If canonized, Father Solanus Casey, a Detroit priest, would be a rarity among saints

Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Religious News

Three years after birth, he moved with his family to a larger farm in Wisconsin.

When he was 8, he contracted diphtheria, which killed two of his siblings. The disease left him with a speech disorder. At 12, he felt called to be a priest. At a Christmas Eve midnight Mass, he wondered whether he could become one.

He spent several years doing different jobs. He was a logger, street car operator, prison guard and hospital orderly. Then, at 21, he entered St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. He was unsure whether to become a Jesuit, Franciscan or Capuchin.

But, Casey said, the Blessed Mother told him: "Go to Detroit," where the Capuchins are based.

Life in Detroit as a priest

Casey was named after St. Francis Solanus, who lived in the 17th century and who, like Casey, loved to play the violin.

Casey was not a stellar student and as a result, not allowed to preach sermons. But he drew crowds asking for his blessings.


In Detroit, he helped start the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which still exists. Unemployed workers came to the center begging for food and Casey would give them large sandwiches and cups of coffee.

He died in 1957 at St. John Hospital in Detroit.

His veneration and dedication

Pope John Paul II declared Casey venerable in 1995. In 2017, Pope Francis announced he would be beatified, saying there was proof of a miracle caused by Casey's intercession.

A favorite expression of Casey's that is often quoted: "Give thanks ahead of time." He meant, trust God and give thanks to Him no matter what because God never abandons you.

Casey's memory continues through the soup kitchen and his dedication to the poor.

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