While many have heard of the Divine Mercy devotion and Saint Faustina, few have heard of Fr. Michał Sopoćko (So-poch-ko, now Blessed), the Polish priest who first transmitted the Divine Mercy message to the world. He commissioned the Divine Mercy painting and spread its devotion. St. Faustina’s Diary records Christ’s words of Fr Sopoćko: “He will help you carry out my Will on earth,” adding, “His thoughts are closely united to Mine, so be at peace about what concerns My work. I will not let him make a mistake, and you should do nothing without his permission.”1
Fr. Michał Sopoćko lived in dramatic times. He was born in 1888 in Nowosady, in Belarus, then part of Russian Empire and within the Archdiocese of Vilnius. There were no Catholic schools there, so he had to attend a Russian Orthodox School. Describing Fr. Sopoćko in Endless Mercy: God’s Way to Holiness (2013), Bishop Henryk Ciereszko notes the future priest’s poverty and reliance on Divine Mercy, which laid the groundwork for his meeting Sister Faustina.2
After graduating from the Orthodox School in 1906, Michał found himself unable to pursue further education. The rented family farm had been confiscated by the Russians, forcing them to rent other land to survive. In 1907, Michał was offered a low-paying teaching job, but the school soon closed. He went to Vilnius in 1908 and met Jozef Zmitrowidcz and Jadwiga Waltz, who ran a boarding school, offering him work as a Russian tutor with accommodation. His heart was set on being a priest and despite many difficulties, he entered the Vilnius Seminary in 1910 and was ordained a priest on June 15, 1914. His first Mass was in a parish church in Lebeidzeiwo, where his father was working.
From the outset, Fr. Sopoćko confronted dark times. It is impossible to describe all he did, intertwining work, study, avoiding bombs and constant action. In Taboryszki, his first parish, he organized a choir, library, meetings, established many schools and new chapels in outlying areas. In his Journal, he reflected that “without the help of God’s Divine Mercy, I could not have succeeded.”3
In 1918 he went to study in Warsaw University but as classes were suspended there because of the war with Bolshevik Russia, he became a military chaplain, asking for a battlefront posting. He served in Kosciuszko Training camp, in a military hospital, and gave spiritual solace to soldiers fighting Communism.
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