Play portrays the ‘miracles’ in Father Casey’s life

| April 14, 2011 | 0 Comments
Venerable Father Solanus Casey

Capuchin Father Solanus Casey is pictured in an undated file photo. Photo provided by CNS

A theater group from St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater is set to perform a play about a priest with Stillwater connections who is on the path to sainthood.

The cast of 20 will perform “Solanus,” about Venerable Father Solanus Casey, at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30, at St. Mary.

The Capuchin priest was born on Nov. 25, 1870, the sixth of 16 children, on a farm in Wisconsin.

As a teenager, Father Casey left the family farm to live with his uncle, Father Maurice Murphy, at St. Michael’s rectory in Stillwater while he worked as a logger, a street car operator and a guard at Stillwater Prison before entering the seminary.

After joining the Capuchin order, Father Casey moved to New York, where he served the poor at soup kitchens. When he transferred to St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, people would visit him daily to ask for his prayers.

Many miracles have been attributed to Father Casey and presented to the Vatican on behalf of his sainthood cause.
Father Casey died on July 31, 1957, at the age of 86. On July 11, 1995, Pope John Paul II declared him “venerable,” the first step toward becoming a saint.

A ‘fascinating’ life

St. Michael parishioner Molly Delaney Druffner, director, said she wrote “Solanus” in 2000 for a church production in Hudson, Wis. What started as a short skit turned into a full-length play, she said, because “I got so fascinated by his life.”

Delaney Druffner described the play as a “docudrama.” “It’s scenes, kind of vignettes, from his life that are all strung together by the theme of him being present to people, being a good listener, being a counselor, and bringing the joy of Christ to people.”

She said one of her favorite scenes in the play recalls Jesus’ multiplication of loaves and fishes miracle.

During the Great Depression, hundreds of people would line up every day outside of the soup kitchen where Father Casey worked. One day, a brother told Father Casey it was impossible to feed everyone because there wasn’t enough bread. Soon after Father Casey said a prayer, a bakery truck pulled up to the door, and the whole crowd was fed, Delaney Druffner said. “There are hundreds and hundreds of stories like this about him.”

Delaney Druffner said she read six books and watched two documentaries about Father Casey before she wrote her play. She also met his niece and spoke with several people who knew him.

Dr. Don Wessel, a St. Michael parishioner who plays Father Casey, said one of the reasons he took on the role was to learn more about the priest’s life.

“Even if there were problems mounting up, he didn’t worry about any of that, but he was very much present for whoever came to see him,” Wessel said. “He inspires me to try to be a better listener.”

If you go

  • What: “Solanus”
  • When: April 29-30
  • Where: St. Mary, 423 S. Fifth St. in Stillwater
  • Cost: $10 for adults, $6 for children in advance; $12 for adults, $8 for children at the door. All proceeds go to the St. Michael’s Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality and Mission Doctors Association.
  • Tickets: Go to http://www.StMaryStillwater.org or call (651) 439-4400.

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Category: Arts and Culture