Time to come home
Call it a miracle, though not of the type studied when considering candidates for sainthood.
Thanks to modern science — and, perhaps, a bit of divine intervention — the remains of inspirational Korean War hero Emil Kapaun have been identified almost exactly 70 years after his death in a communist prisoner-of-war camp.
His surviving relatives, none of whom ever met him, now will determine whether Kapaun at long last can be laid to rest alongside his parents in Pilsen’s St. John Nepomucene Cemetery.
The saintly father’s earthly remains could go elsewhere, of course. The nation’s premier military cemetery, across the Potomac from the nation’s capital in Arlington, would be honored to house his grave. So would numerous other shrines and cemeteries, including memorials in Wichita.
Kapaun, however, belongs in Pilsen. He was born there. He was schooled there. He celebrated his first Mass there. He was recruited into the military from there by a wartime air base in Herington.
Thousands if not millions of pilgrims who have sought and will continue to seek spiritual guidance by studying, honoring, and emulating his courage, grace, and compassion deserve the opportunity to experience the memories of Kapaun at the place that helped, along with divine calling, make him the man he was.
Pilgrimages to his home church, his museum, and his shrine in Pilsen will be even more powerful if his gravesite is part of the itinerary.
Assuming his relatives do their part and the Vatican does its part by bestowing on him official status as a saint, one more obligation remains to be fulfilled, and it belongs to the state of Kansas.
Devoted parishioners from Pilsen’s impressive church have demonstrated their own courage, grace, and compassion in honoring their community’s saintly son and serving visitors with the same inspired zeal Kapaun himself demonstrated in tending to his fellow prisoners of war.
But they and the taxpayers of Marion County can’t do everything. What’s needed once the chaplain’s remains return home is a highway befitting the saintly nature of the man who pilgrims will traverse.
Remington Rd. from the US-56/K-256 junction to 275th Rd. — a distance of just 7½ miles — must become a state highway. Designating it as such will require special action by the Legislature, so the obligation now belongs to State Rep. John Barker and State Sen. Rick Wilborn.
We can help them do the right thing by showing our support for the state’s own highway to heaven, extending from near Marion to Pilsen.
For those inclined to help the cause along, here is our local legislators’ contact information:
State Sen. Rick Wilborn
541-E State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th Ave
Topeka KS 66612
State Rep. John Barker
285-E State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th Ave
Topeka KS 66612
Some say it will take a miracle to get the state to designate a highway to a man about to become just the 12th saint in U.S. history. Then again, this is Father Kapaun we’re talking about, and miracles aren’t exactly unheard of when speaking his name.
— ERIC MEYER