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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.
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