+ Fr. Ignatius Maternowski, OFM Conv.

Friar, Priest, Chaplain (1912-1944)

Fr. Ignatius Maternowski, OFM Conv.

Fr. Ignatius Maternowski, OFM Conv. circa 1942.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ proclaims: “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John I 5: I 3 ).” These words were literally taken to heart by a young Franciscan priest and US military chaplain, Father Ignatius Maternowski, OFM Conv., who was killed during the Invasion of Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Mater Dolorosa school 1930

School children in front of Mater Dolorosa School, circa 1925.

Fr. Maternowski was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts on March 28, 1912. After graduation from Mater Dolorosa Parochial School in 1927, he attended St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, NY, where he was a member of that school’s first graduating class in 1931. He entered the religious Order of the Franciscan Friars Conventual, and professed his first vows as a friar in 1932. After pursuing further studies, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas O’Leary of the Diocese of Springfield on July 3, 1938, in the chapel of Saint Hyacinth College and Seminary, Granby, Massachusetts. He began his ministry as a parish priest, and then, once his ability as a preacher was recognized, his superiors assigned him to preach parish missions and retreats.

Granby chapel 1930

Chapel of Saint Hyacinth College and Seminary in Granby, Massachusetts where Fr. Ignatius was ordained a priest in 1938.

After the outbreak of World War II, Fr. Ignatius responded to the need for service as a military chaplain. In July, 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and later volunteered 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.

Fr. Ignatius Maternowski training

Fr. Ignatius Maternowski during paratrooper training.

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 arm­band, 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 D­Day. He was 32 years of age, in the 5th year of his priesthood.

His dead body lay visible on the road for three days, because the enemy refused to allow it to be moved. On the 9th of June, US soldiers from the 90th Infantry Division recovered it, and removed it for burial near Utah Beach. In 1948, his remains were returned to Holyoke for a solemn Mass in Mater Dolorosa Church, and interment in the Franciscan Friars’ plot at Mater Dolorosa Cemetery in South Hadley, MA.

Friars in Granby honoring Fr. Ignatius Maternowski

A Memorial Plaque was hung at Fr. Ignatius’ Alma Mater, the now closed St. Hyacinth College and Seminary, in Granby, MA, bearing the names of 15 graduates who went into the service as chaplains. Here, friars remember Fr. Ignatius, pointing to his name on the plaque.

In the Franciscan book of memories it is written of him: “He was an exemplary priest, a dynamic preacher, but most of all, he was truly an apostle and friend of the soldiers entrusted to his spiritual care.”

Fr. Ignatius Maternowski, of Holyoke, Massachusetts, stands as the first Polish-American priest to give his life in service to our country in World War II, and as the only US chaplain to die on D-Day in the Normandy invasion. He was posthumously awarded a “Purple Heart” by the US government. His name is commemorated on memorials in Holyoke, MA; Athol Springs, NY; Arlington National Cemetery, VA; London, England, and Normandy, France.

fr. Martin Kobos blessing graves at Normandy American Cemetery

fr. Martin Kobos blessing graves at Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-Sur-Mer, France, June 6, 2019.

As the world celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Friar Martin Kobos, OFM Conv. took a remarkable journey to Normandy representing the Franciscan Friars Conventual at ceremonies commemorating Fr. Ignatius Maternowski’s heroism and sacrifice.

On June 6, 2019, Fr. Martin attended the 75th Anniversary D-Day commemoration at Normandy American Cemetery, 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, Fr. Martin expressed his gratitude to the nearly 10,000 soldiers buried in the cemetery, living veterans of the D-Day invasion, as well as blessing numerous active duty soldiers. The day was a time of solemn remembrance of the heroism of our soldiers and the bonds of friendship that forever link the countries of the United States of America and France.

Fr. Martin blesses the Marian shrine

(Top) Following the ceremony in Gueutteville, Fr. Martin Kobos blesses a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary which was credited with protecting villagers huddled in a small storage room, during the D-Day invasion. Accompanying Fr. Martin were two active duty US Army chaplains, Major Daniel King (left) and Lieutenant Colonel Brian Koyn. (Below) After the blessing, church pastor Fr. Marie-Bernard Seigneur posed for a photo with Fr. Martin and the two Army chaplains.

On June 7, 2019, Fr. Martin spent the afternoon at the home of Louis Marion, the only surviving witness of Fr. Ignatius Maternowski from the village of Gueutteville where Fr. Ignatius died. There, Mr. Marion participated in conversation, recounting his memories of D-Day and Fr. Ignatius. He and Anne-Marie, his wife of 68 years, were most hospitable hosts. Mr. Marion’s memories of the occupation and liberation of his village have become valuable additions to the story of Fr. Maternowski.

On June 8, 2019 Fr. Martin attended the ceremony commemorating Fr. Ignatius Maternowski at the site of his monument in Gueutteville. Presented by the U.S.-Normandy Memory and Gratitude Association, the event featured numerous speeches including Fr. Martin’s on behalf of the Franciscan Friars Conventual. Ms. Kelly M. Carrigg, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, retired, former teacher at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, NY, and currently on staff at the US Embassy in Paris, coordinated Fr. Martin’s itinerary and translated at the ceremony. At the conclusion of his speech, Fr. 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 fellow Normandy veteran who served with Fr. Ignatius.

Immediately following the ceremony in Gueutteville, Fr. Martin was asked to bless a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary which is located in a small storage room attached to the site of the former German infirmary during the occupation. It was in this storage room that the Guetteville villagers huddled for safety during the D-Day invasion. Accompanying Fr. Martin on this holy task were two active duty US Army chaplains, Major Daniel King and Lieutenant Colonel Brian Koyn.

Later that morning, about a mile away from Fr. Ignatius’ memorial site, Fr. Martin presided over Mass at Eglise Saint-Ferreol de Cauquigny, a small church which was badly damaged during the fighting. Speaking at Fr. Ignatius’ ceremony as well as providing a reading at Mass was Dr. John Dabrowski, a retired US Army historian and a representative for the WWII Chaplains Memorial Foundation. At the conclusion of Mass, a villager announced that this was, as far as he knew, the first Mass in English in the church’s 800-year history!

Please continue to pray for Fr. Maternowski, all the heroes of D-Day, and all those who faithfully serve our country.

Wreaths placed at Fr. Ignatius Maternowski memorial, June 8, 2019.

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

To read the official account of Fr. Ignatius’ heroism on D-Day as it is presented beside his memorial in Guetteville, France, click here.

To see the full video of Fr. Maternowski’s memorial ceremony, click here:

To see the video of the Commemoration Mass, click here:

Read More

Newly Discovered Information

Featured News

Spirit of St. Francis Award

On December 1, 2022, Our Lady of the Angels Minister Provincial, Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. was awarded the Spirit ...

Read More

Friar Emmanuel in the News

Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Emmanuel Oposika Acquaye, OFM Conv. was quoted in this December 1st - ...

Read More

Catching up with Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv.

Friar Michael reflects on his November 2022 trip to the Amazon and his visit with Friar Erick Marin Carballo, OFM ...

Read More

Fat Friar Cookies

If you live in the Syracuse, NY area and you have never tried Fat Friar Cookies, you are in for a real ...

Read More

Giving Tuesday ~ Farm Focus

For four growing seasons, Little Portion Farm has benefitted from a great many gifts bestowed by the people and other ...

Read More

All Saints of the Seraphic Order ~ November 29th

In the Bull of Pope Honorius III, issued November 29, 1223, the Final Rule of our Order was ratified.  The Rule was ...

Read More

Upcoming Events ~ News from Our Shrines

Our Lady of the Angels Province has two Shrine Ministries: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha National Shrine and Historic Site (Fonda, NY) ...

Read More

Ministry Community – SU Catholic Center

A few months ago, we share a September 30, 2022 post on the Catholic Campus Ministry at Syracuse University, when ...

Read More

Ministry Outreach

Members of the Junior Catholic Leadership Course*, of our Baltimore, MD high school ministry ~ Archbishop Curley High School, under ...

Read More

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.


Read More

Guadalupe Torch Arrives at St. Julia's

The Guadalupe Torch (Carrera Antorcha Guadalupana Mexico New York) again arrived at our Siler City, NC pastoral ministry ~ St. ...

Read More


National Vocation Awareness Week (November 6-12, 2022) may have ended, but our Vocation Awareness efforts are in effect year-round. Three ...

Read More

Honored in Stained Glass

As a chaplain, a Franciscan priest and an Army captain, he shows the German officer these men are all wounded ...

Read More

Chaplain Santo Cricchio giving his first mass in French at a Catholic mission in Arta, Djibouti.  Cricchio was requested to assist in a shortage of priests in the area by the Catholic Bishop of Somalia.

Veterans Day 2022

Veterans Day is dedicated to American veterans of all wars, celebrated on November 11th each year. This date was chosen ...

Read More

Congratulations, Friar Francesco!

Pope Francis appointed Friar Francesco Panizzolo, OFM Conv, of the Italian Province of St. Anthony of Padua, as a Head ...

Read More


Check out the Vocations page on FranciscanVoice.org. Videos, podcast episodes, a flip book, and more offer a journey into the ...

Read More

Congratulations, Friar Rich!

November 1, 2022: During the Evening Liturgy in the chapel of our St. Bonaventure Friary [Post Novitiate], in Silver Spring, ...

Read More

Provincial’s Fraternal Visit ~ NC Friaries

Our Lady of the Angels Province’s Minister Provincial, Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. traveled to Pittsboro to visit with our ...

Read More

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

CAN I KNOW TRUTH? (Part Eleven: THE BRAVE NEW WORLD AND CONTINUATION OF CHRISTIANITY)   12 Days on Pilgrimage in August “I am the ...

Read More

November News ~ Novitiate

After their Evening Prayer on November 2nd, the friars of Saint Francis of Assisi Friary and Novitiate processed to the ...

Read More

JPIC Farm Focus

Like many things in gardening, and life as a whole, the frost happens beyond our control. And this is, indeed, ...

Read More

Provincial's Fraternal Visit ~ Syracuse

Our Lady of the Angels Province's Minister Provincial, Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. traveled to Syracuse and joined Br. Jim ...

Read More

News From Brazil

October 21, 2022: Frei Fernando Pereira de Andrade Júnior, OFM Conv., a student friar of our Custódia Província Imaculada Conceição ...

Read More

Conventual Franciscan Federation (CFF) Leadership Assembly

During the October 17-21st CFF Leadership Assembly, our own Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv. was elected President of the Federation ...

Read More

Catching Up with friar Joe!

Now approaching the halfway mark in his Fraternal-Apostolic Year of Formation (May 2022 – May 2023), where he has served ...

Read More

The Franciscan Friars Conventual invite you to support the Cause of Fr. Ignatius Maternowski towards sainthood by your prayers and support. 

To share stories of Fr. Ignatius’ life or intercession, please use the form below.


    You may like the following ...