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Farewell, Blanche

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Blanche, back in 2015, praying for the intentions sent in to the Marian Fathers in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

By Felix Carroll (Dec 28, 2016)
Our dear friend Blanche Koprek died on Dec. 27, 2016. Blanche worked for the Marian Fathers in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for some 60 years. The following feature story on Blanche first appeared in the spring 2015 issue of Marian Helper magazine. May Blanche Koprek rest in peace.

A rosary entwined in her fingers keeps her tethered to heaven, and if not for being tethered to heaven, Blanche Koprek would have conceded victory years ago to a world that's come undone.

If you were to read — page after page after page — what she reads a couple of days each week, you'd do likewise. Here are a few examples:

Please pray for two elementary schoolchildren whose parents committed suicide today.

Please pray that God would give me strength. My husband walked out on me this week.

Please pray for our newborn daughter who is having seizures.

Be advised, rest assured: When you send in a request for the lighting of a votive candle for your intention at Our Lady of Mercy Candle Shrine located in the Marian Helpers Center, Blanche or one of her fellow intercessors gets word and prays for the intention.

'A lot of people are struggling'
Twice a week, Blanche volunteers her time to pray individually for hundreds of intentions sent in to the Marians' Divine Mercy Intercessory Prayerline.

Each morning in the softly lit oratory adjacent to the Prayerline's office, Blanche takes her position in the front pew, left side. She has with her stacks of prayer intentions, tapped and neatened up at their edges. One by one — for hours — she reads them to herself before the Blessed Sacrament while praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It's an emotionally demanding role.

"People need prayers," says Blanche. "A lot of people are struggling — really struggling. I feel privileged that I can help."

A paradox personified, Blanche is short in stature but a spiritual giant; bent earthward but focused upon heaven; hard of hearing but keenly alert to the tread of others' misfortune. She's a small-town girl bounded by the big picture. She's practically oblivious to world events, yet well versed in the matter of most consequence: Jesus seeks to save souls, He requests our help, and He hears our prayers.

"With Blanche, we all feel like we're rubbing elbows with a living saint," says Cathy Chichester, the Prayerline manager.

A fixture, a spiritual force
Blanche, who turns 93 on March 24, has been a fixture at the Marian Helpers Center for nearly 60 years, beginning as a staff member and now as a volunteer in her retirement.

Born and raised in the tiny, chimney-topped town of Housatonic, Massachusetts, near Stockbridge, Blanche comes from salt-of-the-earth Polish stock. She had three brothers. Her parents worked at the textile mill. Her mother, Teofila, taught them all to pray. Blanche says that was the greatest gift she ever received.

Her mother kept religious statues and paintings in every room of their three-story Grove Street duplex, where Blanche still lives. Nearly everything remains in place, including a framed certificate from Blanche's First Holy Communion.

Blanche never married.

"The right one never came along," she says, with a God's-will-be-done shrug.

Prayerline employee Br. Paul Brandt, FSD, picks her up and drives her home. She rarely ever calls in sick, but if she does, she'll profusely apologize.

"This is her special time with Jesus," Cathy says, "and if she can't make it, she looks at it like she's letting the Lord down."

She leads a simple life.

In her second-story bedroom overlooking the village of Housatonic, Blanche irons the altar cloths and vestments for her parish, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. She's a lector there on weekdays. She continues to make it a point to visit friends and family who are infirm.

She doesn't watch television. She doesn't listen to the radio. Once she gets home, she removes her hearing aid to save the battery.

"Blanche knows what she needs to know," says Br. Paul, who first met Blanche in 1963. "She sees the sadness of the world. She lives the realities of the 150 to 200 people whose prayer intentions she reads each day, and those realities profoundly affect her."

Blanche concurs with that.

"Sometimes I do need to put the prayer requests down for a moment and take a little walk," she says. "That helps, and so does praying the Stations of the Cross."

Timeless sense for modern times
With equal parts wistfulness and worry, Blanche will lean in and share stories of simpler times. (You could cross-check her memories with paintings from the same era by Norman Rockwell, who lived nearby.) Love of God came first, families stayed together, and, by and large, the culture conducted itself under a common moral code.

Her recollections serve as a benchmark against a sobering shift in a society that clearly needs prayer. Broken marriages, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, suicide, pornography — these are the ills cited in many prayer requests submitted to the Prayerline.

"I do the best I can," says Blanche.

And that's a lot.

Having gathered a stack of prayer requests in the Prayerline office on a recent morning, Blanche shuffles into the adjacent oratory to settle in. She never feels alone in there because she isn't.

"I'm always with Jesus," she says, pointing to the tabernacle, "and I'm so fortunate."

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Blanche Koperek s picture - Jan 24, 2017

I am interested in a copy of Blanche Koperek picture, I don't have a.printerplease reply

J.L. - Jan 13, 2017

What an incredibly inspiring soul. Talk about setting an example for all of us! Enjoyed reading this immensely.

Fr. David R. Lord, MIC - Jan 11, 2017

Blanche was inspiring woman!!!

Diane - Jan 3, 2017

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful woman! She is an inspiration for all of us and underlines for us the importance of and the works to be done through prayer.

Lorraine - Jan 1, 2017

Well done, good and faithful soul! Don't forget to pray for us, Blanche!

Thank you for letting us know she passed away. I've prayed for her since reading her story in the Marian Helpers Bulletin.

Sonia - Dec 29, 2016

Thank you so much for helping us, Blanche! May you rest in peace, through the Mercy of God, with the angels and saints.

Melanie Mardin - Dec 29, 2016

Thank You for posting Blanche Koperek's obituary. I grew up in Housatonic and Mrs. Koperek was my catechism teacher; she was also a good friend of my mother.
Mrs. Koperek I know you are in Heaven thank you for being such a good example in my life.

- Dec 29, 2016

Ms. Blanche,may your perfect soul rest in perfect peace. AMEN

Patricia - Dec 28, 2016

She is a beautiful lady now an angel in Heaven

Joanne - Dec 28, 2016

What a truly inspirational story. I can only hope that one day I can be like you. May you rest with Jesus, Mary and all the saints for your wonderful stewardship on earth. RIP.

Gabriel - Dec 28, 2016

Blanche, thanks for your tender love in prayers. God bless your dear soul to super abundant graces Divine Mercy heaven

Margaret M. O'Hara - Dec 28, 2016

R.I.P.. Blaanche, you are already a Servant Of God, for me. Via an inadvertent swipe of the iPad, I read about your Entrance into Heaven Via The Tunnel Of Love of the hollow cerebrum of the brain. Credential Meditstion unnecessary, ' it is through'' the brain, as the strange man says. Although I didn't read the article about you in Marian Helpers Magazine in 2015, me was perplexd & crying this morning, crying Miraculous because I've been tearless, when I read the article about you this morning & your death notice on the revolving 'menu bar' of 'the Divine Mercy' website. You are truly a Sernent Of God for perplexed me. Via the Veils Of Living, Theological Virtues Faith, Hope, Love, Rest In Peace, The Reign Of Christ Jesus The Lord As Messiah.

Lorraine - Mar 16, 2015

What an enlightening story about a beautiful soul. You are such an inspiration Blanche! Thank you!!

Many Blessings to All our Marian Helpers - Feb 18, 2015

Blanche - Thanks for paying for Kathryn
02/18/2015 Urgent Prayer Line submitted for a change in circumstances

Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC - Feb 18, 2015

Blanche is my hero!

Linda Gaitley - Feb 13, 2015

Dearest Blanche, Just a short time ago I called the prayer line requesting prayers for a friend. Cathy explained to me how the prayer requests are handled.
I know there are many people praying for the prayer line but your story and picture adds such a personal touch. This article gives encouragement, consolation and hope that someone is always praying for us.
You are a beautiful sign of God's Love. Thank you for your devotion to prayer. Happy Valentine's Day!

Michele - Feb 13, 2015

Blanche is truly a living saint! God bless her!!!

Mabel - Feb 12, 2015

Blanche, you are truly fortunate to be in presence of Our Lord all the time and THANK YOU for lifting our prayers to HIM. I want to be in your position some day. God Bless you.

thanks - Feb 11, 2015

this gives me hope that someone is praying for all the prayer requests, and makes me want to be like that too -- that's how i imagine saints in heaven caring for all our prayer intentions as well