Fr. Ignatius Maternowski: From D-Day to Sainthood?

from Spring 2019 Edition

Memorial in Guetteville, France, commemorating the charity and heroism of Franciscan Friar Conventual Fr. Ignatius Maternowski on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

In collaboration with the World War II Chaplains Memorial Foundation, the Franciscan Friars Conventual of the Our Lady of the Angels Province have begun promoting Fr. Ignatius Maternowski’s cause for canonization.

Fr. Maternowski was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts on March 28, 1912. After graduating from St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, he entered the religious Order of the Franciscan Friars Conventual, professed his first vows as a friar in 1932, and was ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas O’Leary of the Diocese of Springfield on July 3, 1938. After the outbreak of World War II, Fr. Ignatius responded to the need for service as a military chaplain, enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1942, and later volunteering to become a member of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. After rigorous training with fellow troops, he attained the rank of Captain, serving God and country loyally for 23 months.

Deployed to Ireland and England in readiness for the battles that would re-claim the freedom of Europe, he offered one final Mass for his troops, and administered General Absolution on the eve of the Normandy Invasion.

In the early morning hours of D-Day, Fr. Ignatius parachuted with a large number of troops into occupied territory, the hamlet of Guetteville in the town of Picauville. An American glider had crashed nearby. There were many casualties. Immediately Fr. Ignatius began ministering to the wounded paratroopers and glider victims. Realizing that a suitable aid station would be needed, Fr. Ignatius calculated a risky strategy: attempting negotiations with his German counterpart, in the peaceful hope of combining their wounded together in one common hospital. Walking between enemy lines unarmed, with helmet hanging from his belt, and wearing his chaplain’s insignia and a Red Cross arm band, he bravely went to meet with the head Nazi medic. As he returned through the no-man zone to the American side, he was shot in the back by an enemy sniper – becoming the only US chaplain to be killed on D- Day. He was 32 years of age, in the 5th year of his priesthood.

To commemorate his heroic virtue during the D-Day Invasion, Friar Martin Kobos, OFM Conv., the former Director of the Companions of St. Anthony, will represent the OLA Province at services in Normandy, France this June for Fr. Ignatius and all who sacrificed for freedom during those fateful days in June 1944.

As a special sign of the Friars’ love for their many Companions, Fr. Martin will celebrate Mass in Normandy for the loved ones of Companions who served in the armed forces. Please send in the names of your loved ones (with enclosed reply slip) and Fr. Martin will hold those petitions near to his heart as he thanks God for their service.

“Fr. Maternowski is a holy example of Franciscan generosity and part of a tradition of Friars to serve as military chaplains,” said Fr. Martin. “Our Friars have always faced dangerous risks in spreading the Gospel message. We go where we are needed and called. It is my great honor to go to Normandy and represent the Our Lady of the Angels Province, along with Joseph Hamilton, Director of the Companions of St. Anthony, in honoring this great Franciscan and genuine American hero.” †

 

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