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In the spring of 1945, U.S. Army chaplain
Fr. Sixtus O'Connor, O.F.M., accompanied
his unit, the 11th Armored Division, as the
soldiers liberated concentration camps in
Mauthausen and Gusen, Austria.
The 36-year-old Franciscan friar would
spend the better part of that May conduct-
ing burial services for nearly 3,000 inmates
of the notorious Nazi camps. Six months
later, the chaplain had a new assignment
as the Catholic chaplain for the Nazi war
criminals awaiting trial at Nuremberg.
Fr. Sixtus attended St. Bonaventure Col-
lege from 1926 to 1929, prior to joining
the Order of Friars Minor. (He completed
his studies at Butler, N.J., receiving his B.A.
from St. Bonaventure in 1932.) Fr. Sixtus
was ordained in 1934 and went on to
study extensively in Germany, returning to
the U.S. in 1939 to take a teaching assign-
ment at Siena College as World War II
began.
Prior to the Nuremberg Trials, there are
no records of American military chaplains
providing religious support to their coun-
try's enemies. Despite the horrific crimes
leveled against these men, the Al-
lies had decided they deserved spir-
itual support.
Fr. Sixtus was assigned to provide
spiritual assistance to the Catholic
men facing trial; a Lutheran chap-
lain, Henry Gerecke, was assigned
to the others. Both clergymen
spoke German well. Fr. Sixtus'
mother spoke German when he
was growing up and he'd studied
"Campus ministry allows me to
live my faith, work with young
adults in a college setting, and not
even have to go to class," she said.
Hull received a master's degree in
Franciscan studies from St.
Bonaventure in 2008, and she
hopes that she can instill in her stu-
dents some of the Franciscan val-
ues that she cherishes.
"What I find to be very helpful
with my students is that there are
many stories about St. Francis; this
makes it easy to use him as an ex-
ample for how we should live,"
she explained. "I hope that the
Franciscan spirit helps students to
see that living according to the
Gospel isn't easy, but it is possi-
ble."
Above all, Hull hopes she can
show them that they are loved.
"So many students deal with dif-
ficult situations -- they are de-
pressed, or they are not sure where
they're going in life -- and that
leads some of them to isolate
themselves, to feel alone, and to
feel unloved. I try to let them know
that God loves them, that I love
them, and that others love them,
especially when they don't feel
that they are lovable," she said.
(Andretta, of Woodstock, Ga.,
earned an honors degree in English
from SBU in May.)
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What I find to be
very helpful with my
students is that there
are many stories
about St. Francis;
this makes it easy
to use him as an
example for how we
should live.
Courtney (Murphy) Hull
Photo courtesy of Siena College Archives
Fr. Sixtus O'Connor was born Richard
O'Connor, the son of a schoolteacher and
construction worker who'd come to up-
state New York from Ireland. After enter-
ing the novitiate, he received the name
Sixtus after Pope Sixtus IV.
:: Fr. Sixtus O'Connor, O.F.M.
Class of 1932
theology in Munich before the war.
Fr. Sixtus hardly every spoke of his
experience at Nuremberg, but in
May, SBU alumni and friends had
the rare opportunity to meet one
of the priest's contemporaries, Fr.
Moritz Fuchs.
Now a diocesan priest, Fr. Moritz
was a bodyguard for Nuremberg
Chief Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson
and had met Fr. Sixtus during the
tribunals. In May, the Alumni Office
hosted a gathering at the Robert H.
Jackson Center in Jamestown, N.Y.,
(Jackson's hometown) in conjunc-
tion with a visit to the center by Fr.
Moritz and the premiere of a docu-
mentary about Jackson.
"He was an ideal Catholic chap-
lain," said Fr. Moritz, who was in-
fluenced by Fr. Sixtus and other
clergy he met in the service to
enter the priesthood when he re-
turned home following the trials.
Though a scholar and teacher, Fr.
Sixtus felt called to be a part of the
U.S. involvement in the war by re-
questing an Army chaplaincy. He
joined the 11th Armored Division's
Combat Command "B" stateside
in July 1943. His duties involved
saying Mass, hearing confessions
and presiding at weddings, bap-
tisms and funerals. By September
1944, as the war began turning for
the Allies, the division was ordered
to Europe.
Following the Nuremberg trials,
Fr. Sixtus returned to his alma
mater to teach and then to Siena
College, where he chaired the phi-
losophy department and served as
vice president from 1956 until
1964. He died in 1983 at the age
of 74.
(Information for this story was
provided through interviews with
Fr. Moritz and the book "Mission at
Nuremberg" by Tim Townsend.)
Web content!
Fr. Moritz Fuchs shares
his Nuremberg
experience
View the video at
www.sbu.edu/BonaMag
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Profiles in Ministry