Article asks: Is Kapaun community up to challenge?
A 22-page article by award-winning writer Stan Finger in a Kansas Leadership Council magazine questions whether Pilsen, Marion, and the Wichita Diocese can work together to ready Pilsen for a greater influx of visitors if Chaplain Emil Kapaun is canonized.
The article notes a growing interest among Catholic faithful and some Protestants in visiting Kapaun’s hometown since he was declared a Servant of God, thus beginning the process, in 1993.
More and more people travel to Pilsen to see the church, visit the Kapaun Museum, and hear his story.
An annual pilgrimage from Wichita to Pilsen every June has grown each time and had to be restricted to 400 participants this year.
“As Kapaun becomes more revered, the more challenging it might become for Pilsen to deal with the roles and responsibilities that come with being his hometown,” Finger wrote. “But too much change in Pilsen is unwelcome, too, because it could undercut the powerful story the town is able to tell about the chaplain’s life.”
Potential needs include a better road leading to Pilsen, a new Kapaun museum, and food and lodging accommodations.
A new museum, on land adjacent to St. John Nepomucene Church grounds and already owned by the Wichita Diocese, could have the potential of bringing Kapaun’s remains back to Pilsen to be placed in a national shrine within the museum.
“The Marion County Commission has hired a consultant to explore how to best prepare for the increase in tourists,” Finger wrote after speaking with commissioner David Mueller.
Finger quoted Marion economic development director Randy Collett saying that motel developers say traffic on US-56 is not heavy enough to merit a motel.
Eating establishments in Marion often are not open regular hours, a situation city people aren’t used to, the article goes on to say, quoting Historic Elgin Hotel owner Tammy Ensey.
None of these things are a problem in Wichita, where Kapaun’s remains are in a crypt inside the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.
Scott Carter, director of the Father Kapaun Guild, told Finger that Pilsen would remain caretaker of most of the information and artifacts about Kapaun.
Finger spoke to people who manage a national shrine in Wisconsin. They said it was important to keep Pilsen rural and to avoid making it a commercial site.
A former coordinator of events at the shrine said the charm and beauty of coming to the site is that it is in a rural setting.
“People are looking for solace in their lives,” she said. “They are looking for a beautiful rural atmosphere to come and practice their faith and consider the miracles of their faith… and really just escape in some way the wildness of the world.”