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This is the story about a man who inspired millions and millions of people around the world and who continues to have a profound impact on society ten years after his death. His sanctity and attractive personality were well known throughout his life, but few people know about a very personal and intimate visit he made in the middle of Wisconsin two years before he was elected pope. It was a visit that greatly impacted all who were present and continues to be an inspiration to the people who live there, but more importantly it was a visit that was never supposed to happen.
The Visit That Was Never Supposed To Happen
In 1975, the United States media outlets were abuzz with the announcement that the next International Eucharistic Congress would be held in Philadelphia. When Dr. Waclaw Soroka, professor of Russian and East European history at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, heard it was going to be in the United States, he immediately sought to discover who would attend from his native Poland. At first, he wasn’t sure who would come, but it was understood that a large delegation of Polish priests and bishops would travel to Philadelphia. Not only would these Poles be present for the conferences in Philadelphia, but it was made clear that they desired to travel to various communities of Polish descent. Dr. Soroka knew what he had to do: he needed to invite Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski to Wisconsin.
On account of Cardinal Wyszynski’s position as Primate of Poland, as well as his unwavering resistance to communism, Dr. Soroka sought to invite him to central Wisconsin to give a talk at a newly established organization called the Annual Lectures on Poland. Dr. Soroka knew “Father” Wyszynski well, as both had been active at the University of Lublin during the Nazi occupation.
Unfortunately, the Primate was not attending the congress in Philadelphia and could not accept the invitation. Cardinal Wyszynski had another idea: invite a close colleague of his, whom he called the “other Polish cardinal” — Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the young archbishop of Krakow. While Cardinal Wojtyła was not his first choice, Dr. Soroka decided to ask him to be the keynote speaker at the event in central Wisconsin.
Little did anyone know at the time that they would be welcoming a future pope (John Paul II) and a living saint.
A Testament to John Paul II’s Sanctity
My book, In the Footsteps of a Saint: John Paul II’s Visit to Wisconsin, is a vivid narrative of the historic days of August 23-24, 1976, but is also meant to be a testament to the shinning example of John Paul II’s sanctity. He touched and inspired people here by his profound humility, holiness and simplicity and his memory will never be forgotten.
My hope is that the stories of his visit to the rural farms of Wisconsin will not only inspire, but also confirm his popular title of “John Paul the Great.”
Here is the outline of my book:
Part I: The Early Life of Karol Wojtyła
- The Other Polish Cardinal
Part II: Cardinal Karol Wojtyła’s Visit to Wisconsin
- Polish Revival
- The Green of America
- Catholic Education in Poland
- Food for the Journey
- Departing for a Faraway Country
You can buy my book from one of these online retailers or your local bookseller: