Farmington Hills parish first to receive relics of Blessed Solanus Casey

Parishioners venerate relics of Blessed Solanus Casey at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills on Nov. 19, the day after the Capuchin priest’s beatification in Detroit. Courtesy of Paul Pyrkosz

Farmington Hills — When Msgr. Timothy Hogan planned his installation Mass at his new parish, St. Fabian in Farmington Hills, he had to turn his calendar to Nov. 19.

Though Msgr. Hogan began his duties at the church July 1, the date was the first mutually available Sunday for him and Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda. He quickly realized, however, that it was an ideal day to celebrate: the day after the beatification of Blessed Solanus Casey.

“As I reflected, on this, I thought of Pope Francis’ decree for the first World Day of the Poor, also on Nov. 19, to bring about a deeper appreciation for the poor,” Msgr. Hogan said. “I thought how fitting it would be to commemorate the day by honoring Blessed Solanus, who had two loves:  the sick and the poor.”

With the help of Capuchin Bro. Richard Merling, Msgr. Hogan borrowed two first-class relics for the parish that Sunday. The parish also took up a special collection for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.

At the conclusion of each of the four Masses at St. Fabian that day, the congregation was invited to venerate the relics.

Parishioners Heather and Joseph Greib brought their son, Aidan, who touched his rosary to Blessed Solanus’ relic. The family also brought holy water.

“This is really something special for us because Fr. Solanus is special to us,” Heather Greib said. “Aidan gets to be part of history now.”

Linda Francis came to venerate the relics in gratitude for Blessed Solanus’ intercession on behalf of her husband, Gary, whose kidneys were failing after he suffered a bike accident in 2009.

“I believe it. I really think the reason for that turn-around was Fr. Solanus,” Francis said. “So now, to touch the relic means a lot to me, especially since I couldn’t go to the beatification.”

First-class relics are those obtained from the body of a saint (e.g. hair or bone) and are rarely entrusted to individuals. Rather, they are under the care of faith communities. The relics of Blessed Solanus fall under the authority and control of the Capuchins.

“First-class relics exist for public veneration, not to keep to one’s self,” said Bro. Merling, co-vice postulator for Blessed Solanus’ canonization cause. “It’s similar to coming to the Solanus Casey Center and visiting the tomb. You feel a closeness to that person.”

Second-class relics are objects the saint owned or used, such as a piece of clothing. A third-class relic is an object that has touched a first- or second-class relic.

The Capuchins have five first-class relics as well as many second-class relics made of material from Blessed Solanus’ garments. Besides those that will stay at the Solanus Casey Center, one of the first-class relics will be given to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament and another to Sacred Heart Major Seminary, since Fr. Solanus considered the diocesan priesthood before joining the Capuchins. A third relic will eventually be shared with parishes around the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“We are blessed by the Capuchins, who graciously asked that these three relics be given to the archdiocese in gratitude,” said Msgr. Ronald Browne, who was appointed by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron as the episcopal delegate for the investigation of Blessed Solanus’ miracles and for obtaining relics. “This is the Capuchin friars’ gift to us.”

The Capuchins are honored to share the relics of their beloved brother.

“Fr. Solanus belongs to Detroit,” Bro. Merling said. “He belongs to our city, and to the rest of the country.”

Other parishes in the archdiocese have been recognizing Blessed Solanus as well. Shrines to the new blessed have already been erected at St. Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park and St. Michael Parish in Sterling Heights, among others.

St. Ambrose already owned an icon of Blessed Solanus, written by Russian artist Alexander Zorin. Pastor Fr. Timothy Pelc said the parish wanted to honor Blessed Solanus by using the icon to create a special place for parishioners to remember him.

“As one of the parishes closest to St. Bonaventure Monastery, we have a friendship with the Capuchins.  Fr. Solanus was always very well-known here,” Fr. Pelc said.