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Kapaun's coming home -- but for only 3 days

Staff writer

Father Emil Kapaun’s extraordinary life will be honored with a funeral Mass at Wichita arena, but his family wanted to return him home first.

His remains will be flown from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Eisenhower Airport, where a procession will escort them to St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church, in Pilsen, where Kapaun grew up.

“When I found out I broke down,” longtime Kapaun Museum volunteer Harriet Bina said. “Right now I am so thrilled. I know that’s what his mother had prayed for…for a long time. And I didn’t think that would happen for a while.”

He will arrive Sept. 25, the weekend of Marion County’s Old Settler’s Day celebrations.

Kapaun’s remains will remain in Pilsen until Sept. 27 when they will be transported to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita for a Sept. 29 funeral at Hartman Arena.

Kapaun will be interred in a crypt at the Cathedral as his case for sainthood progresses.

Bina is beside herself with excitement with plans being disussed to honor Kapaun while he is in Pilsen, but she can’t divulge anything yet.

“Nothing is written in stone, but they are beautiful, let me tell you,” she said.

One idea is to reserve Sunday Mass for the Holy Family Parish.

“It would be just for the people of Pilsen to have time with Father,” she said, adding that parishioners in other Marion cities are part of the family.

In the meantime, interest in the story of the Kansas priest who gave his life to help fellow soldiers in a prisoner of war camp in Korea has boomed.

Organizers of an annual 60-mile walk to honor Kapaun on the first Sunday of June have had to limit the number of pilgrims.

“We have more than 400 already,” Bina said. “We had to cut it off, it was getting too big to manage.”

Bina understands the power of Kapaun’s story and how it has grown.

She has been giving two or three tours a week, and has been inundated with calls from groups who want to visit.

Kapaun was given the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2013 and is a candidate for canonization by the Roman Catholic church.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to be a part of this,” Bina said. “A candidate for sainthood and a Medal of Honor winner … How often do you hear that?”

Many at his home church are hoping the discovery of Kapaun’s remains will advance his cause.

A panel of bishops and cardinals at the Vatican were set to vote on whether Kapaun would be given the title “Venerable,” a next step on the path to sainthood.

The pandemic shut down the Vatican and Father John Hotze, a Mulvane priest who has championed Kapaun’s case, said the it appears stalled for now.

Bina is just glad the humble priest’s remains will return to the village where his parents Elizabeth and Enos Kapaun, are buried.

“The biggest thing is that he’s coming home,” she said.

Last modified May 13, 2021

 

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