The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 23, 2001 Issue
Local News

Play in Hudson to bring Solanus Casey to life

Play in St. Patrick Church will feature efforts of people from Fr. Solanus' parish

By Joe Winter
Superior Catholic Herald correspondent

HUDSON - By all accounts, a candidate for sainthood who grew up in Wisconsin never wanted to be the star of the show.

However, Capuchin Fr. Solanus Casey - who will become the only American-born male saint if the Vatican concurs that miraculous healings attributed to him did indeed occur - now has a play written about his life by a Hudson woman with college degrees in drama and theology.

In recognition of his heroic virtue, Casey was declared "venerable'' in 1995. Beatification would be next, bringing the title "blessed." Before this can occur, a miraculous healing that cannot be attributed to medical intervention must be authenticated. A final step, canonization, would require a second authenticated miracle.

Writer Molly Delaney Druffner also is directing the multi-media drama that requires 20 actors and will be staged March 24 and 25 in St. Patrick Church, Hudson.

The play gives the audience a sense of the history in the Hudson and Prescott, Wis., and Stillwater, Minn., areas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Druffner said.

Actors from St. Patrick's and other area churches will bring to life the story of "Fr. Solanus" through historical retellings, monologue, comedy, slides, dance and music.

The play, Solanus, gives an inspiring message, Druffner said. "You'll laugh, you'll cry and you'll be filled with hope."

Casey was born in Prescott in 1870, grew up near Hudson and Burkhardt and later moved to the Baldwin area. As a young man, he worked on the St. Croix River near Stillwater in the logging trade, drove a trolley car in Superior, and worked at the Stillwater Prison guarding, among others, the Jesse James gang.

After becoming a Capuchin priest, he celebrated his first Mass at Appleton, then moved to Detroit, and onto New York City. He was widely recognized for his services to the poor at soup kitchens, Druffner said.

"His miracles were done in a simple way. He blessed people and prayed for them," she said, adding that he never sought the spotlight. "I think this has become a special tribute."

He lived right in the parish

"This play is important because he lived right here and he had First Communion in our (St. Patrick's) parish," said Barb Ruemmele, who along with biographies were main sources for Druffner's research. "He helped people with all different kinds of problems. He did it by praying; he never wanted to draw attention to himself."

Ruemmele directs the local chapter of the Fr. Solanus Guild. "She asked me to put together a skit on his life. That was about a year ago," Druffner said. "But when I did the research, I found that his life was far too fantastic to just do a skit. It needed to be a full-fledged play."

Casey's life is perfect for the stage because of his many experiences, she said. "I think the way that he worked with the poor and the needy really has had an affect on me, personally. He was not famous or someone who held a high position in the church," Druffner said.

Casey spent much time as a porter, writing from his desk and giving counsel to people who came by. In the play, Casey is shown reading from his journals at the right side of the stage, while on the left side, flashbacks are enacted by the other actors.

In one scene, Casey is riding a streetcar and sees a woman murdered by her lover. He decides to become a priest to help prevent such injustice. Casey retells the experience while it is portrayed on the other side of the stage.

The play's introduction is an Irish celebration of the family coming over from the old country, carrying their furniture along and setting up the stage props themselves while decorating their new home.

In another scene, the soup kitchen runs out of bread, and after Casey prays a truck comes by and delivers all the loaves that are needed. Twenty elderly men planted in the audience stand to shout out the need for bread at which point the play becomes interactive, Druffner said.

Dcn. Peter Braam, who some local parishioners say resembles Casey, had to be persuaded to portray him. Dcn. Braam at first declined because he is going through chemotherapy for cancer.

Deacon will play Fr. Solanus

Initial auditions didn't yield anyone to play an older Solanus, but flashes of insight to recommend Dcn. Braam came separately to Dcn. Bernie Drevnick, also of St. Patrick's, who plays a villain who tries to discredit Casey.

"I'm tired but this could be good for me," Dcn. Braam told Druffner. He thought the role could play a double benefit since Casey has long been associated with healing.

"I think (his medical situation) keeps him in touch with who Solanus is," Ruemmele said. "He was a man of humility and the play shows that. The acting by Braam shows that."

Three other actors portray Casey as he grows older: a baby, Druffner's 7-year-old son Jacob, and Clayton Emmer, a third order Franciscan from St. Paul.

Four Capuchin priests from the St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, a place where Casey formerly served and the headquarters of his canonization campaign, plan to come see the play. They are the ones who donated the play's slides to Druffner.

St. Patrick Church, along with the Solanus Casey House of Hospitality in Stillwater, a new home for single mothers in crisis, is sponsoring the play.

The play will be held at the church on Saturday, March 24 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 25 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance, $6 at the door and $20 for the entire family. Complimentary child care is offered during the play.

For ticket reservations and information, call 715-386-3486.

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