The most decorated US Army chaplain returned to Kansas, 70 years after his death in a North Korean POW camp.
The remains of Reverend Emil Joseph Kapaun, a beneficiary of Medal of honor and who is a candidate for sanctity to the papacy in Rome, arrived at the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport on Saturday.
Family members, members of the United States Army and Bishop Carl Kemme, of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, accompanied the remains, which were in an unmarked grave in Hawaii and were not identified until early this year.
Kapaun served as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita before becoming chaplain in the United States Army during World War II and the Korean War. Many accounts exist of how Kapaun risked his life to save others on the battlefield, always strengthening their faith.
In November 1950, Kapaun was captured and became a prisoner of war in North Korea. Although locked up with little food and afflicted with lice, he continued to inspire others, telling them that they should never give up hope.
The Diocese of Wichita has collected documents on the miracles attributed to Kapaun. They are now waiting for a word from Rome to find out if he will become a saint.
The miracles of Emil Joseph Kapaun
Nick Dellasega, from Pittsburg, was one of Kapaun’s miracles.
âMy heart stopped. People prayed to Father Kapaun. I was gone, flat, and then I wasn’t,â Dellasega said. âHe saved my life and interceded.
Dellasega watched Kapaun’s remains come out of the plane around noon. He said God had the right time – Kapaun lived, died, and came home at the right time.
Military bishop prays to Kapaun
Bishop F. Richard Spencer is with the Archdiocese of Military Services and serves in Washington, DC He was a military chaplain for 34 years, often praying for Kapaun’s interceding.
âI walked on the floor where he was being held prisoner,â Spencer said. “I have prayed in this place five times.”
Spencer, who was on the tarmac to welcome the beloved priest to his home, said it was an extraordinary moment.
âI’m really humbled now to be back on his return,â Spencer said. “It is a moment of happiness.”
Back to Pilsner
The remains of Reverend Kapaun were placed in a coffin, draped with an American flag. His little niece, Christina Kapaun Roberts, of the US Airforce, stood near the coffin. Her sister watched as the coffin was handed over to the military porters.
âWe are extremely proud,â said Cindy Kapaun. “It is very moving.”
Kapaun’s remains are taken up in a hearse to his hometown parish of St.John NÃ©pomucÃ¨ne in Pilsen for a private return. From Pilsen, he will be returned to Wichita to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where his remains will remain until the rosary, vigil, mass, procession and burial beginning on Tuesday.
Following: The body of Reverend Emil Kapaun had been in an unmarked grave for years. Now the POW is returning home to Kansas.
Events in honor of Reverend Emil Joseph Kapaun
The watch service will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Hartman Arena. Tickets are required for the free event.
The Christian Burial Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Hartman Arena. Tickets are required for the free event. The funeral can also be broadcast live.
The procession to the Cathedral will take place from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday. After the Christian Burial Mass at the Hartman Arena, Father Kapaun’s remains will be transported by horse-drawn carriage from the Veterans Memorial Park to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where he will rest. Blows and a salvo of 21 blows will be given.
Participants can take the route starting at Central Avenue just east of Veterans Memorial Park and continuing east to Main Street. The last stretch of Main Street on Broadway will be reserved for students of the Diocese of Wichita.