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Kapaun sainthood case goes to Rome

Managing editor

Terry Klenda of rural Lincolnville tries to attend any event that has to do with Father Emil Kapaun as do Ed and Gemma Davies of Marion and many other of the faithful.

They were among hundreds attending the Mass and closing ceremony Friday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita as a large box containing more than 8,000 pages of documents that told of the life and sacrifices made by Kapaun during the Korean War were sealed, ending a two-year project.

The ceremony left Klenda “tingly,” and truly moved by the spiritual experience, she said.

“I felt uplifted,” Ed Davies said.

If the investigation proves Kapaun is qualified for sainthood, Davies believes it will help others.

“The moral status of this country is lacking,” he said. “His (Father Kapaun’s) example can spread to others.”

The documents will be sent to Rome and reviewed by an investigator for the Vatican to consider Kapaun’s case for sainthood. The pope will then decide if Kapaun should be named a saint. “It was a really special service, really neat,” Klenda said.

She continued that Kapaun was an ordinary man doing his job but was an inspiration.

“Father led a very spiritual life and was very devout,” Klenda said, “a devoutness he had all of the time like we should have.”

She believes that Kapaun has been responsible for fair weather the first Sunday in June when Father Kapaun Day is celebrated in Pilsen.

“We’ve never had a bad day when we’ve had the day for him,” Klenda said. “He’s had his hand in it.”

Information in the box had been collected from those who believe Kapaun interceded on their behalf — including recent miracles and statements from those who served with Kapaun in Korea.

Kapaun was born April 20, 1916, in Pilsen, ordained in 1940, and was the parish priest at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church in Pilsen before he entered the U.S. Army in 1944. He served in the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the First Army Division. As a chaplain, he tirelessly said mass for soldiers and helped the wounded on the battlefield.

He died as a prisoner of war in May 1951 in Pyoktong, North Korea, and was buried in a mass grave near the Yalu River.

In 1951, Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in the Battle of Unsan, where he was taken prisoner and fellow soldiers say he saved hundreds of lives on the battlefield and in prison camps. He escaped to steal food from nearby farms to bring back to starving prisoners and cared for the sick and injured.

In 1993, Kapaun was named a Servant of God by the church, the first step toward possible canonization.

Father John Hotze, the judicial vicar for the Diocese of Wichita who is trained in Canon Law, spent eight years investigating the proposed sainthood of Kapaun. The cause officially opened June 29, 2008, Father Kapaun Day at St. John Nepomucene Church.

On Sept. 28, 2009, then Secretary of the Army Pete Geren announced that Kapaun had been approved by the Army to receive the Medal of Honor.

Most recently, Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran and Reps. Lynn Jenkins, Tim Huelskamp, Kevin Yoder, and Mike Pompeo sent a letter June 23 to then Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, urging him to award the medal to Kapaun.

Earlier this year, the Kansas delegation offered legislation in both the House and the Senate to waive the statutory time limitation for Kapaun to receive the Medal of Honor. Since then, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which includes the time waiver provision allowing the Medal of Honor to be awarded to him.

Last modified July 6, 2011

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