A JOYFUL PRIEST, A FAITHFUL SON OF ST. FRANCIS
FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
It was like a bolt from the blue for us to find out about the death of Fr. Jan Sochocki, a Capuchin, whose friendly person in a brown cassock girded with a white rope, with a rosary, we still have in our eyes
On the last days, nearly every day, I had a phone call from Fr. Jan who shared his reflections and observations with me. This unusual monk, a wonderful man of the Church and the Great Pole was great for ‘Niedziela’ and me personally. We met years ago in Częstochowa where he arrived as a fervent priest, devoted to Our Lady. Our acquaintance fruited with a great friendship with ‘Niedziela’. Not a long time ago did he say that he had never missed a pilgrimage of ‘Niedziela’ to Jasna Góra. Recently he has arrived in Częstochowa with Mr. Andrzej Sławiński for the Jasna Góra Appeal Prayer. They stayed here for a night and next day they left for Nowa Sola.
I remember Fr. Jan mainly by his unusual pastoral ministry in Terliczka in the Rzeszów diocese where he was a builder and a custodian of Fatima sanctuary and the sanctuary of St. Father Pio. He often said that he lived in a very humble way, and great things appeared from nothing. Although the parish church in Terliczka is not big, hundreds of believers have always arrived in the sanctuary. Also the Television Trwam used to be the guest there, as well as pilgrims of Radio Maryja and a big group of priests. Fervency of Fr. Jan was unusual. How glad he was when he could do something for his parish and the Church! He had a great religious service for Blessed Mary and to St. Father Pio. Because he belonged to the Order of the Capuchins, he often returned to Franciscan idea. He was proud of being a Franciscan. He loved St. Francis and his idea of poverty. He boasted about his old cassock and worn out sandals. The idea of Order vows was in his heart and his priestly essence.
He was happy about everything what was the object of his priestly ministry. He was happy and proud to say that he is a confessor – he also gave confession to clerics. I cannot simply imagine a more fervent priest devoted to the Church so much.
The Fatima sanctuary in Terliczka was developed by Fr. Jan. He met with great friendliness of bishop Kazimierz Górny, today senior bishop and I often saw him behaving with great friendliness to the bishop of Rzeszów. He respected priests and had sincere friends in them. But there appeared a decision of the superiors of the Order about sending Fr. Jan to a new place in Nowa Sól in the diocese of Zielona Góra and Gorzów. It was not easy for him. We saw him taking that change emotionally, especially that the bishop of Rzeszów wanted Fr. Jan to stay in Terliczka. However, the decision was a decision and Fr. Jan was in a new situation soon – with new friends, new pastoral tasks.
Fr. Jan was in a close cooperation with ‘Niedziela’ – he was an editor of ‘Niedziela of Rzeszów’. On this post he turned out to be a fervent missionary of the newspaper. His texts, simple and ordinary, expressed his great pastoral engagement and joy about his ministry with his mentees. What was interesting, was the fact that he could find friends quickly. People could very quickly recognize a fervent servant of Mary in him and knew that he could be a faithful friend. Recently he said to me that he wanted to be a missionary of mercifulness and make a pilgrimage to Rome and receive blessing from the Holy Father for his work. He invited me: - We will go to Rome together…Ministry to God was the most important issue of his life. There was nothing of his in it, only desire of faithfulness to Christ and the Church. He was happy about everything which was good for Poland. Recently he informed that 20 people related to the Catholic Action had been included in the New Seym. He knew that such people were needed by Poland and the Church and that they would take care of what is he best for Poland and Poles. Fr. Jan was a great patriot.
He liked arriving in Jasna Góra, prayed in meekness of his heart, and his religiousness to Mary filled his soul. His priestly sincerity and zeal could irritate some atheists or enemies of the Church, therefore, he had difficulties. He was deprived of the driving license, and experienced various life difficulties. He accepted everything with humility although it was not usually easy for him. However, he could accept God’s will, found sense and place for his work where God’s Providence sent him. In Nowa Sol he found a lot of possibilities for pastoral ministry. Believers noticed this unusual monk, who enchanted people with his love to God and Blessed Mary, and attracted others to it.
He often visited the editorial office of ‘Niedziela’, always joyful, singing and with gifts. For he received gifts with one hand and gave them to others with another hand. Although he was very poor himself, he was also rich. He loved giving and always had something to give. He sometimes asked for something but only to give it to others. He wanted to give a statuette of St. John Paul II to somebody, which he had seen in my room. He asked me to prepare that statuette. I called him: - Father Jan, the statuette is waiting for you. Glad about it, he took it during his visit to Jasna Góra at the Appeal Prayer.
My friendship with Fr. Jan was expressed in a sincere contact and a prayer. Also in talks, including the ones on the phone, there was always his friendliness and gratitude. He sometimes asked: - I am going to give a speech, a homily on this and that occasion, and what shall I say? I sometimes suggested something, sometimes we shared our reflections. After his sermon he phoned to tell me about it. It was an unusual contact…
He often sent his greetings to friends of ‘Niedziela’, especially for the editor Lidia Dudkiewicz whom he respected a lot. There has been silence from him for the recent several days. He did not phoned us today either…He died on 6 November during fulfilling his pastoral ministry for an ill person on the first Friday.
This is how the saints die. Here words of the Latin adagium come to my mind: Repentina mors sacerdotum sors’ – Sudden death is the fate of a priest… We believe that deceased Fr. Jan Maria Sochocki is in Heaven now, that he met with Blessed Mother, with the saint co-brother capuchin Fr. Pio, with Fr. Medar respected by him so much, whom he had prepared for death, with his pious capuchin co-brothers, with his priest friends and believers to whom he had served.
Father John, please, help us with your intercession to God, ask Him for graces for our editorial team, editors and readers, with editorial teams of diocesan editions. You have always been full of friendship for everything which is done by ‘Niedziela’. May God award You your good heart and Franciscan friendliness to all people. You were a real missionary of mercifulness. Now, may God’s mercifulness surround you, and, please interceded for us and the whole world.