By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
A documentary about a Maryknoll missionary priest who gave his life caring for the sick and wounded Marines during the Vietnam war will be screened Aug. 11 at the Monmouth Film Festival, Red Bank.
“The Field Afar: The Life of Father Vincent Capodanno,”a 52-minute film, will begin at 6:30 p.m. and be followed by a question-and-answer period with Tim Moriarty, owner of Castletown Media, who produced the film with co-director Jake Ehrlich with the help of DeSales Media and CatholicTV.
“He’s the unofficial saint of Staten Island, a Maryknoll priest,” Moriarty said. “There’s an energy and a passion about him amongst the Italian Americans, Knights of Columbus, veterans. This documentary needed to happen.”
Maryknoll Father Vincent Robert Capodanno was born Feb. 13, 1929, in Staten Island, N.Y., as the 10th child of Italian immigrants. The loss of his father when he was 10 and the military service of three of his brothers in World War II impacted the young man, and at the age of 20, he became a Maryknoll Missionary. Father Capodanno was ordained in 1958 by Cardinal Francis Spellman, Archbishop of New York, and assigned to work first in Taiwan, then in Hong Kong.
Feeling a call to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. military, he arrived in 1966 in Vietnam to work with the Marines. He quickly earned the nickname the “Grunt Padre” because of his ministry to the members. A constant companion to the Marines, he lived, ate and slept in the same rough conditions as the men. He spent hours consoling the weary, disillusioned and grieving, hearing Confessions and distributing St. Christopher medals.
On Sept. 4, 1967, Father Capodanno was killed while performing last rites to a dying Marine. His heroic actions that day led to his being awarded the posthumous Medal of Honor, the Navy Bronze Star medal and a Purple Heart.
During the making of “The Field Afar,” Moriarty interviewed Marines who had served with the priest and witnessed his untimely death at age 38 on the battlefields of Vietnam. “One said it was incredibly painful to drag up, but the world should know about this man,” the filmmaker remembered.
This documentary, Moriarty said, “gives people hope and encouragement. The Vietnam War was a part of America, which forever changed us. This story has real heroism and redemption in the midst of a larger story.”
Tickets for “The Field Afar” and the question and answer period with Moriarty are $17.03 and may be purchased at monmouthfilmfestival.org/field-afar. The Two River Theater is located at 21 Bridge Ave., Red Bank. To view the video trailer, click here.