Who’s next for Michigan on the road to sainthood?

A shrine honoring Blessed Solanus Casey is pictured at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. Besides Blessed Solanus, three other Catholic priests with Michigan ties have active causes for sainthood, including Bishop Frederic Baraga, the first bishop of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; Fr. Walter Ciszek, a priest with ties to Orchard Lake who suffered persecution in Russia; and Fr. John Hardon, a Jesuit known for his orthodoxy, prolific writing and catechetical accomplishments.

After Blessed Solanus’ beatification, Great Lakes State watching three other causes for priests with local ties

DETROIT — On July 30, the Archdiocese of Detroit celebrated the first-ever feast day of Blessed Solanus Casey, the Capuchin friar with an almost legendary story in the city.

For years, countless Catholics have prayed for the beatification of the “Porter of St. Bonaventure.” After that happened during a special Mass at Ford Field on Nov. 18, 2017, attention turned to the friar’s cause for sainthood.

But as Michiganders await Fr. Solanus’ canonization, there are others with connections to the Great Lakes State who could one day join the litany of saints.

Venerable Bishop Frederic Baraga

A stained glass window near Bishop Frederic Baraga’s tomb in Marquette depicts the “showshoe priest,” known for his ministry to members of the local Native American population. Bishop Baraga was named “venerable” in 2012. (Photo by Mike Stechschulte | The Michigan Catholic)
Bishop Frederic Baraga, the founding bishop of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie (later Marquette), is revered across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as the “snowshoe priest.”

Born June 29, 1797, in the Austrian Empire, Bishop Baraga sought to evangelize the Native American communities in the New World. Arriving in America is 1830, he spent the next 37 years traveling through the Great Lakes region.

Fluent in Slovenian, German and French before arriving in North America, Bishop Baraga authored 20 books in Native American languages, including the “Grammar and Dictionary of the Chippewa Language.”

Ministering to the people of the Upper Peninsula, he was consecrated the first bishop of Sault Ste. Marie in 1853 (the episcopal see was later transferred to Marquette in 1866).

Bishop Baraga died in 1868, but it wasn’t until 1930 that the Bishop Baraga Association and Archives was established, and in 1952, Bishop Thomas Noa of Marquette appointed a historical commission to collect information for Bishop Baraga’s beatification, opening his cause for sainthood.

On May 10, 2012, at the recommendation of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Benedict XVI declared Bishop Baraga to have lived a life of “heroic virtue,” and he was named “venerable.”

The Bishop Baraga Association sent a potential miracle for review to the Vatican on July 17, 2011, and according to Lenora McKeen, executive director of the Bishop Baraga Association, another potential case is under review.

“We have a new case that has come to life, and we’re preparing to open an inquiry,” McKeen told The Michigan Catholic. “Once the tribunal reviews the case, they will send the information to Rome.”

Since Bishop Baraga was declared venerable in 2012, private devotions to the “snowshoe priest” have increased in the Diocese of Marquette, with scores of visitors leaving prayer intentions at the bishop’s tomb in a chapel connected to St. Peter Cathedral.

Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ

Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ, was born in a Polish-American family in Shenandoah, Pa., in 1904.

Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek, a Pennsylvania-born missionary to the Soviet Union, is pictured in an undated file photo. More than 20 years after the death of Father Ciszek, officials from the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., have completed the preliminary phase of his canonization cause.

Aspiring to the priesthood at a young age, he left Pennsylvania for Orchard Lake to study at the Polish Seminary. Three years from ordination, Ciszek felt a call to join the Society of Jesus and left for the Jesuit provincial in the Bronx, before proceeding to the Jesuit novitiate in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Sept. 7, 1928.

With the rise of the Soviet Union and the Bolshevik persecution of the clergy, Pope Pius XI called upon young clergy and seminarians to go to Russia as missionaries.

Fr. Ciszek smuggled himself throughout the USSR to preach the Gospel in secret, before the secret police arrested him and sent him to the Lubianka gulag in Siberia.

Fr. Ciszek’s trials in the gulag are chronicled in his autobiography, With God in Russia, which describes the trials and tribulations Fr. Ciszek experienced at the hands of his Soviet captors.

On Oct. 12, 1963, Fr. Ciszek was brought to Moscow and placed in the care of the American consulate, which traded a captured Soviet spy for his release.

Upon his death on Dec. 8, 1984, petitions were made to declare his holiness. The Ruthenian-Catholic Eparchy of Passaic submitted his cause with the help of the Fr. Walter Ciszek Prayer League, before the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, Pa., where Shenandoah is located, took over his cause along with the Jesuits.

John DeJak, president of Fr. Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor and co-editor of With God in America, a collection of Fr. Ciszek’s writings published after his death, said Fr. Ciszek’s cause is currently being considered in Rome.

“The diocese sent to Rome a document declaring Fr. Ciszek’s heroic virtue,” DeJak said. “I think he is a model for every Catholic and is uniquely suited to this age. With a whole bunch of struggles in both the secular world and the Church, he was first and foremost a model of faith.”

Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, SJ

Fr. John Anthony Hardon, SJ, was born June 18, 1914, in Midland, Pa. He earned a bachelor of arts from John Carrol University in 1936 before entering the Jesuit novitiate.

Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, SJ, right, introduces his secretary, Susan Schoenstein, to Pope St. John Paul II in Rome in 1997. A cause for Fr. Hardon’s canonization was initiated in 2005. (File photo)

On his 33rd birthday, June 18, 1947, he was ordained to the priesthood before being sent to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome to pursue special doctoral studies in theology.

Fr. Hardon began a teaching career that included a stop as associate professor of religion at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo from 1962-67, where he was regarded as a great upholder of Catholic doctrine and orthodoxy.

He wrote many books on theology, including “The Catholic Catechism,” written at the request of Blessed Pope Paul VI, and the “Modern Catholic Dictionary.”

At the request of St. John Paul II, Fr. Hardon designed a catechetical course for the Missionaries of Charity to use to teach catechists, leading to the foundation of the Marian Catechetical Apostolate. The Jesuit also started an audio lecture series on a variety of topics, which laid the foundation of the Eternal Life apostolate, based in Bardstown, Ky.

Fr. Hardon gave lectures in the Detroit area and served as a priest in residence at Assumption Grotto Parish in Detroit, where a Mass in the extraordinary form is celebrated to commemorate his years of service at the parish.

On Dec. 30, 2000, Fr. Hardon died at the Colombiere Jesuit House in Clarkston.

“The Archdiocese of Louisville has taken up his cause, and a tribunal has been set up to interview witnesses that knew Fr. Hardon,” said Fr. Roger Arnsparger, who is assisting the Eternal Life Apostolate in promoting Fr. Hardon’s cause.

“His constant teaching, producing a catechism, assisting in the development of a project commissioned by St. John Paul II in training the Missionaries of Charity to be catechists and encouraging vocations among the lay apostate makes him a great cause,” Fr. Arnsparger said.