Getting To Know Our New Pastor: Part 3 (Spiritual Side)
With our church reopening and events returning to the “new normal,” it may be some time before you have an opportunity to get to know our new Pastor, Father Artur (call him “Father Arthur”) Marat. In the second installment, we got to know some “Fun Facts” about our new Pastor. In this, the third installment, we’ll get to know more about Father’s spiritual side…
Who were the biggest influences in your life in deciding to become a priest? How did the Lord call you?
Many different factors contributed to my decision to follow a call to the priesthood. At the heart of my vocation was a very important woman: my grandmother, Susan. When I was a child, she would take my brother and me to Mass at the nearby parish or at the chapel where Fr. Michael Sopocko celebrated the Eucharist in Bialystok, Poland. Fr. Sopocko was St. Faustina’s spiritual director and still alive when I was a child and teenager. I know that my grandmother prayed for me, and I think that my vocation is partly the fruit of her prayers in my intention. I also believe that Fr. Sopocko had a hidden influence on my vocation as well. ++
Another very powerful and spiritually touching experience occurred in my life and the life of Poles during my sophomore year of high school: Karol Wojtyla was elected and became Pope John Paul II. It was a patriotic moment that I will never forget—a moment that planted in me a desire to do something meaningful in my life.
During my senior year of high school, I was thinking about becoming a lawyer. At this time, the Solidarity Movement had also begun. Inspired by this movement, I felt that God was calling me to serve others and help them become free from Communist rule. Throughout the course of the year, however, I began to see that what people needed more than anything was spiritual help. What I felt was a call to become a lawyer turned into a call to the priesthood.
What was your path to serving as a Canon Lawyer on the Marriage Tribunal in Chicago?
Five years after my ordination to the priesthood in 1988, God invited me through my bishop to study canon law at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. A few years after obtaining my JCD, Cardinal Francis George visited Bialystok and personally invited me to come to Chicago to work in the Marriage Tribunal as a judge in 2001. I could tell that Cardinal George was a humble and holy man, and I accepted his invitation; I agreed to leave my country and all that was familiar to serve as a missionary in the United States. I have served in the Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Chicago as a Defender of the Bond and Judge since 2003.
Tell us about your time as pastor of St. Barbara’s and your relationship with parishioners? How did they strengthen your priestly mission?
St. Barbara parish will always have a special place in my heart as the first parish where I served as a pastor. Many of the members of St. Barbara parish were elderly, so I spent a lot of time ministering to the sick and dying. It is a very powerful experience to accompany people during their last days and hours and to give them the Last Rites. This ministry reminded me on a daily basis how important the gift of faith is—how Christ is with us in every moment of our lives and loves us. During the last trial of our life, the Devil tries to do all that he can to convince a person not to trust in God’s mercy and not to believe in His Love. To bring Jesus to those who are sick and dying, to give them the Last Rites as a sign of God’s mercy, and to accompany them in the most important moment of their lives so that they can choose Christ is a very sacred mission. I definitely miss the parishioners at St. Barbara’s; they welcomed me into their hearts and lives and have continued to stay in contact.
You were blessed to meet personally with Pope Francis. How was that?
During my time in Rome, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of Pope Francis and shake his hand. This moment impressed me very much because, as the Vicar and Representative of Christ on earth, Pope Francis is the like the Peter of our times. It is no small task to be the Roman Pontiff. And being in the Holy Father’s presence reminded me of the importance of praying for him.
While in Rome, I also had the opportunity to participate in a course on Canon Law with other canon lawyers from different countries and cultures. Everyone spoke different languages. And yet, together we were united as members of Christ’s Body and the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Who is your favorite Saint?
I do not have one favorite saint, I have several. St. John Vianney has always been an example to me of what it means to be a holy priest, fully dedicated to God and to those who he was called to serve. For those who might not know, St. John Vianney was sent to serve the worst parish (from the world’s point of view) in France. His parishioners were immersed in lives of sin, they had turned away from God, and they did not want a priest telling them how they should live or what they should do. Yet, with time, St. John Vianney he helped these parishioners to truly follow Jesus and live holy lives. It is my greatest desire as a pastor to help people grow in holiness and to have a deeper spiritual life, which means a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Another important saint, who had not yet been canonized, is Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko, St. Faustina’s spiritual director. Not many people in the United States know about this holy man. Like St. John Vianney, Fr. Sopocko dedicated his entire life to serving the Church. He was a pastor, a scholar, a catechist, a professor, a confessor, and a military chaplain. His service as a priest involved all areas of life and all people. But his most important mission was to help save souls by working together with St. Faustina to spread the message of Divine Mercy. During the second half of his life, Fr. Sopocko lived in Bialystok, where I grew up. I had the opportunity to meet him when I was 12 or 13 years old, and I participated in the Masses that he celebrated in a little chapel in Bialystok because my grandmother and mother went to confession to him. I vividly remember participating in Fr. Sopocko’s funeral, in 1974. Six years after he passed away, I entered the seminary. God often brings saints into our lives to help us to get to Heaven, and Fr. Sopocko is such a saint to me—a priest after God’s heart. I hope to love and serve God as Fr. Sopocko loved and served Him.
You have a special relationship with the Holy Mother. How did this relationship influence your decision to come to Our Lady of the Wayside?
I have always loved and had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother. In fact, I believe that She is the one who called me to the United States, She is the one who has always cared for my vocation, and She is the one who brought me to Our Lady of the Wayside. Any parish dedicated to Our Lady is a place where the Blessed Mother plays a unique and additional role in helping Her children grow in holiness. Although I am your new pastor, this parish is not my parish—it belongs to Our Lady, and She has brought me here only as a steward to help care for your spiritual and moral well-being. A good mother always teaches her children how to behave, how to love Jesus and others, how to follow God’s will, and how they themselves be loved by God. It is no different with the Blessed Mother.
Do you have any special message to communicate to OLW parishioners as you begin your mission here?
I believe that for now it is my mission to be present to you, to listen to and understand your needs, and to better understand how God is calling you to serve Him. Jesus comes to families; He grew up in a family. And we at Our Lady of the Wayside constitute one spiritual family. So, I think that it is important that, as a spiritual family, we listen to each other, we dialogue with each other, and we be open to how the Holy Spirit wants us to grow in holiness and become a vibrant parish. Every day, I turn to the Blessed Mother and ask Her to intercede for us, and I believe that She will help us find the way, especially during this unprecedented time in our world and society. We belong to Our Lady in a special way, and so She will guide us to Her Son in a special way. Let us pray through the intercession of the Blessed Mother that all the programs of Our Lady of the Wayside parish will be successful, especially according to God’s vision of success.
If you missed either of the first installments in this series, click on the links below…
Getting to Know Our New Pastor: Part 1 (Married Couples and Families)
Getting to Know Our New Pastor: Part 2 (Fun Facts)