Hundreds of Chaldeans attended the Beatification of Father Solanus Casey
By Vanessa Denha Garmo
Parishioners from all of the Chaldean churches in Metro- Detroit along with members of the Eastern Catholic Re-Evangelization Center (ECRC) were among the thousands of people who attended the Beatification of Blessed Father Solanus Casey. Not only were Chaldeans in attendance but two participated in the historic event at Ford Field in Detroit.
Brother Faris Najor read in Aramaic during Prayers of the Faithful. “Blessed Solanus is one of the people who has influenced my life,” said Najor. “I used to visit and pray at his tomb for a number of years and l learned a lot from his life. Now, that I’m a Capuchin Franciscan friar, I try my best to learn from his life and apply some of its aspects in my own.”
The Capuchin Order is diverse in community members and ministries. Knowing that Chaldeans are in Detroit and there are many Chaldeans who come to the Solanus Center, it was decided to include Chaldean as one of the languages in the prayers of the faithful. “I was very excited when I was asked to read because I had this devotion to Blessed Solanus and now I get to read in Chaldean at his Beatification,” said Najor. “The experience was overwhelming and humbling especially to be among others who spoke different languages in the other prayers of the faithful representing one Catholic community of God in its various cultures.”
Since 2011, Jenelle Faranso has dedicated most Wednesdays to sing during healing service at the Father Solanus Casey Center. She was among those singing in the Beatification Choir. “I felt truly honored to be singing with the choir for his Beatification,” said Faranso. “To witness this man’s journey into sainthood was a blessing.”
In 2013, Faranso donated a CD entitled I Believe for the cause of him becoming a Saint. “I felt called by Father Solanus to sing for his prayer. Singing for his Beatification brought tears to my eyes and lifted my soul. I loved every moment of this beautiful event. It will forever be in my heart and ‘always thanking God ahead of time.’”
The event attracted people from around the globe including members of Father Solanus’ family who flew in from Ireland. Among the Chaldean attendees were several active members of ECRC. “I was truly amazed at how the various rites of the Catholic Church were represented in different ways, namely Brother Faris Najor’s role in the prayers of the faithful,” said Bridget Yaldou. “I sat in the 300s and still felt like I was part of the celebration. I found myself meeting the people in line and sharing faith stories with them.”
“Being a part of history, of Brother Solanus Casey’s beatification was a once in a lifetime experience that I will remember and share,” said Spencer (Samona) Haisha, 18. “The sheer number of people there and the spiritual energy and excitement of all created a memory that will resonate with me forever.”
“I felt humbled and blessed to be there with my sons and family,” said Nida Samona.
For Catholics and non-Catholics Detroit’s Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron explained what the significance of the Beatification. “It means that the Holy Father confirmed what we all feel that Father Solanus was a Holy Man, worthy of our veneration and worthy of imitation,” he said. “We can have confidence in asking him to Pray to God for us. One truly significant part lies in the universality of father’s message; everyone can relate to him and it reminds us of what Pope Francis talked about, which is our need to encounter one another honestly, person to person and that is what father did at the door of the friary; he met everyone honestly and with engagement. It is a call for all of us — whatever our diverse backgrounds are — we are to do what father did with one another. There is too much division in our community today. It is painful, and we can get over it by honestly engaging with one another.”
Brother Faris agrees. “Like many saints before him, Blessed Solanus’ life is an example of humility, caring, non-judgment, and love,” he said. “He had a deep love for God and always thanked him ahead of time. He acknowledged his God-given gifts and accepted his own limitations. Recognizing that, he listened to anyone who came to him. He helped many people without any prejudice. He is a reminder for us to: love God and thank Him ahead of time; accept ourselves for who we are as Solanus did; accept and help people no matter who they are, with the best of our abilities.”
Many Chaldeans have a devotion to Father Solanus and visit the healing services weekly downtown. “Many people from Detroit, including Chaldeans, built this devotion over the years,” said Brother Faris. “Many Chaldeans have devotions to Saint Rita, Padre Pio, and countless others.”
Brother Faris explained that the significance of this devotion to Blessed Solanus is simply regional. Since his tomb and shrine is at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Detroit, a person can simply visit his tomb and pray. “Many people write prayers on a piece of paper and set on his tomb,” he said. “Some others pray silently at his tomb. Some others attend the healing services. Some others just sit silently in church. Whatever way it fits a person, they can feel connection to Blessed Solanus and ask for an intercession.”
Archbishop Vigneron noted that this Beatification is a time of renewal. “I think all of us can be renewed in the same faith that motivated Father, to be an instrument to God in all the ways Father Solanus was, and we could be renewed in abandonment to God’s plans in our lives and do what he did,” said the Detroit Archbishop. “Pope Francis noted that we should encounter each other authentically and that we accompany one another on our way home to the Father.”
Not everyone who sought prayers from Father Salonus was healed but many found hope in him.
“This Beatification reminds me and encourages me to realize that saints are not only in Rome, France, Poland and Germany, but we have saints here,” said Archbishop Vigneron. “My ministry should be focused on helping people grow in Holiness. God can use my weaknesses and limitations to accomplish His purpose. People knew that Father Solanus was not a great student of theology, but it did not limit his effectiveness of his priestly ministry.”
Bishop Francis Kalabat was also in attendance and hopes to see the Canonization of not just Father Solanus but more saints. “The Chaldean Church is looking forward to its own Chaldean saints that we hope will occur in the near future,” he said making note of the names of Chaldeans submitted to the Vatican.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Vigneron wants us all to remember what Father Solanus used to say in his lifetime. “Thank God ahead of time for what he is doing and what he will do and bless His name, because He is marvelous in all His designs.”
“The experience was enlightening to say the least,” said Parker (Samona) Haisha, 16. “In a time where being religious is no longer considered “cool”, the turnout showed me just how strong the church still is and will continue to be.”