Wichita, Kansas Diocese to welcome Father Kapaun’s remains

WICHITA, Kan. (CNS) – The flag-covered coffin was empty during a memorial mass in Wichita for Father Emil J. Kapaun on July 29, 1953.

The coffin for Father Kapaun’s funeral mass on September 29 will not be vacant. He’s going home.

The commemorative mass in 1953 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated just over two weeks after news of Father Kapaun’s death was transmitted to Bishop Mark K. Carroll on July 12, 1953. He has was informed that the US Army chaplain had died in a North Korean prisoner. from the war camp on May 23, 1951.

Seventy years after her death, a U.S. government forensic team in Hawaii announced on March 4 that it had identified her remains.

Father Kapaun was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wichita on June 9, 1940. He served as US Army chaplain during World War II and the Korean War and held the rank of captain. A candidate for holiness, he bears the title of “Servant of God”.

Scott Carter, Father Kapaun Guild Coordinator, will fly to Honolulu on September 20 with Bishop of Wichita Carl A. Kemme and Father David Lies, Vicar General of the Diocese, as well as Ray Kapaun, Father’s nephew. Kapaun, and his wife, and the late priest’s niece to formally accept his remains and return them to the Diocese of Wichita.

Other representatives of the diocese and the US military will also participate in the ceremonies in Hawaii.

Carter said there are plenty of events planned in Hawaii and Wichita to bring Father Kapaun home.

Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu will celebrate Mass on September 23 in the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace as a ceremony for the sending of Father Kapaun’s remains. The mass is scheduled to be broadcast live on the Honolulu Cathedral website at 11 p.m. Central time.

“It’s a time for the (Hawaiian) people to recognize someone who has been buried among them… and a farewell, hopefully, a future saint,” Carter said.

The Wichita Diocesan Group will also visit the US military facilities where Father Kapaun’s remains were identified as well as the Punchbowl, the Pacific National Memorial Cemetery located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu.

U.S. Army Forces Command Chaplain Col. Rajmund Kopec and U.S. Air Force Maj. Christina Roberts, Father Kapaun’s niece, will officially escort Father Kapaun’s remains on a commercial flight departing from Honolulu September 24. Family and diocesan officials will also be on the trip, which ends on September 25, when a flight from Dallas lands at Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita.

“The military escort stays with the remains all the way,” Carter said, “which is a great way to honor those who have fallen and ensure their safety. They are never left alone, they are loved and not forgotten.

Other family members and diocesan representatives will welcome Father Kapaun’s remains at the airport, he told The Catholic Advance, Wichita’s diocesan newspaper.

“From there his remains will go to Pilsen for the weekend he does come home,” Carter said.

The visit to St. John Nepomucene Church in Pilsen, Kansas is primarily for the Holy Family parish community to pray and spend time with their native son.

The remains of Father Kapaun will be delivered to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita on September 27 for a vespers service for the priests of the diocese.

“I think it will be a powerful and emotional time for them to be with their priest brother,” Carter said.

A luncheon will be held on September 28 at the cathedral for special guests such as the families of prisoners of war, military officials and possibly former Korean War prisoners of war.

Kopec and Ray Kapaun are expected to share some thoughts over lunch. Kelly McKeague, Director of Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency, can also attend and speak.

“We look forward to this moment to honor and share Father Kapaun’s story,” Carter said.

Father Kapaun’s wake will take place on September 28 at Hartman Arena in Wichita.

“It will be a beautiful and powerful ceremony with prayers – and music by Air Force choirs and Catholic cadets from West Point,” Carter said.

A rosary will be recited during the vigil and comments from Ray Kapaun and possibly Mike Dow, another POW with Father Kapaun, will be delivered. The coffin of Father Kapaun’s remains will be on stage during the event.

Her funeral will be celebrated at Hartman Arena on September 29. EWTN must broadcast the mass.

“Bishop Carroll celebrated Mass in 1953 when they discovered Father Kapaun had died in a POW camp. They had heard that he had been captured and they had prayed that he would return, ”Carter said.

“The family was there, the military was there, and it was a great way to honor him and pray for his soul’s rest,” he said. “But a flag was draped over an empty coffin.”

Many people now believe that Father Kapaun’s soul is now in Heaven, he said, adding that the diocese is awaiting validation from the Vatican regarding his cause of holiness.

In general, a miracle attributed to the intercession of the candidate for holiness and verified by ecclesiastical authorities is necessary for beatification; a second miracle of this kind would be necessary for the canonization.

After the funeral, Father Kapaun’s remains will be taken to a site near the Veterans Memorial Park where his coffin will be placed on a horse-drawn military caisson.

The procession will move slowly east of the park about 800 meters from the cathedral.

Father Kapaun will receive military honors, a 21-gun salute and “Taps” before his remains are transported to the cathedral by members of the US Army 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. .

Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley, Kansas will also participate in various events scheduled to welcome the priest home.

“There will be opportunities to visit him and pray at the cathedral after these events are over,” Carter said, adding that it is not known how long Father Kapaun will be buried in the cathedral.

“If he’s named ‘blessed’ we’ll probably start working on a shrine,” Carter said.

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Editor’s Note: More information on Father Kapaun’s life, ministry and cause of holiness is available at https://frkapaun.org. Details are being finalized for his funeral and other events and will also be available on the website.

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Riggs is the editor of The Catholic Advance, a newspaper for the Diocese of Wichita.

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