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  • Last modified 69 days ago (April 15, 2021)

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Losing out on
a prayer of a chance

Nearly 70 years after his death in a North Korean internment camp, Father Emil Kapaun remains a prisoner of war — in this case, an economic war.

His recently identified remains belong in Pilsen. He was born there. He was schooled there. He celebrated his first Mass there. He was recruited into the military from there.

Virtually every member of his immediate family is buried there. His remains, however, will be going to Wichita, to a place as foreign to him as the camp in which he died.

The stated reason is that Pilsen is too far out of the way to allow for proper security.

The unstated reason is that, despite the heroic work of Father Kapaun Guild volunteers in Pilsen, it will be easier to manage and benefit from pilgrims who will visit his tomb if it is it is in a city that also houses diocesan headquarters, not in some place that powers-that-be regard as a wide spot in the road.

Summoning the type of fortitude that the dear chaplain instilled in his fellow prisoners, we will resist all temptation to blame the diocese for influencing Kapaun’s distant relatives to choose Wichita over Pilsen.

We instead will look at our own sins.

For years, it has been obvious that Marion, Marion County, and the State of Kansas have failed to match Kapaun Guild members’ devotion to the cause of creating infrastructure needed for a spiritually uplifting and potentially economically valuable shrine in Pilsen.

The state refused to mark the route to the Kapaun museum and refused to make Remington Rd. a state highway in recognition of its potential for high travel.

The county has done nothing special to improve the route beyond what it already does — or fails to do — to any other road in the county.

Whatever scant efforts Marion and Marion County have made to promote travel and tourism, despite ample funds being available for such purposes, rarely mention Pilsen except in passing.

Law enforcement seems more concerned about keeping the county jail’s revolving door spinning with repeated arrests and quick bailout for substance-abusing thieves.

We all like to think that what makes our county special is its friendly, small-town environment with good schools, ample recreation, traditional values, and strong work ethic.

Every other county in Kansas cites exactly the same things.

What makes our area unique is that it was the formative home for one of the very few Americans ever to be considered for sainthood.

The failure of our community’s leaders to get behind that idea and aggressively support and campaign for Pilsen as Father Kapaun’s resting space is testament to a continued lack of visionary leadership in our community.

While our leaders huddle with multitudes of consultants to beg for yet more federal and state handouts benefiting handfuls of people, a cause that could have benefited the entire community — spiritually and economically — was largely ignored by all but the Father Kapaun Guild.

Blame the chaplain’s distant relatives or anonymous church bureaucrats if you will, but the true blame for his remains not making their way home lies with community residents who weren’t sufficiently inspired by his heroic actions to attempt a few heroic actions of their own.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified April 15, 2021

 

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