Harriet Bina needed a litter. Not a litter of puppies or kittens, but a litter of the carrying kind, one that could tote a 40-pound statue of Father Emil Kapaun in a special Mass on Saturday.
The Mass won’t be in Pilsen but at a Catholic camp near Williamsburg, where two men with strong interest in Father Kapaun have arranged a unique Mass in his honor, complete with a vintage Korean War vehicle.
Members of St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church were invited to attend, and it was Bina’s idea to take the statue to carry in the procession.
Time was short, but she knew where to turn. Jon Hefley, owner of The Lumberyard in Hillsboro, had helped her before.
“He knew what I was talking about,” Bina said. “I drew up a simple plan, and he’ll make it better.”
Hefley asked Lumberyard employee Mike Buller to tackle the job. Not surprisingly, Buller said, it’s the first litter he has built.
“It’s a privilege to do this,” he said.
Buller used stair rails for the poles that will rest on the shoulders of four people carrying the litter. The platform for the statue is made of pine, and Buller is putting a bracket around it so the statue won’t slide off.
“I’m trying to get it finished as fast as I can,” Buller said.
Deacon Dana Nearmyer, director of Prairie Star Ranch, where 500 to 600 people are expected to participate in the Mass, collaborated with Kansas University Medical Center neurologist Paul Camarata to create the special event.
“Paul has a deep devotion to understanding church history,” Nearmyer said. “He thinks a great deal of Father Kapaun and wants kids to understand how important he is. We wanted to give a big vote of support to how special his life was.”
A centerpiece of the Mass will be a 1952 M-57 military truck belonging to the camp. It was used in the Korean War, the conflict in which Kapaun died. Using the truck, Saturday’s Mass will resemble a familiar picture of Kapaun conducting Mass from the hood of a Jeep.
“It was in Korea, then used by the forest service, then it was the paint truck for Kansas University for a long time,” Nearmyer said. “It will be cool to have our antique truck be a part of the service.”
Bina said she plans to take a piece of cloth from Father Kapaun’s vestments to put on the truck hood.
Korean War veterans and officials from South Korea, seminary students, and representatives of the Wichita and Kansas City diocese will join high school campers for the event.
Nearmyer said he hoped campers would learn the value of sacrifice from Kapaun’s example.
“We want them to know that success is built on other’s sacrifices, and that they, in turn, may be asked to sacrifice for others one day,” he said.