Working toward beatification, campaign tells how venerable friar touches local lives
Detroit — Practically every day, Fr. Larry Webber, OFM Cap., receives a call or visit to the Solanus Casey Center from someone who reports a favor received from Venerable Solanus Casey.
“He has been a source for families to inspire faith in them, and a trust that God does answer our prayers,” said Fr. Webber, who serves as vice-postulator for the cause of Ven. Solanus with Bro. Richard Merling, OFM Cap., and is also director of the Detroit-based center.
Ven. Solanus, a Capuchin friar who died in 1957, served a significant part of his life at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. He prayed with and served the Detroit community and became known for his strong prayers — which many believed came from his deep connection to God during his life.
After his death, people continued to ask for his intercession, and began reporting answered prayers. He was declared “venerable” by Rome in July 1995, a recognition that he had lived a life of heroic virtue and is worthy of imitation by the faithful.
The Father Solanus Guild, which works toward his eventual canonization, hopes one day Detroit’s hero will be beatified, the next step toward official sainthood. Beatification is bestowed after the approval of a true miracle — in which there is no scientific explanation, usually for a medical cure — by experts and theological consultants.
Working toward that goal, the guild announced in late January the Letters to Rome campaign, which invites people to submit letters about why Ven. Solanus is worthy of sainthood. The deadline was March 1, but Fr. Webber said people are still more than welcome to continue submitting letters. Those received before the deadline will be bound in a book and presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
“We want to let the Church know, especially Rome, that there’s popular support” for Ven. Solanus, said Fr. Webber.
Bro. Merling, who also serves as director of the Father Solanus Guild, said it’s up to the experts in Rome to determine whether a purported miracle can be proven beyond doubt.
Bro. Merling said he is sure that having a canonized saint who lived in Detroit “would bring many blessings upon the city in many ways.”
“It would spark the interest of many of the Catholics, and I think it would speak to them in their own faith to strengthen them, become more faith-filled individuals,” Bro. Merling said.
Fr. Webber said promoting Ven. Solanus’ cause this year is special both because of the Year of Consecrated Life and Pope Francis’ planned visit to the United States in the fall. There is currently no beatified male born in the United States, Fr. Webber said.
“We want religious, especially in the Detroit area, who knew Fr. Solanus or have been touched by him” to contribute letters, Fr. Webber said. “We are asking them to write letters why he is a model for consecrated life.”
People who have visited the Solanus Casey Center have also often reported favors; the campaign invites them to submit letters as well, Fr. Webber said, including children’s groups and school groups.
Fr. Webber said Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron and the Archdiocese of Detroit have been “very, very supportive with the cause of Fr. Solanus.”
The archbishop, in an interview with The Michigan Catholic in early 2014, expressed his hope and prayers for the beatification of Ven. Solanus “within the next five years,” saying at the time the cause was “looking very good,” though he declined to offer specifics.
Bro. Merling, who had worked closely with the late Bro. Leo Wollenwebber, OFM Cap. — the cause’s original postulator — said some submitted favors look promising, but again, Rome has the final say.
“It encourages us to hear how the story of Fr. Solanus has touched many peoples’ lives and helped to bring about conversion in them,” said Bro. Merling, remembering a number of stories from people who attribute Ven. Solanus’ intercession to healings or conversions.
“Like any of us who have read the life of a saint, it helps encourage us,” he said.
Fr. Webber said that during the season of Lent, “we’re looking for men and women who can be a model to us in following Jesus’ life,” citing Ven. Solanus’ involvement in starting the well-known Capuchin Soup Kitchen.
The very first line of the Capuchins’ rule, dating back to the 13th century, Fr. Webber noted, says to “live the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Solanus here in Detroit has been a model for how to live this Gospel,” he said.
Letters to Rome
Send a letter explaining why you believe Ven. Solanus should be a saint of the Catholic Church. Write to:
Solanus Casey Center
1820 Mt. Elliott St.
Detroit, MI 48207
Letters can address topics such as:
• Fr. Solanus is a role model for me because…
• Fr. Solanus is important to our family because…
• Solanus Casey’s holiness impacts me by…
• It is important to recognize Fr. Solanus because…
• The world would be a better place if Fr. Solanus was a saint because…
• My personal story about Fr. Solanus is…
To learn more, visit solanuscasey.org, call (313) 579-2100 or visit the Solanus Casey Center at 1780 Mt. Elliott St., Detroit, 48207.