Solanus Casey Center sees traffic surge after ‘blessed’ announcement

Students from Our Lady of Victory School in Northville take notes during a field trip to the Solanus Casey Center on May 19. Since the May 4 news of Fr. Solanus’ pending beatification, foot traffic at the center has doubled, friars say. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

Visitors from Detroit, Midwest eager to stop and pray at saintly friar’s tomb

Detroit — Ever since the May 4 announcement of Fr. Solanus Casey’s beatification, the entire world can’t seem to get enough of the venerable friar.

Next to St. Bonaventure Monastery, where Fr. Solanus lived and is interred, the friars at the Solanus Casey Center say foot traffic has doubled, with people clamoring for more information about Detroit’s soon-to-be-beatified priest.

“We figured this would happen when the announcement happened,” said Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap., director of the Solanus Casey Center. “There’s been a good response from the Archdiocese of Detroit and Windsor area. It’s an opportunity to share the story with the entire country. As Detroit revives, it’s getting more visitors, and we expect a portion to use their opportunity to come see the center.”

Sally McCuen, hospitality director at the center, said the atmosphere is similar to when it opened in 2003.

“On a given day, we might have 60 people roaming through the door within an hour,” McCuen said. “Part of it is people going to confession. They honor Solanus and they think, ‘Oh, they have confession.’ But it seems like we’re getting a lot more first-time visitors or people who haven’t been here in a while.”

McCuen can tell when people visit the center for the first time: their faces light up, amazed at what the peaceful center tucked away on Detroit’s east side can offer.

The center has been hosting its “Remembering Solanus” series this year in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of his death, but outside of the beatification announcement, McCuen said the center doesn’t want to overdo it with programming.

“We’re trying to observe the needs of visitors by talking to them, seeing if we need to stay open longer,” McCuen said. “We want to make connections with every visitor. When a person walks in here for the first time, it’s wonderful. Every person who comes through those doors has this potential of where and how Solanus is going to nudge them along in their faith.”

Juan Pablo Orozco and Miguel Perez, seminarians for the Companions of the Cross at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, visited the Solanus Casey Center for the first time to make their confessions and stayed to learn more about the Capuchin friar.

“We came to reconciliation and thought it’d be neat to pay Solanus Casey a visit,” said Perez, who’s in his second year of theology at Sacred Heart. “We heard news of Solanus’ beatification, and we really wanted to hear his story. I’m impressed with the center. One thing I liked about Solanus was his hospitality. He was the doorkeeper, reaching out to people.”

Orozco said the opportunity to pray at Fr. Solanus’ tomb was inspiring.

“We felt it would be a good day to combine confession and visiting Fr. Solanus’ tomb,” said Orozco, who’s in his first year of theology. “I was praying for my family and for healing. The place is really cool; I love the simple architecture. I invite people to come here and pray at the tomb of Solanus Casey.”

As the Capuchins and the Archdiocese of Detroit wait for news from the Vatican about Fr. Solanus’ beatification date, Geri Docent of the Solanus Casey Center gift shop said more and more people are coming to share their Solanus stories.

“People are in awe when they come here for the first time; they can’t believe this is here,” Docent said. “They walk around in awe, thankful to be here, saying how peaceful it is.

“There are so many stories they share about how kind and gentle he was, how their lives were saved because of him. To those who haven’t been to the Solanus Casey Center, come on home; you’re always welcome here.”

Plan your visit

The Solanus Casey Center, at 1780 Mount Elliott St., Detroit, is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Mass at 7:45 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. Sundays. Confession is offered multiple times daily. A blessing of the sick is held every Wednesday at 2 p.m.