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,
"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
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.