SC Connections to Father Solanus Casey: S. Mary Cecilia Eagen
By Carolyn Kesterman, Communications intern
S. Mary Cecilia Eagen’s father, Earl, credited Father Solanus Casey with his healing of a “hopeless case of cancer.”
November 18, 2017 is holding much anticipation and joy for the Sisters of Charity Community as it is the beatification date of Father Solanus Casey (1870-1957), the Capuchin friar who touched countless lives as the porter of Detroit, Michigan’s St. Bonaventure Monastery. While he was a simplex priest able to preside at Masses but not able to publically preach or give confessions, the kindness and wisdom he showed those who met him at the door of the monastery made him a sought-after man for help and guidance. Hundreds of reports came in during and after his lifetime of healings and favors attributed to him, among them accounts by Sisters of Charity who knew him growing up in Detroit or through serving with him. S. Mary Cecilia Eagen (1921-2010) was one such Sister.
When S. Mary Cecilia wrote to Father Solanus in 1947 requesting a Mass Association enrollment, the Father replied by reminiscing in great detail the first time he met her family. “It was Saturday morning, Jan. 10, 1925, that a neighbor-friend of theirs from Port Huron brought your dear parents to St. Bonaventure Monastery,” he wrote. Earlier, S. Mary Cecilia’s father, Earl, had told the eldest son that it was soon going to be his duty to take care of the family, for Earl was dying. “Your poor father was hardly able to talk,” wrote Father Solanus. “He tried, however, to tell briefly how he felt and that the doctors said he had ‘ulcers of the stomach.’ Later on I learned that they had sent him home as a hopeless case of cancer.”
Father Solanus told him to go home and have a good meal. “I took him to be 75 years old or upwards,” the Father wrote. “Your poor mother looked old, too. Sunday morning, eight days later, your father drove his own car down … From their appearance alone, I would hardly have known them; but the moment he spoke, I thought, ‘This is the poor fellow from Port Huron!’ He looked 30 years younger. He was only 39 at the time.”
S. Mary Cecilia Eagen met Father Solanus Casey in her childhood and remained grateful to Father for his assistance in healing her brother and father throughout her lifetime.
Father Solanus also recalls meeting S. Mary Cecilia for the first time when he visited the Eagen farm when she was 11. When she sent the previously mentioned letter asking for Mass Association enrollment as a Sister years later, she had not mentioned her baptismal name, Dorothy, but he remembered her well. Embarrassed because she did not have shoes, she had refused to come downstairs to meet him when he arrived, but, sensing that someone was missing, Father Solanus asked whether he had met all the children. Sister’s mother convinced her to come downstairs, and she was immediately put at ease by his kind demeanor. “And just incidentally,” he said in his letter, “it was on that occasion that I remember seeing little Dorothy as a possible candidate for a convent or a missionary.”S. Mary Cecilia joined the Community in 1946 and began a healing ministry that would lead her to become a revolutionary in the fields of nursing science and hospice care. Eight years after her letter correspondence with Father Solanus, her family was once again affected by him as her oldest brother, Martin, was cured of lip cancer after going to the priest. She provided a testimonial of both her family’s miracles for Father Solanus’ beatification cause, and followed news on its progress with great hope for the rest of her life. She also remained close to St. Bonaventure Monastery, serving at the soup kitchen started by Father Solanus and in later years spending Monday mornings serving meals or helping in the gift shop. When discussing her service at the monastery in a 2005 interview, she said, “That’s to say ‘thank you’ for what they had done for Daddy.”