Bankole: A pilgrimage for healing in the new year

Bankole Thompson

As I entered the Solanus Casey Center on Detroit’s eastside last Thursday for the first time, it felt like a perfect place for rest and serenity. The tranquility and peace it offers explains why roughly 300 visitors a day come in to seek healing and reconciliation in a place built to honor the caring legacy of the late Father Solanus Casey.

The Solanus Casey center's front desk clerk Cathy Garibay, standsg in front of statues of Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, social reformer Dorothy Day and others.

Casey, whose tomb is in the center, was beatified by the Vatican during a ceremony held at Ford Field in downtown Detroit last November, where he was elevated to “Blessed,” a step away from sainthood. He was known to be a voice for the downtrodden and those who feel powerless and rejected by society.

That is also why entrance to the center is beautifully adorned by stunning and magnificent statues of historical figures whose collective stance against injustice reflects that of Casey’s. They include civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., social reformer Dorothy Day, human rights icon Oscar Romero, the former Archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980 while holding mass, and others. Pope Francis conferred sainthood on the Latin American Archbishop during a ceremony at the Vatican last November.  

“In a world full of tension and pressures, this place can be a spiritual oasis of peace,” said the center’s director, Father David Preuss. “Civil discourse has become so hostile. Groups of people are divided against each other. We wish this to be a place not just of physical healing but of social healing.”

Certainly, our political climate needs healing. In fact, several of our political leaders need to kick off 2019 by visiting the center for self-introspection and to ask for forgiveness, because they have made it acceptable to demonize people based on how they look.

Because bigotry has been given a full license to operate in our body politic, it’s easy for some politicians these days to score points or win more support based on how much they insult certain vulnerable ethnic communities that are living in fear.

In reality, many people including innocent and unoffending little children begging for mercy at the U.S.-Mexico border are being made to carry their own cross as the cancer of intolerance continues to eat at the fabric of our nation’s character.

“The most important thing the church has to give is hope, because unless we believe there can be a more positive future then we are condemned to our past,” Preuss said. “And this is not just happy talk. But for us to learn the hard lessons that are necessary to live it, it can’t just be a concept in our brain. It has to become a lifestyle.”

Adhering to the mandate of the church to speak out in defense of the poor and those who feel vulnerable in an atmosphere of hate, fear and confusion, according to Preuss, also speaks to the mission of the healing center.

“Our social outreach is tied to our spiritual base, and our spiritual base finds expression in our social outreach,” Preuss said. “That’s why we have people who come in here from their lunch break when work is getting to them.”

Yet the fact that the center is in Detroit which despite surrounded by diverse communities has essentially become an epicenter of poverty, isn’t lost on Preuss.

“We are very much aware that we are in Detroit, which has both substantial Muslim and Jewish populations. We are in a place that has tremendous social inequalities,” Preuss said. “How can we envision the kingdom of God that heals our physical and social illnesses? We always want to cling to our personal beliefs that make its way sometimes into religious practices.”

He added, “But God is a God of the universe. We need to be able to know how to live together in the wider world because we are all broken and injured.”

Cathy Garibay, the center’s front desk clerk, told me anyone who walks in looking for some solace, regardless of their background, is considered equal.

“The Solanus Center is a place of faith. It draws people from all races who walk in here with tragic things in their lives. It doesn’t make a difference how much money you have,” Garibay said. “That is why we have people visit not only from the city but from around the world like Ireland, South Africa, Italy and Australia. I find it rewarding here in many ways.”

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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