Matt C. Abbott
Real-life superheroes
By Matt C. Abbott
June 18, 2013

In light of the recently-released film Man of Steel – which, despite its Christian references, was a disappointment for me (click here for a spot-on review by Catholic film critic Steven D. Greydanus) – I thought it'd be nice to briefly feature three real-life superheroes, one of whom is still living but seriously injured.

The first superhero is Michael Patterson.

From a June 11, 2013 article in the Rome News-Tribune (excerpted; click here to read the full article):
    ...Patterson, 43, lies in the Intensive Care Unit of Redmond Regional Medical Center paralyzed from the waist down after he broke his neck in three places and severed his spine while saving a 4-year-old from drowning in Euharlee Creek on Saturday.

    Patterson had been spending time with his 9-year-old son Cole Patterson at the creek when Jevaeh Jones, daughter of Carlisa Jones, was swept under water by a strong current. Patterson acted reflexively.

    Rockmart Police Chief Keith Sorrells said Patterson dove off the dam to save the child. Patterson's mother said though the water levels were high due to recent rainfall, her son was only thinking of saving the child rather than the depth of the creek....

    'They don't know how (he saved her),' Jones said. 'The little girl was at the bottom, but they saw something push her up. They got the little girl and they didn't realize what happened to Michael'.....

    It was the second time in two weeks that Patterson saved a life. Two weeks ago, he witnessed a tractor-trailer truck T-bone an SUV in Rockmart. His mother said he jumped out of his own vehicle to assist the injured....
The second superhero is Father Vincent Capodanno.

From the website (excerpted; click here to read the full article):
    Vincent Capodanno was born on February 13, 1929, in Staten Island, New York. After attending a year at Fordham University, young Vincent Capodanno entered the Maryknoll Missionary seminary in upstate New York in 1949. The Maryknolls were well known for sending American missionaries overseas – especially to China and Korea.

    As the communists overran China, many Maryknoll priests and bishops were imprisoned and tortured. When Capodanno finished the seminary, he was ordained a priest and received his bachelor's degree in religious instruction.

    Father Capodanno's first assignment was with aboriginal Taiwanese in the mountains of Taiwan where he served in a parish and later in a school. After seven years, Father Capodanno returned to the United States for leave and then was assigned to a Maryknoll school in Hong Kong.

    Looking for a different challenge, Father Capodanno requested a new assignment – as a United States Navy chaplain serving with the U.S. Marines. After finishing officer candidate's school, Father Capodanno reported to the 7th Marines in Vietnam in 1966. When his tour was complete, he requested an extension, serving in the naval hospital and then reported to the 5th Marines....

    ...Father Capodanno went among the wounded and dying, giving last rites and taking care of his Marines. Wounded once in the face and suffering another wound that almost severed his hand, Father Capodanno moved to help a wounded corpsman only yards from an enemy machinegun. Father Capodanno died taking care of one of his men....

    On May 21, 2006, thirty-nine years after his death on the battlefield of Vietnam, Father Capodanno was publicly declared Servant of God, the first step toward canonization.
The third superhero is Father Emil J. Kapaun.

A brief bio from the website (slightly edited):
    Father Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas, in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, on Holy Thursday, April 20, 1916. He was ordained a priest for the diocese on June 9, 1940 and entered the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps in 1944. Separated from the service in 1946, he re-entered the Army in 1948 and was sent to Japan the following year.

    In July of 1950, Father Kapaun was ordered to Korea. On November 2 of that same year, he was taken as a prisoner of war. For seven months, Father Kapaun spent himself in heroic service to his fellow prisoners; to this there is testimony of men of all faiths.

    Ignoring his own ill health, he nursed the sick and wounded until a blood clot in his leg prevented his daily rounds. Moved to a so-called hospital but denied medical assistance, his death soon followed on May 23, 1951.

    The Diocese of Wichita and the Vatican have begun the formal process that could lead to Father Kapaun's canonization. In 1993, it was announced that Father Kapaun would receive the title of Servant of God.
Of course there have been many, many other real-life (male and female) superheroes.

God bless them all.


Sadly, Michael Patterson died from his injuries days later. May he rest in peace.

© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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