After family and Capuchins, Detroit gets turn to ‘remember Solanus’

Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap., facilitates a group sharing of stories of Venerable Solanus Casey on March 4 at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, part of the Capuchins’ “Remembering Solanus” series. The third event, following sessions that featured family members and fellow Capuchins, was opened to anyone with a story to share about Fr. Solanus. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

Dozens of stories of healing and miracles shared at Solanus Casey Center event

DETROIT — It was a diverse group of people who met at St. Bonaventure Monastery on March 4: Husbands and wives, sons and daughters, those of different generations, some born in Detroit and others born states away.

They met at the monastery on Mt. Elliot Street in Detroit, each with their own stories, but one vital thing in common: They have had their lives, and the lives of those they loved, touched by Venerable Solanus Casey, the porter of St. Bonaventure.

As part of the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph’s “Remembering Solanus” series, the Capuchins hosted “Detroit Remembers,” in which everyday people had the opportunity to share their story of the venerable friar, be it something that happened to them or someone they knew.

“I was 3 years old in 1933, and my aunt was expecting a baby,” said Sr. Theresa Tenbusch, IHM. “Before the delivery, someone told my uncle there was bad news. Before he knew what was happening, he got in his car and raced to St. Bonaventure. Solanus came to the door, and before he knew anything, Solanus said he was sorry. He didn’t know what the situation was, and neither did my uncle, but they talked about his wife dying. He was there to counsel him, even before he knew what had happened.”

The day was full of stories of consoling grieving family members, recalling tales of miraculous healing and times when the soft-spoken friar told Detroiters to “Thank God ahead of time” for all their blessings.

Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap., director of the Solanus Casey Center, said he is amazed that after all these years, people still have stories about the humble priest who was first person to answer the door and listen.

“I’m a relative latecomer to the Solanus Casey story,” Fr. Preuss said. “I was called from parish minister in Milwaukee to be a chaplain at Macomb Hospital, before it was a Catholic hospital. I kept hearing stories about Solanus, having no idea who he was. Eventually I started thinking, I don’t think people will talk about me like this 24 years after I die.”

Many of the day’s stories revolved around overcoming personal tragedies through the intercession of Solanus Casey, but Sandra Gardner recalled the small blessings that came into her life.

“My mother-in-law, Ruth, in the late 1940s was on her way to her Methodist service, running late,” Gardner said. “For some reason, she went to St. Bonaventure’s and ran into Fr. Solanus, who talked her into Catholicism. She got married to a Catholic man, had a son, but after 10 years, they were still wanting a second child. Solanus told them, have Joseph (their older son) pray for a sibling, because God hears children’s prayers first. And then, my husband was born. I’m so grateful for Solanus and the lives he touched. Give thanks, always.”

Other stories from witnesses revolved around children coming down with dangerous diseases, husbands and wives going through difficult times in their marriages and mothers’ concerns for the well-being of their sons going off to war.

Each story was different, but with a common theme: intercession from Fr. Solanus, whose calming presence and belief in the power of prayer put things into perspective for people and stirred up courage in the hearts of those who came to know him.

“Fr. Solanus was a man who accepted what was given to him by his superiors and by God, being the gatekeeper,” Fr. Preuss said. “Whoever came to the door, he listened and did the best he could. It’s important to know he was such an accessible saint.”

Even after his death, Fr. Solanus’ impact on people’s lives didn’t stop.

Gerry Haran, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was raised in a family where his mother had a strong belief in the power of devotions.

Working as a personnel manager in the automotive industry, Haran was transferred to Detroit and decided to get involved in helping the poor, eventually volunteering at Focus: HOPE and Gleaner’s Food Bank before discovering the Capuchins at St. Bonaventure.

“I found out about this place the fed 1,000 people a week, so I learned about Solanus and the Wednesday healing services, and I began a devotion to him,” Haran said.

In March of 2009, a dermatologist told Haran he had cancer in his back. Weary to have the series of surgeries that was set to follow, Haran turned to Solanus to take the cancer away.

“So then one day, I find blood in my urine, and the doctor says the cancer has spread to my kidney,” Haran said. “I told the doctor, ‘I’ll continue to pray and hope it goes away.’ I went to my priest friends, saying I want the cancer removed.

“Then, I saw a third doctor who did 20 tests on me, came back saying the cancer was in my lungs. I continued my Wednesday devotion to Solanus, saying, ‘Please God, take this away.’ Asking for Solanus’ intercession.”

Then, on Nov. 21, 2009, Haran got a call from his doctor at 9:30 p.m.

“Normally that’s not a good thing when the doctor calls you at that hour,” Haran said. “He said, ‘I don’t know what to say; the CAT scan says you have no cancer.’ I said, ‘Doc, I know what happened: through Solanus’ intercession, my cancer has been taken away.’ Praise God, now and always.”