MILWAUKEE -- A Capuchin friar born in Wisconsin in 1870 was beatified Thursday by Pope Francis, the third of four steps to becoming a saint.
Father Solanus Casey co-founded the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit in 1929, which continues to provide food, clothing and human development programs, including as many as 2,000 meals each day.
He was born Bernard Francis Casey in the small community of Oak Grove near Beaver Dam in 1870 and entered the St. Francis High School Seminary in Milwaukee when he was 21 to study for the diocesan priesthood. He was the sixth of 16 children born to parents who immigrated to Wisconsin from Ireland following the potato famine years. Casey lived at St. Francis Assisi Monastery in Milwaukee, where he was ordained into the priesthood in 1904.
On Thursday Pope Francis announced that Casey had passed the rigorous test needed to attain sainthood by being elevated from Venerable to Blessed by the Catholic Church. Casey was declared Venerable in 1995 by Pope John Paul II.
Casey died in 1957 on the same day and hour of his First Holy Mass 53 years earlier.
Casey joined the Capuchin Order at Detroit in 1897 and received the religious name of Solanus. He served in three parishes in New York for 20 years and then in Detroit for the rest of his life. He served at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit where he was a beloved Capuchin Friar credited with miraculous cures as well as his compassionate counsel.
There are four stages in the current process for sainthood each involving a rigorous examination of the person's life and impact on the Catholic Church. Canonization starts not less than five years after death though the pope can waive the waiting period. People are declared Servant of God, Venerable Servant of God, Blessed and finally Saint.
On Thursday when Pope Francis declared that Casey was Blessed it meant proof of one miracle as a result of actions by Casey. The majority of approved miracles are healings for which there's no known medical explanation. A feast day will be designated for Casey as part of the beatification process; details have not been finalized for Casey's feast day.
For Casey to be declared a saint, one additional miracle taking place after the date of beatification is required though the pope or other church officials can waive the additional miracle requirement if Casey is determined to have lived a life of great merit. People handling Casey's cause for canonization, called postulators, continue to gather documentation of healings attributed to Casey, which will be studied in Rome.
The Capuchin Soup Kitchen Casey co-founded includes an urban farm that harvests produce from a 2 1/2-acre organic farm, a bakery that helps ex-prisoners and drug addicts re-enter society, a 12-bed residential drug treatment facility, emergency food pantry and tutoring program for children.