Blessed Fr. Sopocko
Photo: Marian archives
The Right Priest at the Right Time
Father Michael Sopocko's Early Years
Father Michael Sopocko walked among saints while on earth, and now he has been confirmed as among them in heaven. On Sept. 28, 2008, he was declared Blessed Michael Sopocko at a special Mass at the Church of Divine Mercy in Bialystok, Poland.
Saint Faustina praised him greatly in her Diary, and now those praises will be echoed by the Church.
Here is a passage in which St. Faustina refers to him and asks Jesus about him:
At the same time, I saw a certain person [Father Sopocko] and, in part, the condition of his soul and the ordeals God was sending him. His sufferings were of the mind and in a form so acute that I pitied him and said to the Lord, "Why do you treat him like that?" And the Lord answered, For the sake of his triple crown. And the Lord also gave me to understand what unimaginable glory awaits the person who resembles the suffering Jesus here on earth. That person will resemble Jesus in His glory. The Heavenly Father will recognize and glorify our soul to the extent that He sees in us a resemblance to His Son. I understood that this assimilation into Jesus is granted to us while we are here on earth. I see pure and innocent souls upon whom God has exercised His justice; these souls are the victims who sustain the world and who fill up what is lacking in the Passion of Jesus. They are not many in number. I rejoice greatly that God has allowed me to know such souls (Diary, 604).
Father Sopocko was born into a deeply religious Polish family on Nov. 1, 1888. The town was Nowosady, which is now in Lithuania. This was not a wealthy family. Sometimes survival by working in the fields was a daily struggle. The family prayed together daily, and they frequently attended Mass, despite the fact that the nearest church was 18 kilometers away. The family would travel by horse and buggy.
Young Michael was pious, himself. He built a little altar in the house that he would pray before. At some point in his younger years, he felt the call to the priesthood and answered it.
Despite his parents' inability to help him financially, he was able to attend seminary in Vilnius. The rector of the seminary found financial support for him, and after four years of study he was ordained a priest at the age of 25 on June 15, 1914.
His first assignment was a parish in Taboryszki, near Vilnius. As he grew through pastoral activity, he also faced the challenge of the approaching war. In the summer of 1915, the German-Russian front passed through Taboryszki. Father Sopocko consoled those who were injured by the passing army.
Father Sopocko was quite active in his apostolate, and met with resistance from the occupying German authorities. When he tried to travel to Vilnius to bring teachers for some schools in villages that he had set up, the German authorities gave him a hard time and eventually forced him to leave Taboryszki.
In 1918, he wanted to study theology at Warsaw, but an illness and the political situation prevented him. He went to Warsaw in January of 1919 to try again, but the university was closed because of the war. Instead, he signed up to become a military chaplain. He was assigned to the Warsaw Field Hospital. In a little while, he was transferred to the Vilnius front.
After a particularly long march with the troops, he became ill and he spent some time in a military hospital where he also helped minister to the others who were ill.
In 1920 he continued to minister as a military chaplain, but also went to the university in Warsaw and received a master's in theology in 1923. He also received a higher degree in education.
Soon he would be called back by Bishop George Matulaitis-Matulewicz to work in his home diocese of Vilnius. Blessed George also happens to be the renovator of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Father Sopocko would be stationed in Vilnius in one capacity or another for many years, and in one of those years — 1933 — a particular sister would be transferred to the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Vilnius and become his penitent. This would result in a new mission that would not only affect Fr. Sopocko but eventually the whole world.
Father John Larson, MIC, serves as the Marians' postulant director in Steubenville, Ohio.