Father Bernardino Maria Soukup, C.F.R.

Hoping to Heal Hearts as He Originally Planned

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The Catholic faith became instilled in Father Bernardino Maria Soukup, C.F.R., at a young age in Slovakia, but he never intended on becoming a priest.

He was studying to be a doctor.

“After I graduated from college, I did not do well on the (Medical College Admission Test),” Father Soukup said. “So, not doing well on the MCAT gave God a chance to work in my life again by asking the question, ‘What does God want me to do?’ It was after that I responded with more prayer and adoration.

“My brother was the instrument in my vocation. He asked the question if I ever thought of the priesthood and a religious life. I told him, ‘No, I want to be a doctor.’

“God used my brother at that point. He was an example to me to recognize in my family how the Lord protected us. Like any immigrant family coming to the United States, we were starting with zero. We had difficult times, but in that difficulty, there was faith.”

Father Soukup, 40, compared being in the community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and now a priest to his original plan of becoming a doctor.

“I wanted to be a cardiologist and fixing people’s hearts is a beautiful thought,’’ he said. “That’s what the priesthood is about, too—be a spiritual doctor and be one who repairs, heals, consoles and instills in the soul something new and that is to be an instrument of God’s grace. I want to restore souls to God.”

Father Soukop’s journey began in Kosice, Slovakia. The son of Stephen and Josephine Soukup and brother of Steven and Dasa, he received his early exposure to the Catholic faith from his mother while his father was working in Iraq. The family was reunited on St. Patrick’s Day in 1984, coming to the United States with residence in Sarasota, Fla.

“So, we escaped from Slovakia and he escaped from Iraq,’’ Father Soukup said. “So, knowing God in his providence protected my father a few times from near death, that was a way for giving thanks to God. It set the stage for having a father in my life, and that was important to me growing up.’’

Father Soukup, who studied for one semester in Australia, entered the University of Miami in Florida in 1995 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and minors in chemistry and psychology. He also studied at Seton Hall University, the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.

He entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers in 2012. A year later, he professed his final vows with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Manhattan in 2013.

“My journey to this point is a great trust in God’s providence and his plan,” Father Soukup said.

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