There was always something different about Fr. Solanus Casey, says Fr. Ron Rieder, a fellow Capuchin Friar.
"He was very colorful, very holy, very kind, just a wonderful man," Rieder said. "We just looked up to him all the time."
Casey first served as doorkeeper for churches and friaries around New York City then in Detroit. Everywhere he went, Catholic News Service reported, there were stories of critically ill children recovering, desperately needed rent checks arriving, and sons in the war surviving seemingly impossible odds. On Nov. 18, Casey will be beatified before 66,000 people in the Detroit Lions' football stadium.
Rieder, now in retirement in Wisconsin, spent about a year with Casey at the St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit in the late 1950s, when Rieder was a novice. Casey had moved back to the monastery as a debilitating skin disease worsened. On July 31, 1957, about 18 months after moving back to Detroit, Casey died at age 86.
"He was supposed to be in complete retirement, but he was working many hours a day, praying with the people coming to meet him," Rieder said. "He had a love for people who were poor and suffered too much."
People seeking Casey were a constant in his ministry of monastery doorkeeper. In 1946, the Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin, moved Casey — by then 76 years old — from the Detroit monastery to the St. Felix Friary in Huntington, Indiana, to allow him rest and recovery from his skin disease. However, the diocesan newspaper in northeast Indiana, Today's Catholic, reported the stream of visitors seeking blessings and the healings Casey was known for continued unabated.