Martin Dowling, OFM
1912 – 1986
Br. Martin Dowling, OFM, was born on May 26, 1912 in Brooklyn, N.Y. During World War II, he served in the United States Army from 1940 to 1943. Soon after he left the Army, he married Mary Finn, who died the following January. Two years later, Br. Martin joined the friars as a tertiary brother in Paterson, N.J. He entered the novitiate there in 1947, professing temporary vows one year later and solemn vows in 1951.
He served as the friary cook at ministries in Paterson, Boston, East Rutherford, N.J., Callicoon, N.Y., and Rye Beach, N.J. In 1954, Br. Marty volunteered for the newly opened mission in Japan. There, he served for many years as cook, sacristan, and maintenance man in the central friary and retreat house in Kiryu City in Gumma Prefecture. Br. Marty was the model and mentor of the first Japanese aspirants to become Franciscan brothers of Holy Name Province. On his deathbed, he asked about the first two Japanese brothers whom he trained, and was gratified to hear both were dedicated brothers working in Africa as missionaries. Br. Marty’s life highlighted the importance of role models in formation.
When the friars opened the Franciscan Chapel Center in Tokyo, Br. Marty served there as procurator and treasurer. The international community of Catholic people was impressed with the simplicity of his life. He returned from Japan in 1980, and continued to work quietly and pray at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston. In 1985, he asked to be stationed at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City.
He died on Oct. 16, 1986 in St. Vincent’s Hospital, New York City. Br. Marty was 74 years old, and a dedicated friar for 38 years.