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January 16, 2013

Wine event for Solanus Casey Center moves to Troy venue

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

Some come to the Solanus Casey Center, in the heart of Detroit, for solace. Some come to pray at the tomb of Father Solanus Casey, a Roman Catholic Capuchin Franciscan priest. Some come for the sense of peace they feel upon entering the Capuchin monastery.

Father Solanus Casey was born Bernard Francis Casey in 1870 on a farm in Wisconsin. According to the Father Solanus Guild, he was the sixth child born to Irish immigrant parents. He left his family farm and worked in Wisconsin and Minnesota in logging, and as a hospital orderly, a streetcar operator and a prison guard before he entered the seminary in Milwaukee at age 21 to study for the priesthood. He ranked in the lower part of his class, and superiors recommended that his duties be restricted. He could say Mass, but could not preach at length from the pulpit, and he was only allowed to hear confessions in cases of emergency.

He worked in Harlem and Yonkers, New York, and was assigned to St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, where he worked as doorkeeper for 20 years.

“He was porter at the door,” said Father Larry Webber, Solanus Center director. “He fed those who were hungry, and asked his superiors to keep a kettle of soup and bread available at all times, which led to the Capuchins establishing the soup kitchens,” Webber said. He also listened to all who came, day or night, Webber added.

“People saw his incredible holiness,” Weber said. “When he prayed, people believed God heard.” Father Solanus promoted a prayer group and offered his help to those in distress by writing down prayer requests. Many petitioners believed they received special favor and help from God as a result of Father Solanus’ efforts.

Father Solanus died at the age of 86 in 1957, and offered his suffering for his final illness to God for conversion of the whole world, according to the guild. After his death many visited his grave in the Friar’s Cemetery, and a movement began to present Father Solanus as a candidate for Catholic sainthood. While he is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church on the path to recognition as a Catholic saint, Webber said that every year tens of thousands of people of all faiths come to the center, which was built in 2002.

“He is the first U.S. born man to be declared ‘venerable’ by the Roman Catholic Church,” Webber said.

“The center is designed as a pilgrimage of holiness and as a place of refuge, peace, healing and a place of quiet and silence,” Webber said. He explained that a number of imams and many others who are not Catholic have visited the center. “The center nourishes a sense of peace and healing in the midst of the city,” Webber said.

The center is located at 1780 Mount Elliott in Detroit, three blocks north of Jefferson, between St. Paul and Kercheval.

The Capuchin ministry will host the ninth annual Wine, Dinner and Auction event to raise funds for the center at the MET Hotel Detroit in Troy Feb. 9 to “continue to have this sacred place open,” Webber said.

“We’ve moved the focus from just wine tasting this year,” said Colleen Crane, public relations director for the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph, which serves Capuchin ministries worldwide. The event has sold out each year.

“That’s why we moved it to the MET, to accommodate more people,” Crane said.

The event will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 9 at the MET Hotel Detroit, Troy, 5500 Crooks Road, and will feature a cocktail hour with appetizers, a sit-down dinner, wines from around the world, musical entertainment, and silent and live auctions. Raffle tickets are available for a cost of $10. The grand prize is $2,500, and the winner need not be present. The cost to attend the event is $75 per person, and tickets must be purchased in advance. Call (313) 579-2100, ext. 153, or purchase tickets online at www.solanuscenter.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.