Solanus Casey miracle recipient shares testimony with St. Ambrose parishioners

Paula Medina Zarate sits next to Fr. Jozef Timmers, OFM Cap., while speaking to parishioners at St. Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park on July 24. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

Woman describes aftermath of miracle healing, being welcomed in Detroit

GROSSE POINTE PARK — Parishioners and attendees at St. Ambrose Parish had the chance to appreciate spending the evening with a recipient of God’s graces on earth.

Paula Medina Zarate, recipient of the only Vatican-confirmed healing at the intercession of Blessed Solanus Casey, was at St. Ambrose Parish on the border of Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park on July 24 to participate in a Mass and healing service and share her testimony.

Following Mass, the congregation gathered at the St. Ambrose ARK social center, where Medina Zarate recalled the fateful September 2012 day when she knelt at the tomb of Fr. Solanus Casey and felt a great rush of heat running throughout her body, leading to an instantaneous cure from ichthyosis vulgaris, a disease she was born with that caused her skin to turn into scales and bleed.

“Walking through the center, we came to the tomb in the back and I asked what people were doing around that table,” Medina Zarate said through Fr. Jozef Timmers, OFM Cap., her former pastor in Medina Zarate’s hometown of Chepo, Panama, who served as translator for the evening.

“I was told it was the tomb of Fr. Solanus,” Medina Zarate said. “I asked who Fr. Solanus was, and I was told he was a Capuchin priest who died a long time ago, and that people now come to pray for his intercession. So I stopped to pray at the tomb, praying for all the people at my parish back home.”

Bro. Richard Merling, OFM Cap., holds up a relic of Blessed Solanus Casey for Paula Medina Zarate to venerate. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)
Medina Zarate was getting up when she heard a voice asking calling out, “And you.” Staring at the crucifix overlooking Fr. Solanus’ tomb, Medina Zarate realized she didn’t say a prayer for herself. Feeling ashamed at first, she prayed for Fr. Solanus’ intercession.

It was a prayer that changed her life, and the life the Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“I will never forget the city of Detroit,” said Medina Zarate, in town for the first celebration of Blessed Solanus' feast day July 30. “The first day I came to Detroit, I experienced this great heat. But then I become grateful for the heat; the Lord’s healing touch. That heat is why I won’t forget Detroit.”

Fr. Timothy Pelc, pastor of St. Ambrose, said how Medina Zarate became involved with St. Ambrose is another story in itself.

When, during the buildup to the beatification Mass at Ford Field in November 2017, Medina Zarate’s translators got lost in the shuffle, the Capuchins turned to St. Ambrose Parish for assistance, knowing of the parish's small but vibrant Panamanian population.

“The Capuchins who help us out on the weekend knew we had people in the parish from Panama, so we contacted them and immediately there was this friendship between our parish and Paula,” Fr. Pelc said. “Since that time, we’ve had people offering Paula to stay at their house. We were going to have her visit us in April, but instead we had a Skype conversation where she talked to our students about saints. She held the attention of our fifth- and sixth-graders for 10 minutes, which is amazing.”

During Mass, parishioners and visitors were given the chance to venerate a relic of Blessed Solanus and receive the sacrament of anointing of the sick.

St. Ambrose pastor Fr. Tim Pelc anoints a person with holy oil during a healing service. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

Fr. Dan Crosby, OFM Cap., who was a novice at St. Bonaventure Monastery during Fr. Solanus' ministry, delivered the homily, saying he'll never forget the biggest piece of wisdom the blessed friar gave him.

“More than any other word, any other wisdom, the word that sticks out for me is, 'appreciate,'” Fr. Crosby said. “He wouldn’t say it like a regular word, like we say, ‘Oh, I appreciated that birthday card.’ He would linger over it, as if he were tasting it. For example, he’d frequently say, ‘If only we’d appreciate our faith,’ or ‘If only we’d appreciate what it means to be a Capuchin.’”

Fr. Crosby said Blessed Solanus’ call to appreciate the people and the world around them is powerful enough to change the course of history.

“If we appreciate our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, as Jesus calls us to do in the Gospel, what kind of world would we have?” Fr. Crosby said. “That each person is our brother, our sister, doesn’t that make a difference in the way we relate to one another, in the way we love one another? What would happen if we truly appreciated one another?”

Fr. Crosby said Blessed Solanus Casey’s call is timeless wisdom in today's Church.

“These words aren’t pious, pretty thoughts; they are powerful and life-changing,” Fr. Crosby said. “If only we’d appreciate each other, appreciate our faith. When all those people came to him, he was living what Jesus was saying, appreciating them as brothers and sisters. That wisdom not only brought holiness to Detroit in the 1950s, it brings a light to Detroit in 2018, a light to the whole world.”