Franciscan Paratrooper

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For love of Him they ought to expose themselves to enemies both visible and invisible.

Saint Francis of Assisi

Ignatius Maternowski entered this Vale of Tears on March 28, 1912, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the son of Polish immigrants  He attended, appropriately enough, Saint Francis High School.  Impressed by the Franciscans he encountered there, he decided to become a Franciscan priest.  He was ordained to the priesthood on July 3, 1938.  His gift for preaching manifesting itself, he was assigned as a missionary-preacher at the friary of Saint Anthony of Padua in Elicott City, Maryland.

From the time of Pearl Harbor he sought permission to serve as a chaplain and in July 1942 he enlisted in the Army.  He served as a chaplain in the 508th regiment of the 82nd Airborne.  In the aftermath of the chaotic combat drop into Normandy on the night before D-Day, Captain Maternowski busied himself in tending both American and German wounded.

Realizing that some sort of facility would be needed to treat all of the wounded, the chaplain walked into enemy lines and discussed setting up with a no doubt bemused German Wehrmacht doctor some sort of joint aid station to care for the wounded of both sides.  Crossing back into American lines, he was shot in the back and killed by a German sniper.  Being killed while seeking to aid the helpless is about the best way I can think of for a Franciscan to die.   Father Maternowksi was the only Allied chaplain to die on D-Day.


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  1. He is new to me as well.
    Great man. Great courage and love of neighbor. Thank you for the post.

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