In speaking about Father Emil J. Kapaun, President Barack Obama Once said, “He never lost his faith, if anything it only grew stronger.”
Kapuan was born in Kansas in 1916 and from a young age felt a calling from God to serve in the priesthood. Ordained a Priest in 1940, Father Kapaun was called into service during World War II because of the spiritual needs of soldiers. He joined the U.S. Army as a Chaplain and traveled thousands of miles to celebrate mass with soldiers on the front lines. He would use the hood of his jeep as his altar.
After the war, Father Kapaun used the G.I. bill to earn his master’s degree in Education from the Catholic University of America. The calling to military service remained strong and he eventually re-enlisted and landed with the First Calvary Division in Korea in 1950.
Father Kapaun was taken as a prisoner of war, twice. Despite an opportunity to escape the enemy, Father Kapaun knew where he was needed the most and allowed himself to be taken again. He never faltered administering aid and comfort to his fellow prisoners-of-war in Prison Camp No. 5. Father Kapaun endured torturous treatment, frostbite, malnutrition, and was ridiculed for his faith. Those who he saved and comforted considered him “saintly.” Father Kapaun died in that prisoner-of-war camp at the age of 35.
Among other awards for his heroic efforts, Father Kapaun is one of only five Chaplains to receive the Medal of Honor, which he was awarded posthumously in 2013. The Archdiocese of the Military presented his cause for being declared a Saint in 1993 and the canonization process continues to this day.
This past week, a replica dog-tag in honor of Father Kapaun’s military service was hung on a “Remembrance Tree” on the “Tip-land” in Maine. A “Remembrance Tree” is a tree used to harvest tree bows to make into wreaths used to honor fallen soldiers on Wreaths Across America Day. Every three years, the tips from that tree are harvested to make those wreaths and is how the area has become known as the Tip-land.”
By placing fallen soldiers dog-tags on the Tip-land, it transforms that tree into a living memorial of fallen soldiers giving back to other fallen soldiers. If you listen carefully, you can hear the tinkling of dog-tags speaking to one another with the help of a gentle breeze. Father Kapaun’s dog-tag now hangs on a “Remembrance Tree” on the Tip-Land in an area known as Medal of Honor Remembrance Park, in the Korean War section.
At the ceremony, Gold Star parents Dolly and Jim Sullivan welcomed Father Brad Morin, Pastor of Saint Kateri Tekak with a Parish in Calais, Maine, and other members of their parish to the tip-land to share Father Kapaun’s story of military service and sacrifice and bless his family tree.
Following the identification of Father Kapaun’s Remains in Hawaii, The Kapaun Family and the Diocese of Wichita are Planning the transport of Father Kapaun’s remains to Wichita at the end of September 2021.
Following a send-off Mass at the Cathedral in Honolulu, Father Kapaun’s remains will be transported from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii on a flight that will land at Eisenhower airport in Wichita on Saturday, September 25, 2021.
A procession will depart from the airport and Father Kapaun will arrive home at St. John Nepomucene in Pilsen on September 26 for a private homecoming and observance. From Pilsen, Father Kapaun’s remains will be transported back to Wichita, to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
A public Vigil service for Fr. Emil J. Kapaun will be held at Hartman arena on September 28th at 7:00 PM.
On Wednesday, September 29th a Mass will be held at Hartman Arena.
On Wednesday, September 29 at 10:30 AM. Following the Mass of Christian Burial at Hartman Arena, Father Kapaun’s remains will process from Veterans Memorial Park (339 Veterans Memorial Pkwy) by way of horse-drawn caisson from 1:30pm — 3:00pm, to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where he will finally be laid to rest.