Irish-American priest to be beatified in Detroit

Fr Solanus Casey known for his attention to the sick and abilities as a spiritual counsellor

Bernard Francis ‘Barney’ Casey was born in the US on November 25th 1870 to Irish immigrant parents

Irish-American Capuchin priest Fr Solanus Casey is to be beatified in Detriot on Saturday.

Bernard Francis "Barney" Casey was born on November 25th 1870 at a farm in Oak Grove, Wisconsin.

He was the sixth child in a family of 10 boys and six girls born to Irish immigrant parents Bernard James Casey from Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, and Ellen Murphy was from Camlough, Co Armagh.

After working as a logger, hospital orderly, street car operator, and prison guard, he joined the Capuchins in Detroit on Christmas Eve, 1896. The immediate reason was his witnessing the brutal stabbing to death of a woman by a drunk person. He was given the name Francis Solanus after St Francis Solano, a Spanish missionary who served in Peru.


Because of his lack of formal education, Fr Casey struggled in the seminary being eventually ordained in 1904 a “sacerdos simplex”; a priest who could say Mass, but not publicly preach or hear confessions.

He served for 20 years in New York, first at Sacred Heart Friary in Yonkers, then at St John's Church, next to Penn Station in the city, and later at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem. While in New York, he became known for his great faith, attention to the sick, and abilities as a spiritual counsellor. Many physical healings were attributed to his blessings and intercession.

These continued when, in 1924, he was transferred back to Detroit where he worked as a convent porter until 1945. Due to failing health he was transferred to the Capuchin novitiate of St Felix in Huntington, Indiana, where he lived until his death in July 1957.

His beatification follows the miracle cure of a Panamanian woman whose skin disease disappeared after she prayed at Fr Casey’s tomb in Detroit. The beatification Mass will be said on Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit, which can accommodate up to 60,000 people.

Primate of Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin has offered his “prayerful congratulations” to the Detroit Archdiocese. “I want to express the joy of the Church in Ireland at the beatification,” he said.

As the church “marks the first World Day of the Poor tomorrow, it is entirely fitting that the Church commemorates a friar who was outstanding in the care of all of God’s people, especially those in particular need.”

“ May I convey my good wishes to all who are gathered for the Beatification Mass, and please be assured of a special remembrance in prayer for the Archdiocese of Detroit,” he said.

Fr Casey will be just the third person born in the US to be beatified. The others were Sr Miriam Teresa Demjanovich of the Sisters of Charity, who died at Bayonne, New Jersey in 1927 and Fr Stanley Rother, a missionary from Oklahoma who was murdered in 1982 in Guatemala.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times