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Feature Articles

SC Connections to Father Solanus Casey: Living Sisters’ memories
By Carolyn Kesterman, Communications intern


(From left) Sisters Rita Cocquyt, Theresa Ann Moran and Michael Clare Mauntel all have stories to tell of Father Solanus Casey during their years of service in the Detroit, Michigan, area.

For the last two weeks, in anticipation of the beatification of Father Solanus Casey (1870-1957) on Nov. 18, we have looked at Sisters’ experiences of the Capuchin friar who touched countless lives as the wise porter of Detroit, Michigan’s St. Bonaventure Monastery. Several of our living Sisters who grew up or served in the Detroit area also have fond memories of the priest and the positive affects he had on the city.

S. Rita Cocquyt has strong personal ties to Father Solanus, as her mother and grandmother sought him as a confessor and felt a closeness with him. Her mother always said that he had healed all her wounds and “made all things better,” helping her in her faith journey. When S. Rita’s grandmother could not make it to Mass easily anymore, Father Solanus put her mind at ease by telling her not to worry and to use her prayer book at home instead. Father’s name was used with great admiration in S. Rita’s home.

Other Sisters have memories from their service in the Detroit area near the time of his death. S. Michael Clare Mauntel was serving at the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, when Father Solanus died, and she went to the monastery when he was put in his final resting place. When she served at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Beverly Hills, Michigan, between 1975 and 2011, she would often accompany the other Sisters to the monastery to visit his remains.

S. Theresa Ann Moran was serving at Guardian Angels School in Detroit when the priest died, and she recalls vividly how a month later, her seventh-grade class filed into the room at the start of the school year, “all talking very excitedly about him,” and telling stories they had heard. “Everyone knew him in Detroit,” she says. Another student that S. Theresa Ann recalls never had any problems to go to Father Solanus with as a child, but in order to speak with him, she would ask him for a rosary, which he would gladly give to her.

The people who knew Father Solanus personally are becoming fewer, but their stories live on in the city. S. Noreen Ellison says that during her many years at the Shrine of the Little Flower, the parishioners would tell of how Father Solanus could be seen sitting in the sanctuary during Father Charles Coughlin’s sermons. They often recalled how he always had to leave early to catch his streetcar back to the monastery.

The many Sisters of Charity who lived and served in the Detroit area, as well as those who heard of his actions from afar, are overjoyed to celebrate Father Solanus’ beatification this week and remember all that he did.