Cemetery opens new Blessed Solanus section, endowment to ease burden on poor families

A woman takes a photograph of a newly dedicated life-size statue of Blessed Solanus Casey at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield on a rainy day Friday, Sept. 13. Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services dedicated the new Blessed Solanus Casey section of the cemetery, along with an endowment fund to help low-income families overcome the costs of burying a loved one. (Photos by Naomi Vrazo | Detroit Catholic)

Bishop Hanchon dedicates life-size statue of Detroit's saint at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery; fund to help families afford burial costs

SOUTHFIELD — Last Friday’s rain couldn’t dampen the excitement at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery as a new area of the cemetery was opened: the Blessed Solanus Casey section. 

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon led the dedication of the new section, including a new statue of Blessed Solanus, and the celebration of a new endowment fund to help grieving families who can't afford burial services for loved ones. 

Several Capuchin friars attended the dedication, which included a performance by the Capuchin Soup Kitchen Choir

The Capuchin Soup Kitchen Choir performs during a dedication ceremony Sept. 13 inside the chapel at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield. 

The idea for the section in honor of Blessed Solanus Casey came to the staff of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services, the nonprofit that manages five Catholic cemeteries for the Archdiocese of Detroit, in 2017, when the organization helped sponsor the friar's beatification at Ford Field.

“We felt there was such a significance with his connection to Detroit,” said Deanna Cortese, outreach director for Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services. “Given the love he had for people, it just seemed like a natural fit.”

Set on a hill in the northwest section of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, the Blessed Solanus Casey section features a garden and outdoor reflection area. A life-size statue of Blessed Solanus greets visitors, just as he did as the doorkeeper at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. The bronze-coated statue was rendered in Italy from an image of Blessed Solanus.

Another Blessed Solanus Casey section will open this week at Our Lady of Hope Cemetery in Brownstown, Cortese said, where a second statue was installed. A Mass and dedication will be held Friday, Sept. 20, at 9 a.m. 

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon chats with attendees during the dedication of the new Blessed Solanus Casey section at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield. 

In addition to the new cemetery sections, Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services announced the creation of the Blessed Solanus Endowment Fund. The fund, created in cooperation with the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, will help support three critical mission programs offered by the cemeteries:

  • The Mother Teresa Program, which provides funeral and cemetery services to those whose families cannot afford the cost; 
  • The All Souls Remembrance Program, which offers free committal of cremated remains; and 
  • The Holy Innocents Program, which lays to rest babies lost to miscarriage and infants at no cost to grieving families.

“We’ve always been proactive in helping people, but this endowment fund will go a long way in allowing us to do more and will help with maintenance of the grounds and the roads as well,” Bob Hojnacki, director of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services in Detroit, told Detroit Catholic.  

Following the Sept. 13 dedication, guests enjoyed a reception and wine tasting to celebrate the newly dedicated space in the cemetery.

Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap., director of the Solanus Casey Center, attended the event.

Capuchin friars were among the well-wishers who attended the dedication and announcement of the new Blessed Solanus Casey section and endowment fund. 

“In his lifetime, Fr. Solanus comforted many people. We are so happy to see his work continued,” Fr. Preuss said. “As Capuchins, we’re working to take care of people’s immediate needs, but we also want to take care of their eternal needs. If we went off to another country, it would be nice to have someone there to greet us when we arrive. In the same way, Fr. Solanus will be there to greet us on the other side.”

Fr. Preuss knows how Blessed Solanus would react to the dedication ceremony and festivities that followed.

“If he were here, he would be red-faced,” Fr. Preuss said. “He would be embarrassed by all the attention but then remind us that God is good to us, and our role is just to be grateful for the gifts he gives.”

Anyone, of any faith, may be buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery or any cemetery managed by Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services. To inquire about the Blessed Solanus Casey section for a loved one or to pre-plan services, contact a Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services family service adviser at (313) 879-3731.