+ 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:

 

Featured News

Four Friars-in-Formation Renew Simple Vows

As their summer assignments came toward an end, four of our friars-in-formation renewed their Simple/Temporary Vows, including friar Fabian Adderley, ...

Read More

FrancisCorps 24 Volunteer Commissioning Mass

On Sunday August 8, 2022, the morning Mass at our Syracuse NY pastoral ministry - Assumption Church included the commissioning ...

Read More

Saint John Henry Newman Association Conference

August 10th is the anniversary of St. John Henry Newman's death in 1890. Fr. Ed Ondrako presents information from the ...

Read More

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

Newman and the Gift of Modernity [18th wk] “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts” ...

Read More

News from the Novitiate

Our Franciscan Friars Conventual Novitiate for the Provinces of North America is located in Arroyo Grande, CA, at the St. ...

Read More

Feast of Our Lady of the Angels - August 2

On this Feast of Our Lady of the Angels, as we begin our third* Province Quadrennium, we reflect on these words ...

Read More

Novitiate Class of 2022-2023

On July 13, 2022, a new year began for the community at the St. Francis of Assisi Novitiate in Arroyo ...

Read More

+Fr. Martin de Porres Maria Ward, OFM Conv. in the News

July 27, 2022 Black Catholic Messenger - article by Nate Tinner-Williams - featuring the cause of +Fr. Martin de Porres ...

Read More

Apostolic Year of Formation

Adapted from the 07/27/2022 St. Francis High School Facebook post: Our Lady of the Angels Province student friar Antonio Moualeu, OFM ...

Read More

News from the Friars of Our Custody in Brazil

On Saturday, October 22, 2022, our Province's Immaculate Conception Custody (Brazil) will celebrate the Priestly Ordination of Frei Jesus Rodrigues ...

Read More

Job Opening ~ Volunteer Maryland AmeriCorps Member ~ Little Portion Farm

The Volunteer Maryland AmeriCorps Member will support the Farm Manager in recruiting and overseeing volunteers for a wide range of ...

Read More

Bicycle Pilgrimage with Friar Bogusław

Written by ~ Fr. Bogusław Dąbrowski, OFM Conv. July 16-17, 2022: I participated in the Bicycle Pilgrimage from New Jersey to ...

Read More

Congratulations, Br. Vincent!

Br. Vincent Vivian, OFM Conv. made his Solemn Profession, in our St. Hyacinth Friary Chapel (Chicopee, Massachusetts), on July 16, ...

Read More

Ordinary Provincial Chapter 2022 – Part II

July 11-15, 2022: Friar Delegates of Our Lady of the Angels Province joined the Assistant General of the CFF [Conventual ...

Read More

Welcome New Postulants

On July 6, 2022, the Minister Provincial of our Province, Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. (pictured at left with the ...

Read More

JPIC Farm Focus

July 5, 2022 U.S. Catholic Cover Story - online article: "Catholic farmers do the dirty work of sustainable living" featuring ...

Read More

Summer with our Student Friars

Friar Richard Rome, OFM Conv. is a Solemnly Professed Friar, in formation for the priesthood. He began his 2022 Summer ...

Read More

Franciscan Friars Conventual Grey Habit

Questions are often presented about the varying colors of grey (light to almost black) of our Order's habit. As you can see ...

Read More

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua

Entering the cortile at the entrance of our Ellicott City, MD ministry ~ The Shrine of St. Anthony, as you ...

Read More

Brazil's Quinquennio

June 20-25, 2022: Two friars of our Province's Immaculate Conception Custody, Frei Jesus Rodrigues do Amaral, OFM Conv. (left)and Frei ...

Read More

JPIC Focused Solemn Vow Pilgrimage

June 1-18, 2022: Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., the Order's Delegate General for JPIC and a friar of our province, ...

Read More

Summer with Our Student Friars

Thoughts presented by Simply Professed student friar Sebastian: Because of COVID and the nature of the program, it was a rare ...

Read More

21 Years at One Ministry Location

Congratulations to our own Fr. Michael Sajda, OFM Conv., as he retires from his most recent assignment, as President at ...

Read More

News from our Friars in Brazil

On June 22, 2022, our Provincial Custody of the Immaculate Conception (Brazil) commemorated the 23rd Death Anniversary of +Friar Martinho ...

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 ...