There is no better model of priesthood than Father Kapaun, says the bishop


PILSEN, Kan. (CNS) – God put the desire to be a priest in the heart of Father Emil J. Kapaun from an early age, said Bishop Carl A. Kemme of Wichita, Kansas, in a homily on September 26 in Pilsen, the hometown of the war hero priest and candidate for holiness.

“This thought was undoubtedly supported and encouraged by her parents, her pastor and the nuns responsible for her education,” said Bishop Kemme. “It seems that no one was surprised by this desire.”

Father Kapaun was ordained on June 9, 1940, said Bishop Kemme. “A happy day for the Kapaun family and for their parish in Pilsen.

Addressing a crowded St. John Nepomucene Church on a beautiful fall day, Bishop Kemme described Father Kapaun’s life as being like the many facets of a brilliant diamond.

“One can rightly remember, especially here, Emil’s early years, his relationship with his parents, his dedication to hard work, even his simple lifestyle,” he said. “Here, young Emil Kapaun became the man God needed him to be, a man of virtue and values, of hard work and determination.”

Reminding the faithful that this day was also Priesthood Sunday, the bishop said that on the day of ordination, no priest knows how God will use it for His divine purposes.

“Young father Kapaun was no different. But like all of us, he sacrificed his life and submitted his will to the will of the church, as best expressed in his bishop’s office, ”said Bishop Kemme.

After beginning his priestly service at Saint-Jean-Népomucène, he said, Father Kapaun quickly felt the call to serve the sheep of Christ in the armed forces.

“From there, of course, we know the rest very well. But it was his priesthood that was the foundation of his service to the soldiers he supported, ”said the bishop. “He was Father Kapaun’s chaplain and as a priest he became a spiritual father to these men in a way that changed their lives.”

Father Kapaun was a chaplain in the United States Army during World War II and the Korean War and held the rank of captain. He is remembered for his selfless and courageous service in the service of soldiers on the front lines of battle and, after his capture in 1950, for caring for and boosting the morale of his fellow prisoners of war in a North Korean prison.

He too suffered brutal captivity and died in the POW camp on May 23, 1951.

His cause of holiness was officially opened in 1993, giving him the title of “Servant of God”. His case is currently being examined by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.

Seventy years after his death, a US government forensic team in Hawaii – the US Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency – announced on March 4 that it had identified his remains among those of unidentified soldiers long buried in Hawaii. at Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific.

On September 23, the Bishop of Honolulu Larry Silva celebrated an evening mass in the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in honor of Father Kapaun. The occasion was the transfer of the priest’s remains from Hawaii to his home diocese of Wichita, where a tomb was prepared for him in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Bishop Kemme was among those in Hawaii for mass and to accompany the remains to Kansas on September 24. He was joined by Scott Carter, coordinator of the Father Kapaun Guild; Father David Lies, vicar general of the diocese; Ray Kapaun, nephew of Father Kapaun; and the priest’s niece, US Air Force Maj. Kristina Roberts.

The homilist for this Mass was Father Wayne Schmid, priest of the Diocese of Wichita and himself chaplain for over 20 years. He said he owed his vocation to Father Kapaun.

He said he was inspired by Father Kapaun since he read a book about him in high school.

“Father Kapaun is a saint for our time,” he said. “It is a model to be emulated by priests, by chaplains.”

In Kansas, a September 28 vigil was scheduled for Father Kapaun at Hartman Arena in Wichita. His funeral mass was to be celebrated at the arena on September 29.

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

Members of the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, planned to transport his coffin into the cathedral after a 21-gun salute and “Taps”.

In Pilsen, Bishop Kemme said in his homily that more priests like Father Kapaun were needed.

“Priests who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and work diligently for the needs of those entrusted to them,” he said. “We need priests to lead a moral and virtuous life that is clearly evident, to put the needs of Christ’s flock before their own. “

Bishop Kemme said he was inspired by Father Kapaun.

“One of the emotions I felt so strongly – and always felt how honored I was to see the remains of this humble and holy priest in Hawaii – is that I have to step up my game when it comes down to it. ‘it is about my own life of priestly life,’ he declared.

“I need to renew my own priesthood as I now experience it in the office of bishop so that my actions, both visible and invisible, are imbued with the quality of self-giving and abnegation that was so evident in life and ministry. of Father Kapaun.

He added that he hopes that the same grace will anoint the hearts of all the priests in the Diocese of Wichita.

Bishop Kemme closed his homily by asking for Father Kapaun’s intercession to inspire more young men to consider a call to the priesthood.

“May they see Father Kapaun as a worthy model of the priesthood, for in my humble opinion they cannot find better. “

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Editor’s Note: More information on Father Kapaun’s life, ministry and cause of holiness is available at

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

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