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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
(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.
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.
Fr. Berard Dudek, OFM Conv.
On a brilliantly clear, crisp March morning, I could not imagine the day would get any brighter until I met, for the first time, Friar Berard, the subject of this article.
He was born in Baltimore, August 31, 1927, the last of Martin & Catherine Dudek’s four boys, in a modest and established Baltimore family. His grandparents were immigrants, of Russian and Polish descent. He is now the only surviving son.
He appears much younger than his 88 years with a broad smile and kind, affable nature. He is on in-home hospice at this stage of his life, but seems as happy and content as one might imagine a much younger, healthier man. He was diagnosed with an incurable breathing disorder about four years ago. His daily life is now confined by the limits of his lifeline; an oxygen compressor and tubing. This, however, does not confine his spirit. He refers to the oxygen tubing as his “Angel Line,” knowing that when he no longer needs it, he will be with the Angels.
The conversation began with a litany of his long career, almost too much to list, so I will give you the highlighted version here. His first schooling was at St. Casimir Parish’s School (one of our many province pastoral and parochial school ministries), where he later became Assistant Pastor (1971) and then, after three more pastoral assignments and several education and leadership positions, he served the people of St. Casimir Parish as Pastor (1996).
At the age of 14, he was off to St. Francis High School (one of our province high school ministries), in Athol Springs, New York, which was then an all-boys boarding school and still ministers as a “Roman Catholic, Franciscan, college preparatory school that serves young men of diverse faiths and backgrounds from throughout Western New York.” His tuition for the year, including room & board was $300.00!
He became a novice at St. Lawrence Novitiate in Becket, Massachusetts in 1945, at the age of 18. His education consisted of the years he spent at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, New York, St. Joseph Cupertino in Ellicott City, Maryland, and St. Hyacinth College and Seminary in Granby, Massachusetts. He went on to graduate studies at the University of Buffalo and Laval University in Quebec. He was ordained on June 24, 1954 at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield, Massachusetts, by Most Reverend Christopher Weldon, Bishop of Springfield.
When asked when or how he knew he wanted to be a member of the Religious Order, he has no “come to Jesus” moment. He does recall a conversation his mother had when he was in the third grade. A Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph at the school felt he had a calling. From that point it seemed to be a gradual acceptance and understanding of the path he should follow. Following Ordination, he taught at Bishop Ryan High School in Buffalo New York (1954), serving as the last principal before the school closed in 1971.
At various times he served as a teacher, Parochial Vicar, Associate Pastor, or Pastor at numerous and diverse parishes, mainly in the northeast. From 1982-1984, he was Associate Pastor at The Basilica of The Assumption in Baltimore, the first Catholic Cathedral in America. He has also been chaplain to the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph in Hamburg, New York. Add to that, time spent as Vicar Provincial, Definitor, Senior Friars Commission and Franciscan Discipleship Commission Member for St. Anthony of Padua Province (now in union with Immaculate Conception Province, creating our current Our Lady of the Angels Province) and member of the Priests Council of Rochester, New York. At one point, he actually taught his current Guardian of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Friary, Fr. Vincent Gluc, OFM Conv.!
In 1995, he took a five-week sabbatical to study in Italy and trace the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. He returned to ten more years of parish work before coming home to Baltimore and semi-retirement in June 2005 at St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Parish, where he currently resides. When asked which assignment he liked the best, his eyes just sparkle as he says he could not choose. He says they are like colors of the rainbow, all different.
His activities are limited by his lack of mobility and the oxygen tether. He has left the residence just four times in the past four months for medical appointments. He attends Mass daily at the residence. Visiting medical professionals call on him every other day to assure his care is on target. The normal tasks and activities of daily living that are usually taken for granted, take considerable time for Friar Berard to complete. He gets out of breath, even with the “Angel Line,” just walking across the room. It takes about an hour to get up and dressed in the morning, all of which he does with a smile. He is in no pain, other than the sometimes frightening discomfort of not being able to catch his breath. He eats well and looks great! Friar Berard has many visitors; family and otherwise. Some still come for confession. His one brother had 12 children, one of which is a niece who aspires to be a nun. If you visit, be prepared to have your picture taken, as he is very adept with his iPad and his memory is on point. He does paintings on glass, which resemble stained glass (as exampled by the one featured here). He takes many phone calls, answers e-mail, and snail mail. As our time spent together ended and a fatherly embrace was shared, I left with two blessings–a personally blessed Rosary that will be cherished for life, and the blessing of sharing the morning with this holy and wonderful Franciscan Friar.
~ by Mr. Rick Sipes,
Assistant in the Our Lady of the Angels Province Healthcare Ministry Office
Tantur Ecumenical Group on Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, (Fr. Justin Biase, OFM Conv.~4th from right)
A Reflection from the Holy Land A letter to the Minister Provincial from Fr. Justin Biase, OFM Conv.
Peace and all good things from the Holy Land! The Mass at the Holy Sepulcher was wonderful, although a bit tight with seven priests and three women packed into the inner room, and a few more folks in the outer room. It was very moving and a moment to cherish forever. I remembered (special intention) at Mass as well as … all of the friars. Thank you so much for this marvelous opportunity to be here for six weeks. I apologize for not being in touch more often, but I have been trying to stay away from the computer and sending e-mails, etc. so as not be too distracted from this special time in the Holy Land. Nonetheless, prayers for you and all the friars have been plentiful at each and every holy place.
The program is wonderful — with time for lectures, visiting the holy sites together with free time to pray, relax, be quiet or wander around the city. The lecturers are first class and include Christians, Jews, Palestinians and Muslims. Two weeks ago we went to an Orthodox synagogue for services and then we broke up into groups of two and went with a family for their Shabbat Dinner. Both were quite the experiences, especially talking with the family and their children — very devout and knowledgeable about their faith and unlike many, very knowledgeable about Catholicism.
We spent a week in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Despite the weather – cold, cloudy and rainy – we did get a chance to visit all the sites at a leisurely pace – with time in each place for quiet prayer and reflection — though at times it was difficult because of the crowds of pilgrims. We had a wonderful guide, a Palestinian Christian who was extremely knowledgeable, friendly, humorous and deeply spiritual. We returned to Jerusalem to find six inches of snow on the ground — the bus couldn’t get up our steep hill from the road, so most walked up to the building, but a few of us older folks were taken up in a cart pulled by a tractor! It was a sight for sore eyes!
Our group numbers 15 and includes 10 priests (2 Jesuits, me and the rest diocesan), two sisters, one minister and two lay women. It’s a very diverse group for sure, but we all get along very well and have our share of laughs along the way…
As you would imagine, there is no escaping coming face to face with the great suffering of the people here as a result of the current political situation. From whichever angle you look at it, it is so sad and breaks your heart. It is terribly complicated and difficult to understand. The longer you’re here the more you see how deep are the divisions and conflicts. The staff and the program provide multiple opportunities to explore the many dimensions of life in these parts.
Our place is near Bethlehem, right by the Wall and the Check Point. Looking at the wall is depressing enough, going through the checkpoint is heart-breaking. It is literally like going into a jail. We visited Bethlehem University run by the Christian Brothers. Marvelous! Seeing and meeting young Christians and Muslims together, side by side, with so many hopes and aspirations for peace, was more than inspiring. Much prayer, generosity and hard work at peacemaking are surely needed. Last week, we also visited Hebron which was particularly sad because of the multiple checkpoints and random checks and the suffering of the people. We visited the tomb of Abraham and Sarah (now officially a Mosque, but divided in two –one side for Jews and one side of Muslims). We followed that visit with meetings with groups of Muslims, Christians and Jews who are taking initiatives to bring people together to talk, get to know one another and work towards reconciliation. Uplifting for sure — met some of the most impressive people I have ever encountered.
A young Muslim boy at prayer
Last week we also went to the Old City and had the privilege of not only walking around the Temple Mount, but also entering the Dome of the Rock and entering the Al Aqsa Mosque – both were very moving. Attached is a photo of a small boy praying.
A few days ago, we had a lecture on Eastern/Byzantine spirituality by the Abbot of Dormition Abbey here in Jerusalem. It was fantastic — he was from Belfast and was very articulate, knowledgeable and witty (as most Irishman are!!). In addition to talking about the history of the Roman/Orthodox traditions – he spoke about the spirituality that flows from the Orthodox liturgy. On Sundays, we go to different Churches for Mass. Twice now I went to the Melkite Catholic Church in the Old City — mostly because it is a friendly and welcoming community, but also because the Archbishop is an older man who radiates peace, joy and deep faith.
We had a wonderful day visiting St. George’s Monastery in the Judean Hills below Jerusalem. Had to walk down a steep hill and then back up the other side to get to the place — beautiful. From there we hiked into Jericho along a path along the side of the hill. It took about an hour and a half with spectacular scenery all along the way. From there we visited Jesus’ Baptismal site. Thankfully I have had no problem with my knee, except having to pace myself going up or down hills. On the hike to Jericho, I had a cane to keep help keep me balanced — since the path was very rocky, but other than that, no problems at all. Of course, being the ‘oldest’ in the group, everyone is very solicitous!!
Most Reverend Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. (Bishop of Savannah, GA & friar from our Province) was also on a pilgrimage in the Holy Land. The two friars reunited to share a meal.
Gregory [Hartmayer] and I were able to get together on Sunday evening for a leisurely dinner at what else but an Italian restaurant!! Recommended by the hotel where he was staying, it wasn’t half bad! It was a fun evening. His group was literally on a marathon since they only had a week. Makes me appreciate all the more the six week spread that allows for time for prayer and relaxation, as well as multiple visits to favorite places.
Just returned from an overnight to Nablus — and the site of Jacob’s well. In the middle to the West Bank, it was amazing to see how friendly and warm the people were to us. It was the exception when people didn’t say ‘hello”, “good morning or afternoon”. Children would spontaneously wave to us and smile. Marvelous and much different than Jerusalem.
Hard to believe that I leave here for Padua in a couple of days. Unfortunately, I will miss the trip to Qumran, Dead Sea, Masada and Mt. Sinai. Not so bad since, except for Sinai, I have been to all the places before… But for now it is good to be here, in a totally different place and environment, and to be connected in a special way to Christ in the land that was His, complicated and messy as it is at the present moment.
Okay for now, my brother. Thanks again to you and the Province for allowing me this special time away. I will be in touch from Padua and then from Assisi. Assisi following the Holy Land — can’t get much better than that! From there to Bari on Easter Monday for a visit to the home town [of my family] and then on to Rome before heading back to the States on April 16th.
Note: Fr. Justin was the last Minister Provincial of the Immaculate Conception Province.
After the union of the Immaculate Conception Province and the St. Anthony of Padua Province, creating the new Our Lady of the Angels Province, he has spent some time on a much deserved renewing sabbatical, including his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Please continue to pray for him and for all of our friars.