• Last modified 355 days ago (June 8, 2023)


'We needed a humbling experience'

Staff writer

Emanuel Villa and his son, Aiden, drove 13 hours from Nashville, Tennessee, and then traveled 60 miles to honor a man they knew nothing about until a year ago.

The pair started the Father Kapaun pilgrimage in Wichita, going the entire route even though Aiden’s shoes gave out the first day. Emanuel created “make do” insoles for Aiden’s shoes. The second day, the pair rode because of the state of the shoes.

A trip to Maize was necessary to buy Aiden a new pair of shoes.

The Villas walked again on Sunday for a triumphant arrival at Pilsen along with 375 other pilgrims.

Emanuel and Aiden learned about the pilgrimage when Aiden discovered information about Father Kapaun on a Catholic-oriented online channel, “Formed.”

They studied Father Kapaun‘s life together and made plans to participate.

When they learned about Kapaun last June, that year’s pilgrimage already was over, so they made plans to come this year.

“We didn’t know about it until then,” Emanuel said.

Andover residents Darren and Sara Davis have known about the pilgrimage for years, but this was the first year they made the trip.

“We needed a humbling experience,” Sara said.

Wichita residents Huong Tran Rosa and Hong Tran, who emigrated from Vietnam in 1982, learn more about Father Kapaun every year.

This year they decided to be part of the pilgrimage. Both gray-haired and wearing masks, they rode in a support van and intermittently walked along the way.

They earlier came to Pilsen for Memorial Day services, Rosa said.

Monica Klenda Leihy, who drove a support van in which Huong Tran Rosa and Hong Tran rode, assists with the pilgrimage most years.

Each of the three days, more people are picked up, Leihy said.

As pilgrims reached the edge of Pilsen, where a limestone sign marks the town as the home of Father Kapaun, pilgrims posed behind the sign for photos.

When the last stragglers reached the lawn of the church and posed for a group photo, participant burst into cheers and chanted, “He’s great! He’s great!”

About 30 support people are needed for the pilgrimage each year.

Last modified June 8, 2023