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June 18, 2007     572 Words

The Solanus Casey Center: An Invitation to Grow

CINCINNATI—When Father Solanus Casey died in Detroit’s St. John’s Hospital on July 31, 1957, at the age of 87, the simple Capuchin friar’s funeral drew such a crowd that the monastery chapel of St. Bonaventure near downtown Detroit could not contain them all. His influence has only grown larger in the following years. Events scheduled this month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Father Solanus’s death will no doubt stir up added interest in Detroit and in the larger Catholic world regarding this popular friar and his cause for beatification. 

The Solanus Casey Center and the popularity of this humble friar are the subjects of Senior Editor Jack Wintz, O.F.M.’s article, “The Solanus Casey Center: An Invitation to Grow,” in the July issue of St. Anthony Messenger. The article, which also features a biographical sidebar as well as one about Casey’s beatification cause, will be posted, after June 21, at:

Father Solanus was born in Wisconsin in 1870 to Irish immigrant parents. He entered the Capuchin novitiate on January 14, 1897, completing his novitiate on July 21, 1898, and taking his first vows. Immediately, he left Detroit for Milwaukee to enter the Capuchin Seminary.

After ordination in 1904 and serving 20 years in New York parishes, Father Solanus returned to Detroit and St. Bonaventure’s as priest and popular porter from 1924 to 1945. The people in Detroit discovered that they had a saintly friar among them: Stories of healings resulting from the prayers of Father Solanus were numerous there as they had been in New York. His efforts on behalf of thousands who sought his help in Detroit continued. In time, however, Solanus’s health began to wear down and, after years of semi-retirement in Huntington, Indiana, he died in Detroit in 1957.

The Solanus Casey Center ( was designed to reflect his rich faith and simple life. From the start, the Capuchin friars have reminded visitors who come to the center that it is not simply a shrine to Father Solanus. It is also a pilgrimage site—one that calls visitors to inner conversion and to a greater love for the poor and suffering, just as Solanus had been called.

Pilgrims who tour the center, which opened to the public in 2002, experience an outdoor creation garden, an area inside where eight life-size, bronzed figures of men and women of recent history exemplify the eight Beatitudes, a replica of the Capuchins’ first church, an auditorium as well as personal items of Father Solanus’s, such as a frayed habit he used to wear and his beloved violin. Other features include the chapel where Father Solanus prayed and his ever-popular tomb, where many come to pray for healing.

Healing services have been held regularly in the monastery chapel for many decades and are still very popular today.

Father Daniel Fox, O.F.M.Cap., director of the center, observes: “You get a glimpse of Solanus’s simplicity but also his delightful humanity if you look at his violin. I’m told he was not a virtuoso, but we don’t have to be virtuosos to love music. Solanus used to play the violin to the sick on the phone. Whether he was good or not, he gave someone joy.”


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