Franciscan branch of Friars Minor Capuchin at the age of 26 and was eventually ordained a priest – but not permitted to preach or to hear confessions. He served for years as the doorkeeper at St. Bonaventure’s Monastery in Detroit, and became known for his piety, compassion, love for the poor, and powers of healing. Now that he has been beatified, he needs one more miracle to qualify for canonization in the Catholic Church.
The beatification was a momentous event in Detroit – and for many Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates who have ties to that city.
“As I sat at the Beatification ceremony, I prayed that this amazing occasion would be a time of ongoing grace and inspiration for the people of greater Detroit,” said Sister Nancyann Turner, OP. For years, Sister Nancyann has ministered at Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen, founded by Blessed Solanus Casey in 1929. “I felt such a sense of unity among the thousands of people present at Ford Field – women and men honoring a very simple and generous, dedicated man.”
Sister Nancyann expressed her deep gratitude for the Capuchin soup kitchen’s ongoing mission to the people of Detroit, and for her own call to serve there, currently at the Rosa Parks Children and Youth Program. “It is a great grace to serve at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen,” she said. “I am blessed and challenged over and over."
She also hopes that the beatification of Blessed Solanus Casey will have a positive influence on the people of Detroit – and throughout the world. “I pray that more and more people can truly be about listening, healing, and blessing – as was Brother Solanus,” Sister Nancyann said. “It is the core of the Gospel.”
Sister Suzanne Schreiber, OP, who lives and ministers in Detroit, said the ceremony had special meaning to her. “When I was very young, just beginning to walk, a problem with my hip was discovered. I had to have braces on my legs. My mother took me to Father Solanus at the monastery on Mt. Elliott, where he prayed over me, blessed me and said, ‘She is going to be alright.’”
Sister Suzanne said the Mass reconnected her to that experience. “I felt gratitude for my mother and for Father Solanus,” she said. “It was a blessing, too, to be among the many people who gathered.”
Sister Anneliese Sinnott, OP, long-time theology professor at Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, was impressed by the diversity of the ceremony, particularly in the choir, the cantors, the Scripture readings, and the prayers of the faithful – read in a variety of languages and reflective of the spirit of Solanus Casey.
“I also appreciated sitting with the Soup Kitchen folks because they were probably the most diverse in the stadium,” Sister Anneliese said. “I’m sure Solanus would be right up there with us.”
Both Sisters Jean Horger, OP, and Joan Baustian, OP, were impressed by the beatification. Sister Jean, who for years has ministered in parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit, was moved by the procession of relics. Paula Medina Zarate – whose 2012 miraculous cure of a skin disease brought about the approval of beatification for Solanus Casey – processed to the altar with a relic of Blessed Solanus. “The whole Mass was very well organized and so profound,” Sister Jean added.
Sister Joan, who also served in Detroit before retiring in Adrian, was moved by the “sheer number of people attending” the beatification, including young families. “My devotion to Father Solanus is largely because of his profound humility,” she said. “Detroit has a powerful intercessor.”
“I was gratified by the beatification of Father Solanus Casey,” said Sister Beverly Bobola, OP, archivist for the Congregation, who has had a special devotion to him for more than 40 years. Noting her gratitude for the Church’s recognition of Father Solanus Casey’s saintliness, she added that the historic event for Detroit places Blessed Solanus “in a place of renown for the whole world.”
Solanus Casey was the second man from the United States to be beatified this year. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City celebrated the September 23, 2017, beatification of Father Stanley Rother, a local priest who was killed while serving in Guatemala in 1981.
Right: Sister Virginia (Ginny) King, OP, left, and Arlene Bachanov, Associate.