Life of Faustina Kowalska

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Pray for the Repose of Sr. Sophia's Soul

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We're sharing this In Memoriam on All Souls' Day for two reasons. First, because this day reminds us to offer prayers for the dearly departed. Second, because Sr. Sophia Michalenko, CMGT (the sister of Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC), was an outstanding example of dedication to Divine Mercy. She also wrote one of the most highly regarded biographies on St. Faustina. We hope you will be inspired by these memories of Sr. Sophia.

On Friday, March 31, 2017, at about 20 minutes to 3 p.m., "The Hour of Great Mercy," Sr. Sophia Michalenko of the Community of the Mother of God of Tenderness in Danbury, Connecticut, passed to eternal life at the Regional Hospice of Western Connecticut's Center for Comfort Care & Healing, having served our Lord for 70 years as a religious in consecrated life. She was 88 years old.

Born in Adams, Massachusetts, on July 11, 1928, Sophia was the fifth of 11 children born to John and Victoria (Betleja) Michalenko, who immigrated to the United States in 1921 with their eldest daughter, Mary. Sophia's father was a Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic from what is now Slovakia and her mother, a Roman Catholic from what is now Poland.

Sophia attended St. Stanislaus Kostka parochial school and graduated from Adams High School as class salutatorian in 1946. In July of that year, she entered the Congregation of Felician Sisters in Enfield, Connecticut. She earned a BA in education summa cum laude in 1957, and an MA in English in 1961, from St. John's University in New York.

In 1974, Archbishop Joseph Tawil established the Community of the Mother of God of Tenderness as a women's monastery in the Melkite Church — with Sr. Sophia, her sister Sr. Victoria Michalenko, and Sr. Maryann Socha as founding members.

The Community served St. Joseph Parish in Scranton, Pennsylvania, before resettling in Danbury in 1987.

Sister Sophia ministered in various capacities through the years, including teaching for 25 years in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island; serving as acting dean of Longview College in Enfield; assisting at St Joseph Melkite Church in Scranton; serving as secretary of the Waterbury, Connecticut, Evangelization Center; and working as pool typist at the John Paul II Center for Health Care in Danbury. Since 1987, the community has served not only St. Ann Melkite Greek-Catholic parish in Danbury, but also various Latin parishes in the Waterbury and Danbury areas.

Sister Sophia always served with an infectious smile and touched the lives of many people in whatever capacity she ministered. Her love knew neither barriers nor boundaries.

Sister Sophia was the author of The Life of Faustina Kowalska: The Authorized Biography, originally published as Mercy, My Mission. The book is hailed as one of the best introductions to the life and writings of St. Faustina. It has been translated from Polish into more than 20 languages.

In 1978, a 20-year prohibition on St. Faustina's writings was lifted by Church authorities. Even then, St. Faustina's Diary could not be published in Poland because of restrictions imposed by the communist authorities. It was Sr. Sophia's most important accomplishment to prepare the text, transcribing it onto offset plates at the Marian Helpers Center on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, from the film smuggled out of Poland and brought to the U.S. by her brother, Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC. In 1981, Fr. Seraphim carried the plates (as vice postulator for North America in St. Faustina's beatification cause) to Rome for publishing in time for the observance of the 50th anniversary of the revelation to St. Faustina of the Divine Mercy Image of Jesus and of the saint's mission: "You will prepare the world for my final coming" (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, 429).

Sister Sophia was predeceased by her parents, her sister Mary (Michalenko) Adamczyk, and five brothers: Frank, Adolph, Ignatius, Aloysius, and John, as well as nephews Norbert Adamczyk and David Michalenko, and grand-nephew David Ritcher. She is survived by her religious community, her sister Sr. Victoria Michalenko, CMGT, Sr. Maryann Socha, CMGT, and her brothers Joseph (and his wife Joan) of Hawaii, Fr. Seraphim of Stockbridge, and Fr. Alexei of Alexandria, Virginia.

She was also aunt, great-aunt, and great-great-aunt to more than 100, as well as the godmother of her younger brother, Fr. Alexei.

Her community and family give thanks to everyone who offered prayerful support throughout her illness and who touched her life, especially to all the gracious caregivers and personnel of the Regional Hospice and Home Care services of Danbury, to Fr. George O'Neill and Fr. Eric Silva from St. Joseph Church in Brookfield, Connecticut, and to Archimandrite Michael Skrocki, pastor of St. Ann Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in Danbury.

The Divine Liturgy of Christian Burial was celebrated on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, at 11 a.m. at St. Ann Melkite Greek-Catholic Church.

Sister Sophia's internment took place in St. Peter Cemetery in Danbury under ominous cloud cover, but just as the burial ritual was coming to an end and mourners began to recite the Lord's Prayer, intense sunlight abruptly broke through the clouds, growing in brightness and warming the bystanders. It was experienced by all present, only to be instantly halted by the gray clouds as the prayer ended.

A number of Divine Mercy devotees, having heard of the occurrence and understanding that the Lord had called Sr. Sophia to her reward, brought attention to the Diary entry 1075:

"Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire lives as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but the Merciful Savior. At that last hour, a soul has nothing with which to defend itself except My mercy. Happy is the soul that during its lifetime immersed itself in the Fountain of mercy, because justice will have no hold on it."

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord; and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace, Amen.

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Maureen Digan - Nov 4, 2017

Sister Sophia, one of the sweetest and gentlest people I have ever met. Sister would tutor our special needs little boy after school, many day a week. Bobby looked forward to those tutoring classes, as he was very fond of Sister Sophia. I also worked for while with Sister, what a joy to work with such a joy fulled lady. We have Sister Memorial Card on our Prayer Table. I feel that Sister Sophia is a Saint in Heaven. Sister Sophia prayer for us.

Dcn. Bob - Nov 4, 2017

Sr. Sophia lived up to her name - a woman of wisdom.
Sister had an effecious smile, which radiated, gentelness, warmth, love, and tenderness. Everyone who meet her was inspired by her love, and hoilness.

I am not surprised to learn of the blessing she received at her funeral, her kindness in remembering us and teaching us the power of God's Mercy from her eternal reward.

I publicly appoligise to Sr. Sophiia for almost causing her to have a heart attack when I almost fell against her by falling asleep during the Holy Liturgy.

May Sr. Sophia be counted among the Saints, may she interceed for us and may the Holy Theotokus embrace her with eternal love.

Sonia - Nov 2, 2017

What a wonderful example of a life well lived. Three Hail Marys said for dear Sr. Sophia.