Maryknoll Awaits Next Step Towards Canonization of Father Vincent Capodanno, M.N.
June 14th, 2006 - 08:16 PST
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SERVANT OF GOD LAID DOWN HIS LIFE
MARYKNOLL, N.Y. – On the front lines of the Vietnam war he had the fearless devotion of a soldier, but he carried a bible, not a rifle. Maryknoll missioner Father Vincent Capodanno lived in danger serving as chaplain, and paid for it with his life. Now, officially declared a “Servant of God,” he is on his first step towards sainthood.
Capodanno left the safety of a parish in Taiwan in 1966 to serve as a Navy chaplain in Vietnam.
Maryknoll Father Dan Dolan, who met Capodanno while engaged in pastoral work in Taiwan in 1959, describes “Father Vince,” as he was called, as a very “focused and serious type…who was willing to face a considerable amount of danger to be with the troops on the front lines of battle.”
“I am not at all surprised at Father Vince’s designation as Servant of God in terms of his track record in his work as chaplain,” says Dolan.
Capodanno left a lasting impression on all who knew him or know of him.
Maryknoll Assistant General Father John McAuley says, “The life and death of Father Vincent Capodanno, M.M., Servant of God, demonstrate concretely and dramatically the radical purpose of ministry and service on behalf of others: to lay down one’s life unconditionally.”
Dolan says Capodanno “set an example for other missioners in the way he carried out his duties as chaplain, and his complete dedication to the men for whom he was pastor. He possessed a unique combination of talent and modesty, but most of all he was focused, very focused in his work.”
The process of Father Vince’s Cause for Canonization was initiated by the Archdiocese for the Military Services May 8, 2006. It is 39 years since his heroic death in the treacherous jungles of Vietnam, September 4, 1967.
He is affectionately referred to as “The Grunt Padre,” a term applied to marine infantry men. Father Capodanno served back to back tours in Vietnam, received three Purple Hearts for injuries sustained in a single day and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and a navy frigate was named for him.
On the day of his death, Capodanno ran through a hail of mortar, small arms and machine gun fire to help a platoon that was bogged down. He was severely wounded by a mortar shell which severed part of his hand and left shrapnel wounds to his face. Capodanno refused medical help, and even used his own body as a shield between incoming fire and a cluster of marines, sustaining 27 gunshot wounds. A corpsman tending to other wounded was hit. When Father Vince ran to help him, a machine gun opened up and killed both of them.
Such is the stuff of military legends. Such is the work of a missioner who is under consideration for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church.
Ordained as a Maryknoll priest on June 14, 1958, and assigned as a missioner to Formosa (now Taiwan), he sought permission and joined the Navy Chaplain Corps for duty in Vietnam. He was a constant companion to the marines, living, eating and sleeping alongside the fighters. Fr. Capodanno’s story became widely known thanks to Father Daniel Mode, of the Arlington, VA., Diocese, a Navy chaplain himself, who researched and wrote a book about Capodanno called The Grunt Padre.
Summing up his personal impressions about Father Vince, Father Dolan recalls Capodanno “was very mature for his years, very committed and concerned about doing mission work, and everything he did in life was the same way. He put his heart and soul in it in every way.”
Maryknoll, the U.S.-based Catholic missionary movement, includes the Maryknoll Society (Fathers and Brothers), the Maryknoll Congregation (Sisters), the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, and the Maryknoll Affiliates. Maryknollers have been representing U.S. Catholics in overseas mission since 1911 and currently serve in 39 countries worldwide. For more information on Maryknoll, please consult the World Wide Web at www.maryknoll.org.