Among the more than 2,000 men from parishes across the country who have served as Maryknoll priests and Brothers during the society’s first century, many have died while serving the U.S. Church in mission in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Some deaths are attributed to illness and accidents. The deaths of many others, though impossible to calculate the exact number, can be attributed to maltreatment or imprisonment. In Asia, for example, from the 1930s to 1950s, many Maryknollers were arrested and sent to prison, including almost everyone who was in China when the Communists came to power and almost anyone caught in lands surrendered to the Japanese during the outbreak of World War II. While most of these men were released, several did die in captivity.
The Maryknoll priests and Brothers recognize nine martyrs who gave their lives while placing service to the poor or others in need above their personal safety and happiness.
- Bishop Patrick J. Byrne, born October 29, 1888 in Washington, D.C., was the first Apostolic Delegate to Korea. He arrived during 1949 and was arrested on July 2, 1950 by the Communists after they invaded South Korea. Forced to march into the north and to a former Maryknoll area, he was killed on November 25, 1950 and is buried in what is today North Korea.
- Father Robert Cairns, originally from Glasgow, Scotland, was reportedly killed by Japanese troops. He was removed from Sancian Island, China, where he served as pastor for many years. Born on August 21, 1884, his date of death is reported as December 14, 1941.
- Father Vincent R. Capodanno was born on February 13, 1929 in Staten Island, New York. During the 1960s, he asked to be reassigned from mission in Formosa to serve as a U.S. Navy chaplain. He served with a unit of the U.S. Marines in Vietnam and, though mortally wounded during an ambush on September 4, 1967, he continued to administer to others who were injured. He is the only chaplain to receive the Medal of Honor for service with the Marine Corps. During 2011 in Triangle, Virginia, the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation dedicated the “Sacrifice Window” to Father Capodanno in the Semper Fidelis Memorial Chapel at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
- Father William T. Cummings died on a POW ship and was buried at sea between Formosa and Japan. Born in San Francisco on October 30, 1903, his date of death was reported as occurring in the Philippines on January 28, 1945. A missioner in Manila, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a chaplain after December 1941. Wounded at Bataan, he was captured and interred by the Japanese at Bilibid Prison and Cabanatuan Prison.
- Father Gerard A. Donovan, who was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, on October 14, 1904, was kidnapped on October 15, 1937 from his parish in Manchuria. His body was found on February 11, 1938.
- Bishop Francis X. Ford was born on January 11, 1892 in Brooklyn, New York, and became the first bishop of Kaying, China, on September 5, 1935. He was arrested on December 23, 1950 and died in a Chinese Communist prison near Canton on February 21, 1952. He is buried in Canton (now Guangzhou) in land that reverted over time into a rice paddy and most recently into a housing complex. Read more about Bishop Ford in the March/April 2011 issue of Maryknoll magazine -- http://www.maryknollmagazine.org/index.php/magazines/229-lost-grave-living-memory
- Father William Kruegler, who was born October 1, 1930 in Troy, New York, was shot by an irate man whom he had repeatedly tried to persuade not to sell alcohol to minors. He died August 7, 1962 and is buried in Montero, Bolivia.
- Father Otto A. Rauschenbach, who was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 23, 1898, was killed by bandits on May 14, 1945 while traveling to a mission station. He is buried in Kongmoon, China.
- Father William Woods died during a mysterious plane crash in Guatemala on November, 20, 1976. Born on September 14, 1931 in Houston, Texas, he is buried in Guatemala.
During its centennial commemoration, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers remember these men along with the many others who have served the society in mission.
Next month: The role of the Maryknoll Brothers