June 5-9, 2019: Fr. Martin Kobos, OFM Conv. (far left) and Province Director of Mission Advancement – Mr. Joseph Hamilton (6th in line at left) represented Our Lady of the Angels Province in the 75th Anniversary D-Day commemoration ceremonies in Normandy, France. Friar Martin and Joe participated in numerous events commemorating +Fr. Ignatius Maternowski, OFM Conv. (above), including a memorial ceremony at his monument in Gueutteville (the village where +Fr. Ignatius was shot and killed as he sought to establish a common aid station for both American and German wounded soldiers), and a Commemoration Mass for +Fr. Ignatius, the Companions of St. Anthony, and all of the Fallen Heroes of D-Day.
In Normandy, each June is a celebration of the American military forces that liberated France starting on D-Day, 1944. In Sainte-Mère-Église, the town square is alive with festivity: food, amusements, and encampments displaying vintage vehicles and re-enactment soldiers. The church in the town square retains an effigy of paratrooper John Steele who was snagged on the church as he landed. A magnificent stained glass window in the church honors the heroism and sacrifice of the paratroopers who liberated the town.
On June 6, 2019, Friar Martin and Joe attended the 75th Anniversary D-Day commemoration at Normandy American Cemetery, in Colleville-Sur-Mer, France. The event featured speeches by President Donald Trump of the United States and President Emmanuel Macron of France, and numerous tri-color flyovers. In the course of the day, Friar Martin expressed his gratitude to the nearly 10,000 soldiers buried in the cemetery, living veterans of the D-Day invasion like Raymond Wallace of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army (left), as well as blessing numerous active duty soldiers.
On June 7, 2019, in Amfreville, Friar Martin represented the Province at the ceremony for Charles DeGlopper, a native of Grand Island, NY whose personal sacrifice earned him a posthumous Medal of Honor. Later, Friar Martin and Joe were invited back to the home of Louis Marion, the only surviving witness of +Fr. Ignatius from the village of Gueutteville (right). There, Mr. Marion sat for a video conversation recounting his memories of D-Day and Fr. Ignatius. He and Anne-Marie, his wife of 68 years, were most hospitable hosts! Nearby, a banner of Fr. Ignatius hangs in the town of Picauville.
On June 8, 2019 Friar Martin and Joe attended the ceremony commemorating +Fr. Ignatius at the site of his monument in Gueutteville, France. Presented by the Association U.S. Normandie , mémoire et gratitude, the event featured numerous speeches including Friar Martin’s on behalf of the Province. Ms. Kelly M. Carrigg, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, retired, former teacher at our St. Francis High School (Athol Springs, NY) and current staff at the US Embassy in Paris, coordinated Friar Martin’s itinerary and translated at the ceremony (left). At the conclusion of his speech, Friar Martin presented Mr. Daniel Briard and Mr. Eric Labourdette of the Association gifts of a flag flown over the US Capitol with its official citation from the House of Representatives, and a 508th PIR flag signed by Rock Merritt; the first person to meet +Fr. Ignatius upon landing in Normandy. Many wreaths were placed at Fr. Ignatius’ memorial including one from the Province and one from the Companions of St. Anthony (below).
Immediately following the ceremony in Gueutteville, Friar Martin was asked to bless a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary in a small storage room attached to the site of the former German infirmary during the occupation. It was there that villagers huddled for safety during the D-Day invasion. Erected in 1948, the shrine honors Our Lady’s protection of the village. Accompanying Friar Martin on this holy task were two active duty US Army chaplains, Major King and Lieutenant Colonel Koyn (left). Later that morning, about a mile away from Fr. Ignatius’ memorial site, Fr. Martin presided over Mass at Église Saint-Ferréol de Cauquigny, a small church badly damaged during the fighting. Over time, villagers rebuilt the church installing a stained glass window commemorating the battle that took place and honoring the valor of the 82nd Airborne Division that liberated the town from Nazi occupation.
The Commemoration Mass in memory of +Fr. Ignatius Maternowski, OFM Conv., the Companions of St. Anthony, and the Fallen Heroes of D-Day was preceded by a brief service and welcome by Père Marie-Bernard Seigneur, pastor of Our Lady of Peace parish, Sainte-Mère-Eglise (top left). Attending the service were also US Army Chaplains King and Koyn. In addition to preaching the homily, Friar Martin recognized the tremendous work of Ms. Kelly Carrigg organizing the multiple days of events. Speaking at +Fr. Ignatius’ ceremony as well as reading at Mass was Dr. John Dabrowski, retired US Army historian and representative for the WWII Chaplains Memorial Foundation. At the conclusion of Mass, a villager (right) announced that this was, as far as he knew, the first Mass in English in the church’s 800-year history!
On June 9, 2019, the streets in the village of Amfreville were closed to accommodate crowds of people as they watched over 1,000 paratroopers jump once more onto the drop zone around the La Fière Bridge (above). Arriving early, the view of the fields, with their cows and fog, must be very close to how it looked on that fateful morning of June 6, 1944. The La Fière Bridge was the scene of some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the D-Day campaign. On his final ride past +Fr. Ignatius’ memorial, Friar Martin stopped to collect gravel from the site and bid farewell to his confrere (right).