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BLESSED FATHER MICHAEL SOPOCKO
(1888-1975)

Biography - Part IIII

PROFESSOR OF THE ARCHDIOCESAN SEMINARY IN BIALYSTOK (POLAND)

In October 1947 classes began in the seminary in Bialystok. Fr. Sopocko taught the same subjects that he had taught in Vilnius (Lithuania). Namely, Catechesis, Pedagogy, Psychology, and the History of Philosophy. The activities and presence of Fr. Michael in the seminary were not limited
to teaching. He was confessor of the seminarians, as he had been in Vilnius and many times
when asked by the spiritual director he led retreats for them. Alongside his duties in the seminary, he also carried out pastoral, social and educational work. While an important part of his activities was his educational program promoting abstinence from alcohol amongst the general public.

The work he was most involved in however, and which was the dearest to him, was the matter
of the devotion to the Divine Mercy, to which he himself was ardently devoted and faithful till
the very end. He did not become discouraged by the opposition of Church authorities in approving the devotion. An opposition caused firstly by inconsistencies arising through the spontaneous, grass-roots response in the spreading of the devotion and secondly due to inaccuracies in some publications. Fr. Sopocko tirelessly corrected the errors and ideas that did not accuratly represent the true concept of Divine Mercy, explaining the theological bases of the devotion.

Similiarly as in Vilnius, so too in Bialystok, Fr. Sopocko was the confessor of religious sisters. Amongst others, the sisters from the Congregation of Missionaries of the Holy Family,
who had a house on Poleska Street. Whilst there, engaged in spiritual ministry on PoleskaStreet, Fr. Sopocko took the opportunity for spreading the Divine Mercy devotion among the local people.
In addition, thanks to his efforts, a chapel under the patronage of the Holy Family was consecrated in the religious house on 27 November 1957, on the Solemnity of Christ the King. And in this way,
a pastoral center was created for the local residents.

After retirement, Fr. Sopocko lived in that same building taking part in pastoral ministry till
the end of his life. (Presently a room containing his personal effects can be found there as well as
a religious house of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus, the Congregation he founded.)
(see Sopocko).

Towards the end of the nineteen fifties, Fr. Sopocko took on one more initiative, that of building
a church in Bialystok. A plot of land was purchased with a house on it, half the cost of which
he covered himself with his savings. Through this church project, Fr. Sopocko was once again enacting plans drawn up much earlier in Vilnius to build a church under the patronage
of the Divine Mercy. However, this time also, as before, he was forced to resign himself
to the failure of the project.

In 1958, while giving a retreat to priests, Fr. Sopocko suffered damage to a facial nerve.
From this time on, speaking aloud to large audiences was very difficult for him and cost him
a great deal. In addition to this, in February 1962 he was involved in a car accident in Zakopane (Poland) while taking part in a meeting of theology professors. This also had an adverse effect
on his health and in this state it became necessary for him to go into retirement.

TOWARDS THE END OF HIS LIFE


The sudden retirement caught Fr. Sopocko off guard. He had always been active and involved
in numerous works and duties, and for the first time (excluding his time in hiding in Czarny Bór)
he had unlimited time at his disposal.

Priestly Service in the Chapel on Poleska Street in Bialystok, Poland

While fulfilling his priestly duties in the Chapel on Poleska Street, he took up the work of finishing the treatises on concept of Mercy that he had begun earlier. When the atmosphere surrounding
the revelations of Divine Mercy began to change for the better, he devoted himself to it with renewed fervor. The priestly character of Fr. Sopocko, his spiritual formation and authority stemming from his remarkable life experiences, as well as his great modesty, all served to draw the faithful to him. Having more time now, Fr. Sopocko took up research to broaden the concept
of Divine Mercy further.
Apart from some new ideas on the matter, he had collected a large amount of material, while some studies he had already begun, so diligently he launched himself into writing. Several works were completed, one after the other, with a four-volume work, "The Mercy of God in His Works," taking the lead (see Excerpts). The first volume was published in London already in 1959, and the next three volumes were published in the 1960's in Paris, due to the generosity of people devoted to the Divine Mercy who were living in the West. This work was also translated into English.

The constant development of the devotion to the Divine Mercy and the interest arising from
many theologians were important occurrences that boosted Fr. Sopocko's commitment.
Another significant incentive encouraging him to mission work for the cause of the Divine Mercy was the opening of the Informative Process relating to sister Faustina Kowalska by Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow in 1965. Fr. Sopocko was involved in this process and testified as
a witness.

Father Michael Sopocko lived to celebrate the beautiful jubilees of 50 and 60 years of priestly service. The most edifying part of these celebrations was the speeches of the jubilee celebrant himself. Nearing the end of his priestly life, worn out by age and the difficulties of life, as well as
by the painful inner trials he suffered, Fr. Sopocko made the shortest of the speeches given on that day. He expressed, first of all, his deep gratitude to God for the gift of the priesthood, and then, with great humility, he stated that in his long priestly life, he was not always faithful to the duties entrusted to him, and for that he desired to sincerely apologize to God and to ask all those gathered for prayer that the Merciful God would forgive him his unfaithfulness.

This celebration, according to the feelings and judgments of many participants, was a much belated moral reward and recompense for the venerable priest who had merited so much
for the cause of God, especially for having spread the idea of Divine Mercy.
The one sign of recognition for the manifold meritorious works he accomplished for the Church
and the Archdiocese was his being named honorary Canon of the Chapter of the Metropolitan Basilica, though this was not until 1972, already near the end of his life.


Throughout his whole life, Fr. Michael was a man of action. Action based on a strong spiritual foundation. When his physical ability deteriorated due to illnesses, and ailments struck,
the spiritual domain became the place of his commitment to God and to His service.
Some quotations found in his diary give testimony to this. For this is how he actually understood
his final service:

"Old age should be treated as a vocation to greater love of God and neighbor.
God has new plans regarding the elderly,
plans for deepening the human being by revealing to him, face to face, his inner life.
The only effective action that we are capable of is prayer.
In this active passivity everything prepares us, everything counts,
everything works for our gain. Heaven will be the praying
of the "OUR FATHER."


He died in his room on Poleska Street on 15 February 1975. It was a Saturday evening,
the Commemoration of St. Faustin, the patron saint of Sister Faustina Kowalska.

Father Michael Sopocko's funeral in the cemetery of Bialystok (Poland).

The Shrine of Divine Mercy, 1 Radzyminska Street, Bialystok (Poland).
The final resting place of Father Michael Sopocko's remains.

In the DIARY of St. Faustina, the promise of the Lord Jesus is written regarding her spiritual director, Father Michael Sopocko: "There will be as many crowns to form his crown, as there
will be souls saved by this work. It is not for the success of a work, but for the suffering that
I give reward" (Diary, 90).

The beatification process of Father Michael Sopocko was completed at the Diocesan level
on 29 September 1993. On 20 December 2004 the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints
in Rome issued a decree confirming the heroic virtue of the Servant of God Fr. Sopocko.
28 September 2008 in the Divine Mercy Church in Bialystok (Polonia) took place the beatification
of the Servant of God Fr. Michael Sopocko.


 

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