February 29, 2008
Solanus Casey: the story of Father Solanus, revised
By Br. Benet S. Exton *

By Br. Benet S. Exton *

Book written by Catherine M. Odell

This is a revised edition of Catherine M. Odell’s 1995 biography on Fr. Solanus Casey.  Fr. Solanus Casey was a Capuchin Franciscan who is being considered for sainthood.  He has been at the level of “venerable” since July 11, 1995 when Pope John Paul II acknowledged his heroic virtues.  Now, he needs a miracle for beatification and an additional one for canonization.  If canonized he may become the first native-born American male saint.

Fr. Solanus was born on November 25, 1870 near Oak Grove, Wisconsin to Bernard and Ellen Casey who were originally from Ireland.  He was their sixth child of sixteen.  He was given the name Bernard in honor of his father and was known as Barney.  Because his family farmed they did not have much money and Barney did not have much time for education.

Later he had jobs as a logger, hospital orderly, prison guard and a street car operator.  He was able to take care of his needs and send some money to the family.  During this time Barney discerned that he was being possibly called to the priesthood.  At the age of 21 he began attending a high school seminary.  This was a very difficult time for him because the classes were taught in Latin and German.  When he was finished, he decided to join the Capuchins who were headquartered at St. Bonaventure’s in Detroit, Michigan.

In January 1897 Barney joined the Capuchins and received the name Francis Solanus.  Because he struggled with his studies, the superiors decided that he would be ordained in 1904 as a simplex priest; meaning he did not have faculties (permission) to hear confessions or to preach sermons. 

Solanus was happy to be ordained a priest.  He was sent to Sacred Heart Friary in Yonkers, New York and was given the duties of porter.  In this job Fr. Solanus greeted people who visited the friary and visited people in the area.  People began to flock to him for counseling and help – so much so that his time was spent for long periods of the day with people needing help.  The superiors decided to send Fr. Solanus to another friary in Harlem to be the porter there.  Again many people sought his help and advice.  Miracles were being attributed to Fr. Solanus’ prayers and he was asked to keep a record of these by his superiors.  He kept an accurate record of these and it shows that many were helped in one way or another by his prayers or in other ways.

Fr. Solanus was transferred to Detroit and again people sought his help and aid.  Again many people flocked to him and he barely had time to take care of life needs and to pray.  He was sent to an isolated friary in Huntington, Indiana  for a place for him to pray and get away from being overwhelmed by people seeking his help.  People eventually found out that he was in Indiana and began to visit him by the bus loads. 

At one point, Fr. Solanus had to go to Detroit for a medical problem with his skin.  The Capuchins kept his presence in Detroit a secret, but eventually people found him there too.

Fr. Solanus’ skin problems got worse and he was in a great deal of pain.  He died on July 31, 1957 at the age of 86.  His funeral was attended by hundreds of people.  His friends organized a group, The Solanus Casey Guild, with the approval of the Capuchins and began to work on the canonization of Fr. Solanus.

This book is highly recommended to those interested in Fr. Solanus or who want to know more about him.

Catherine M. Odell is the author of several books:  Your One-Stop Guide to Patron Saints (2001), Faustina:  Apostle of Divine Mercy (1998), Those Who Saw Her (1995), and she also co-author a few other books.

Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., St. Gregory's University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.
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