Fr.Solanus Casey spoke in a soft and quiet voice to all who came to him for help. Many say his prayers cured illness. All say his serenity and counsel gave them peace. Fr. Solanus was born into a large Irish family and grew up in rural Wisconsin. He learned his simple trust in God’s goodness from his family. He believed that every prayer would be answered in God’s own way. So convinced was Fr. Solanus of God’s providential care that he encouraged everyone to “Thank God ahead of time.”
Fr. Solanus joined the Capuchins on Christmas Eve in 1896 after being inspired by the Blessed Mother. His early assignments took him to Yonkers, New York where he worked as the sacristan and doorkeeper at Sacred Heart Parish from 1904 to 1918 and then to Our Lady of Sorrows in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he served from 1918 to 1921. Later, he was sent to St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, Michigan where once again he served as porter from 1924 to 1945.
People flocked to him, trusting that he would help them find healing and peace. He listened to their troubles and showed them how God was at work in their lives. He brought everyone’s difficulties and sufferings to the Lord in prayer. While in Detroit at the start of the Great Depression, Fr. Solanus, along with Fr. Herman Buss and the Secular Franciscans, established the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in response to the many people who were coming to St. Bonaventure Monastery looking for a meal. The Capuchin friars still serve in this ministry today providing countless meals to those in need.
At age 76, Fr. Solanus began his retirement at the Capuchin novitiate in Huntington, Indiana. After ten years of increasing ill health, Fr. Solanus returned to Detroit to receive medical care. On July 31, 1957, after being near death for several days, Fr. Solanus sat up and uttered his final words, “I give my soul to Jesus Christ.”
Sixty years later, on November 18, 2017 a tremendous gathering took place across New York, Detroit, and in Rome as the Church proclaimed Fr. Solanus one of the blessed. Over 200 Capuchin friars were among the 60,000 faithful who participated in the beatification Mass at Ford Field in Detroit on that long awaited day. Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, celebrated the Mass with 35 bishops and 400 priests and deacons. Three hundred members of the Casey family were in attendances.
It was plain to all that the friar with the soft and quiet voice still proclaims a message for the world to hear.
(Excerpts taken from the Capuchin Journey and the Solanus Casey Center publications)
April of 2017 marks a special anniversary for a particular resident of Hoboken, New Jersey who lives just a stone’s throw from the front door of St. Ann’s Church. For the past twenty-five years Margaret Milizzo has faithfully reported for work at the provincial offices in Union City as the Secretary to the Provincial. She has been the gatekeeper of the office, being the first person you will meet or speak to when dealing with the provincial.
Margaret began her career as a professional secretary in 1977 while working for W.R. Grace & Co. in New York City. She came to the Capuchins in 1992 and stayed ever since, having served as secretary to no less than five provincials since her first day on the job. But to Margaret, it is much more than just a job. To her it is a service to the wider church and community. By making sure the administrative wheels of the province run smoothly, she contributes to the life and ministry of the friars and to the people they encounter. Whenever a question arises among the friars concerning issues related to insurance, social security, billing, payments, accounts, schedules, travel arrangements––along with a host of other queries, the common phrase is, “Ask Margaret, she’ll know.” And in fact, 99.99% of the time she does!
But it’s not only amid the file cabinets, copy machines, archives and phones of the provincial offices that you will find her. On Saturdays she works at the front desk in St. Ann’s parish office. And if that were not enough, there is the St. Ann’s Guild of which she has been an active member since 1994.
In 2001 Margaret became an Affiliate of the Capuchin Order. The province has indeed been blessed and is deeply grateful for the diligent and loving service she provides. Hats off to you Margaret! We wish you and your loved ones every grace and blessing.
“Chalie Mott”–– just the mention of his name sparks a smile on many a face. Born on May 12th, 1910 in Paterson, New Jersey to Francis and Giovanna and baptized John, this little child would grow up to be known and loved as Fr. Carlo. He was invested in 1927 and was among the first group of American friars to be ordained in Florence, Italy in 1934. After ordination Fr. Charles would serve as a missionary in Australia from 1947 to 1956 and then to the burning sands of Arabia for two more years.
As a friar his colorful life was filled with episodes that could have been found among the pages of the Fioretti. He was blessed with a wonderful sense of humor and a love for singing. His outgoing, friendly nature endeared him to one and all.
At provincial gatherings friars would always ask him to, “Sing us a song!” His responses to such requests always made the friars laugh. After a few minutes of being prodded, Fr. Charles
would stand up from the table raise his right hand signaling for silence, and then begin one of the two songs that comprised his repertoire––and we loved them both! The first began with, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning….” and the second was sung in Italian, “Viva Noah”. You could always be sure to hear those two classics from the likes of Fr. Charles.
Provincial Chapters are times when friars gather to reflect upon their lives and make decisions regarding the future wellbeing of the fraternity. Tension and stress can be a natural element to this event, especially when elections are in the fore. Fr. Charles promoted a slogan that was repeated at several Chapters. “Want the Order to go to pot, vote for Charlie Mott!” This was the kind of man he was, always quick to poke fun at himself and to remind us never to take life so serious that you lost sight of what’s really important.
Fr. Charles always enjoyed watching a boxing match on a little television set perched in the corner of is bedroom. He would chew and puff on one of those little, blackened, twisted cigars imported from Italy. It was quite a contrast, because next to the television on another shelf were several breviaries, Lives of the Saints, holy cards, wooden rosaries and numerous pious books in the Italian language. Yet, amidst all this mix of worlds and cultures you couldn’t possibly find a happier man.
In 1996 at the age of 86, the Lord called Fr. Charles home. Perhaps one of the greatest legacies he left us is the fact that in the final years of his life when he would lose his voice to cancer, he never lost his persona for goodness. While we could no longer hear the words to those classic songs, he would still ‘sing’ them by going through the motions, and we would enjoy them just the same. Yes, Charlie, you are right, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the mooooorning!”
And so the man in white approached the man in brown. The doctor asked the friar if he could become a Franciscan. “Yes indeed” was the warm and welcoming reply offered by the friar with a gentle smile. He continued with, “Perhaps you might like to learn about the Secular Franciscans?” This was all that was spoken, and all that was necessary. Little did the friar know that for some time now, he was being observed, that his way of dress and way of life was making inroads to a heart longing to know more, longing to love more.
“Come and see” was all the Master had to say to John and his brother James in reply to their “Where do you stay?” Two or three words were enough to start them on a journey that would last a lifetime––and culminate in eternity. But was that really such a different time and a different era? Surely, in today’s complex world and modern times the same heart-yearning questions are being asked of the Lord by those who sense the gentle invitation to follow the Master.
As with all things, good or bad, one thing led to another and soon the doctor was on his way to first profession as a Secular Franciscan. This only served to further ignite his heart burning with the desire to serve the Lord especially in the poor and marginalized. For reasons known only to the Holy Spirit and to the doctor himself, he chose to abandon his lucrative and highly prestigious practice in a large city hospital on the east coast of North America, and venture forth to an impoverished town on the west coast of South America. Unable to speak Spanish, and armed with only a stethoscope and a scale, he nonetheless was well endowed with good will, faith and courage––all the antibiotics and equipment one needs in order to accomplish the will of God. Years have passed and the number of children that have benefitted from his skill and love had gone beyond counting. Beginning with house calls, then the establishment of a medical clinic, and then an orphanage, this mustard seed took root and grew into a large shrub where the birds of the air nested in its protective branches.
From such small beginnings, may great destinies depend.
And to the unassuming friar who first spoke those inviting words to the doctor, it was just another ordinary day in the hospital. Nurses bustled about, interns with their scribbled charts and colored pens walked briskly from room to room, and the soft spoken chaplain made his daily rounds imparting calm to the nervous, comfort to the pained, and peace to the troubled––all the while quite unaware of the torrents of grace that washed ashore in his gentle wake.
* This true story was recounted by the friar himself, who asked that his name be withheld.
The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries,” but rather that we are always “missionary disciples.” If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (Jn 1:41). The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans came to believe in him “Because of the woman’s testimony”(Jn 4:39). So too, Saint Paul, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, “immediately proclaimed Jesus” (Acts 9:20; cf. 22:6-21).
So what are we waiting for?
Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, no. 120.