This is the true and touching story of Sophie Maria Nowina Konopka and her battle with leukemia, her valiant fight for life, her precious spiritual journey, the people she touched, and the many lives she changed forever. We called her "Little" Sophie because her body was so frail, but spiritually she was so vibrant. The miracle she brought was not the one we prayed for but the one God wanted us to have, simply to know her and to love her. And how we loved her! She represented all suffering children and she reached the hearts and minds of more than 100,000 people throughout the world. And now you will meet her.
Thomas John Lafferty Jr.
It was late August of 2011. My wife and I had just attended 8:30 am Mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, in Simi Valley, Calif. We were approached by Fr. Budi Wardhana, and he asked if we would drive him to the Italian Consulate in Santa Monica so that he could obtain his passport. He was planning a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and Rome, with a prayer group. We said, "Of course Father." We are retired and we had no other plans that day. I remember it was a very hot day and we waited for him in a nearby nursery across from the consulate and pretended to be interested in their plants. We looked at plants for almost two hours. It was not pleasant.
On the way home Fr. Budi received a call; it was from a fellow parishioner, Barbara Littler, a friend of Sophie’s parents. She said that the doctors had just informed the parents that Sophie had less than two months to live. Fr. Budi then called the parents, and I couldn’t help but listen to the call and think to myself how hard it must be to be a priest. I asked him afterwards about the call. He told us about this child with cancer and her delicate condition. Little did we know this day would change our lives.
We began to pray for her every day, saying the Divine Mercy Chaplets and Rosaries, and we offered up our communions for her intentions. We had a long cruise planned for early October with Holland America Cruise Line. We chose them because they always have a priest on board. This trip included Medjugorje, Rome, the site of the Assumption in Ephesus, and the Holy Land. We were so blessed to find we had three priests and even a bishop on board.
Our vacation became a pilgrimage and every day we prayed and offered our communion for Sophie. When we returned home in late November, I saw Fr. Budi and asked him about Sophie’s health. I was so pleased to hear she was still with us.
Later in January 2012, Fr. Budi told me that we had almost lost Sophie over Christmas. He said he was called by the family at 9:00pm on December 23 and was told that Sophie had turned blue. He went to their home right away and gave her the last rites and then left the Blessed Sacrament (Jesus) overnight in a pyx by her bedside. Many prayers were said that night for her. Miraculously, she survived that night, and went on to live for another five months.
It wasn’t until April that I finally saw her for the first time. It was at the 11:00am Mass on Sunday and I was an usher assisting with the collections. As I walked up the aisle, I saw a fragile child in a stroller with a mask over her mouth, wrapped in a warm blanket and a cloth hat upon her head. I just knew this had to be Sophie but of course I had to ask.
I stopped at their pew and asked her family, "Is this Sophie?" They said, "Yes it is." I spontaneously told them that I prayed the rosary for her every day. Then Sophie opened her beautiful blue eyes. She looked directly up at me.
Sophie through My Eyes
Her eyes were captivating and it was as if she were looking into my very soul, as if to say, "Who is this man that prays for me every day?" I smiled down at her thinking how fragile and precious this little child was. And then I left.
That was the only time I met Sophie.