Bl. Fr. Michael Sopocko - Founder of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus & Spiritual Director to St. Faustina Kowalska

Michael Sopocko was born into a noble family on November 1, 1888 in Nowosady, in present day Lithuania. From his earliest years he was raised in a deeply religious atmosphere and a patriotic tradition. In spite of their poor standard of living, his parents made sure that Michael received at least an elementary education. The difficult conditions in which the Sopocko family lived, the arduous labor in the fields and the constant struggle for survival, was a tough character building school of life for all the family.The healthy morality of his parents, their deep piety and parental and family love, had a profound and positive effect on the spiritual development of Michael and his siblings. Daily family prayer and frequent attendance at services in the parish church 18 kilometers away, where they traveled by horse-drawn cart, was normal practice for the family. Receiving the holy sacraments was a significant experience for Michael. 

When he was a young boy he built a small altar in the house, which he used to pray before. Already in childhood, the spiritual atmosphere which reigned in the Sopocko home awakened in him an ardent piety and the desire to offer himself to the service of God in the priesthood.   Michael entered the Seminary in 1910, and studied for four years. He could not rely on any material help from home, and it was only due to the financial support granted him by the Rector of the seminary that he was able continue his studies. He was ordained a priest on June 15, 1914.

After being ordained a priest, Father Michael Sopocko, was appointed to work in the parish of Taboryszki, near Vilnius, in the capacity of parochial vicar.  During his stay in Taboryszki, Father Sopocko also became active in the field of education. He opened new schools for children in neighboring villages.  But the German authorities began to prevent him assisting teachers travelling from Vilnius to the schools and Fr. Sopocko was forced to leave the Parish. 

In 1918, Father Michael received permission from the Church authorities in Vilnius to go to Warsaw, where he registered for study in the Theology Department of Warsaw University However, he was unable to begin his studies due to illness and the political situation at the time. After his recovery he returned to Warsaw intending to begin his studies in January 1919, but he found the university was closed as a result of the war, so instead, he signed up as a volunteer for the military chaplaincy. The field Bishop of the Polish army appointed him as an army chaplain, and assigned him to pastoral service in the Warsaw Field Hospital.

After a month he requested to be moved to the military front and immediately received a transfer to the Vilnius Regiment where immediately he began serving the soldiers who were fighting on the front line. His duties consisted of saying Holy Mass and leading devotions, as well as hearing confessions. In addidion to his pastoral duties, he spent time caring for the wounded, who often found themselves in difficult circumstances due to the lack of hospital facillities.

In October, 1919, in spite of the on-going war, the university resumed its activities.  Fr. Sopocko registered for study in the moral theology department, and for additional lectures on law and philosophy. He had to divide his time between study and military service and in addition he took up the organizing of social activities. He supervised, as president, an inn for soldiers called, "Brotherly Help for Soldiers' as well as organizing a school for orphaned children from military families.

In the summer of 1920, Fr. Sopocko witnessed the collapse of the front line, and immediately after that, already in Warsaw, he lived through its heroic defense, and the victory over the Soviet offense. Years later, in his memoirs, he judged the event as being an exceptional directive of Divine Providence and a sign of Divine Mercy for Poland obtained through the prayers of the faithful who filled the churches that August.  In 1923 he received his master's degree in theology and became even more involved in the field of pedagogy.  The Bishop of Vilnius, Jerzy Matulewicz, knowing the merits and achievements, as well as the theological and pedagogical background of Fr. Sopocko, wanted to have him work in his diocese. After obtaining his doctorate, he prepared for a further post doctoral degree. In 1927 and 1928, while continuing to work as director of the chaplaincy of the local Military District, Fr. Sopocko was appointed to the prominent position, of spiritual director of the Seminary and head of the Pastoral Theology Department at the Vilnius University. These new duties forced him to gradually withdraw from military chaplaincy work.

Work in the seminary and the role of Spiritual Director, for which he was not theoretically prepared, and even surprised to have been given, eventually began to suit him. As Spiritual Director, Fr. Sopocko was also the moderator of the Marian Sodality, the Eucharistic Association, the Third Order of St. Francis and the Union of Seminarians Associated with the Mission Clergy. Another service he performed during this time, and indeed during his entire time in Vilnius, was that of confessor for the religious order of sisters, hearing confessions of religious sisters.

From 1932 Fr. Sopocko was the confessor for the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, who at that time had a convent in Vilnius. It was here, in 1933, that he met Sister Faustina Kowalska, who, after coming to Vilnius in May of 1933, became his penitent.  

Their meeting proved to be a defining moment determining the direction taken by the rest of his life and defining his future mission. In the person of Sister Faustina, Fr. Sopocko met a worshipper of the Divine Mercy, a Mercy that he himself had experienced in his own life on more than one occasion, and for which he praised God. Sister Faustina, having found in Fr. Sopocko an enlightened confessor and spiritual director, began to share more deeply with him her spiritual experiences and visions. To enable him to assess and discern their content, he asked the sister to write down her inner experiences, and then he would look over the texts at his leisure. In this way the DIARY of St. Faustina came into being.

In June of 1936 in Vilnius Fr. Michael published his first brochure, "The Divine Mercy," with an image of the Most Merciful Christ on the cover. He sent this first publication out to all of the Bishops who were gathered for the Episcopal Conference in Czestochowa, but did not receive an answer from any of them. In 1937 in Poznan he published his secondd brochure entitled "The Divine Mercy in the Liturgy."
At the end of 1937 the health of St. Faustina visibly deteriorated. Fr. Sopocko visited her at the beginning of September 1938, and she was already practically on her deathbed.  Sister Faustina died on October 5, 1938.  After the outbreak of war in September 1939, Fr. Sopocko decided to bring Sister Faustina's revelations into the open. He sensed that the tragedy of war and the connected events had begun to confirm their contents.

Upon his arrival in Bialystok, Fr. Sopocko reported to Archbishop Jalbrzykowski to receive his commission for his new appointment. At the end of September, he went to Myslibórz for a few days, where Hedwig Osinska and Isabel Naborowska (the first mothers of the Congregation founded by Fr. Sopocko) were organizing the beginnings of religious community life. This was his first meeting with the sisters since they had left Vilnius. From that time he had kept in constant touch with the sisters, giving them advice and spiritual support, and keeping watch over the development of the Congregation of which he was founder.

On February 3, 1942, the first meeting of the six candidates of new founded congregation took place in Fr. Sopocko’s apartment. Similar meetings were few. Unfortunately on March 3, 1942, Germans organized a raid and arrested almost all the priests. Father Michael Sopocko was searched for by the Gestapo for helping Jews, but he escaped from Vilnius. He was able to get to Ursulane sisters’ convent in Czarny Bor, 4 km away from Vilnius, where he spent 2 1/2 years working as a carpenter. He communicated with the six sisters through letters. Every now and then one of the six would visit him. Most often it was Sister Faustina Osinska.

Father Sopocko asked Fr. Zebrowski to take spiritual care of them. During this time he would give the sisters conferences every week. On April 11, 1942, on the vigil of the Divine Mercy feastday, the six candidates took their religious vows. The Sisters accepted the name: The Servants of the Merciful God. From this time they had in their lives the characteristics of a religious novitiate even though they continued to live with their families. For Fr. Sopocko it was an expected sign of Providence.

Fr. Sopocko died on 15 February 1975.   On 28th September 2008 Fr. Sopocko was declared Blessed by the Church in Bialystok, Poland.

St. Faustina writes in her diary - "Jesus, this is Your affair, so why are You acting this way toward him? It seems to me that You are making difficulties for him while at the same time ordering him to act.
Write that by day and by night My gaze is fixed upon him, and I permit these adversities in order to increase his merit. I do not reward for good results but for the patience and hardship undergone for My sake" (Diary, 86).  "There will be as many crowns to form his crown as there will be souls saved by this work" (Diary, 90).


This great Priest suffered very much for the sake of the Divine Mercy, we should appreciate very much his work.  We are greatly indebted to him. 

Our Lord Jesus said
"Do all you possibly can for this work of My mercy.
I desire that My mercy be worshipped, and I am giving mankind the last hope of salvation;
that is, recourse to My mercy"

 (The Diary of St. Faustina, 998).

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