• Last modified 786 days ago (June 25, 2020)


Pilgrim gives cross to Kapaun


Staff writer

John Moore has walked faithfully for nearly a decade in honor of former Army chaplain Emil Kapaun.

A retired teacher and coach from Gallup, New Mexico, he has joined an annual pilgrimage every year since 2011. That year an article on the sainthood candidate’s life inspired him to make a 630-mile trek to Pilsen from Santa Fe while bearing a 25-pound cross on his back. He gave the piece to the Pilsen Museum.

In so many ways, this year of crisis has been different.

Efforts to stem COVID-19 shut church doors led organizers to indefinitely postpone an annual 60-mile walk from Wichita to Pilsen’s St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church.

But Moore was determined to honor the memory of the priest who died a hero as a prisoner of war. He decided to surprise longtime museum volunteer Harriet Bina with another gift — a wooden cross he carried in previous Kapaun pilgrimages.

“Every year, from now on, this cross will be carried in the pilgrimage,” Bina said.

The second cross, like the first one Moore gave, was carved by artist Mark Chavez, a retired firefighter from New Mexico. Carved on its back are dates of pilgrimages it has been carried in.

Moore said he wanted to make a gesture of thanks for the friendship he has felt from the Pilsen community during his visits.

“This is the only pilgrimage where I walk as a group,” he said. “It’s a very, very special pilgrimage. It is different.”

People regularly turn out to offer help with equipment, share meals, and offer friendship to pilgrims — and they are the ones who make it exceptional, Moore said.

“They are doing what Father Kapaun did,” he said. “They are putting others first and themselves last.”

Kapaun’s path toward sainthood was set to take an important step March 10 before COVID-19 shut down the Vatican.

A panel of archbishops and cardinals from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints was set to vote on whether the Kansas priest was worthy of the title of “Venerable.”

Venerable is the second step in the process toward sainthood in the Catholic Church. Kapaun was named a “Servant of God,” the first step toward canonization, in 1993.

The spread of coronavirus forced the congregation to indefinitely postpone the vote on Kapaun’s case.

If the title is bestowed, the church will begin the process of investigating miracles attributed to the Kansas priest.

The vote has not yet been scheduled.

Last modified June 25, 2020