Clergymen process during the beatification Mass of Blessed Solanus Casey Nov. 18 at Ford Field in Detroit. At least 60,000 attended the beatification of the Capuchin Franciscan friar. CNS photo/Jeff Kowalsky, courtesy Michigan Catholic

Toronto group among the 60,000 to witness beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey

  • November 23, 2017
It was like Heaven on Earth.

In fact, Teodora La Madrid said she was still walking on Cloud Nine days after she returned from the beatification Mass of Fr. Solanus Casey on Nov. 18.

A group of 45 lay Franciscans from the Archdiocese of Toronto and five Capuchin Franciscan Friars travelled to Detroit to celebrate, among thousands of others, as a brother Franciscan took the next step to sainthood.

“There was so much love in the air that day,” said La Madrid, a lay Franciscan who organized the day pilgrimage to Detroit. “I cannot even put into words. I felt tremendous love.”

It had rained all day but spirits could not possibly be dampened on a historic day for the Franciscans, said La Madrid.

Ford Field was packed with about 60,000 people for the beatification Mass, which according the the Archdiocese of Detroit, was the largest Catholic service in Michigan since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1987.

“It was just awesome. It was a kind of Heaven,” said Capuchin Fr. Joseph Lourdusamy, pastor at St. Philip Neri parish. “But you felt quite at home. You didn’t feel as though you were with strangers, but rather part of a bigger family of Franciscans.”

The Mass was presided by Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Paula Medina Zarate, a retired teacher from Panama, was a special guest at the event. In 2012, she travelled to Detroit to kneel in front of the friar’s tomb and was miraculously healed of a genetic skin condition.

Pope Francis officially approved her miracle last May, which triggered Casey’s beatification. One more miracle must be approved before Casey can be recognized as a saint.

“It’s an inspiration. It’s a reminder for tens of thousands of Capuchins all over the world whether we could all adhere to his ideals of being simple and humble,” said Lourdusamy.

Casey was a soft-spoken Capuchin priest who served as a porter or “doorkeeper” at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit from 1924 to 1945.

He joined the Capuchin Order of Friars at the age of 26 in 1896. After struggling with his academic studies, he was ordained a “simplex” priest in 1904, which meant that he could say Mass but did not hear confessions or preach homilies.

Casey embraced his humble duty and many people flocked to the doors of the monastery to seek his counsel.

“He is the first person they see when they come and ring the bell,” said Lourdusamy. “Though he was not able to hear confession, he became a great counsellor to the people.”

In his humility, Casey focused his service on the poor. At the start of the Great Depression, many people in Detroit came knocking on the monastery’s door looking for a meal. So in 1929, Casey, along with Fr. Herman Buss and a group of Secular Franciscans, established the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.

Casey retired at the age of 76 in Huntington, Ind. After 10 years of increasingly ill health, he returned to Detroit for medical care. He died on July 31, 1957 and uttered his final words, “I give my soul to Jesus Christ.”

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