Fr. Kapaun

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Joined July 2017

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Servant of God, Chaplain (Capt.) Emil Kapaun. A native of Kansas, Emil Kapaun followed God’s will for him, becoming a priest in 1940. After just three years, he was appointed as a military chaplain, and was sent overseas in 1945 to minister to the U.S. soldiers and local missions in India. He was promoted to captain in January 1946. At the close of the war, Fr. Kapaun was released from active duty, but his service to the United States was far from done.

Called into action in the Korean War, Fr. Kapaun was known for his devotion to the soldiers. He put his life on the line to bring the Eucharist and the Presence of Christ to the front lines during the war, celebrating mass on the hood of his Jeep for the soldiers.

November 1960, battle began on the front lines, and Fr. Kapaun and the other soldiers were overrun by Communist Chinese forces. Out of love for his fellow men, he would run out, past the front lines, to drag people to safety, comfort the dying, and anoint the injured. He continued to minister to the men, even after the call for evacuation. A 40 mile death march ensued, and Fr. Kapaun often picked up men who were injured along the way, encouraging them to continue.

As a Prisoner of War, Fr. Kapaun and many other men were held in camps. Often, Fr. Kapaun would find ways to sneak out in order to bring back food for his fellow men. He constructed bowls from scrap material in order to boil water. And he celebrated Mass in secret for the men whenever possible. It is said that all the men were so inspired, they erupted in songs of praise to God.

Fr. Kapaun was hated by his Communist captors, and subjected to torture in hopes that he would give up his efforts and stop bringing hope to the people. In 1951, Fr. Kapaun was taken to a place the Communist called the “hospital”, which was really a death house, where they left soldiers to die of malnutrition. The soldiers begged them to let their priest stay, but Fr. Kapaun comforted them and told them he was ready to go. The last thing the soldiers saw him do was bless the men who were taking him and said to God, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

On May 23, 1951, Fr. Emil Kapaun passed away. He is the most highly decorated military chaplain in U.S. military history. In 2013, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. At the ceremony, nine men who Fr. Kapaun helped survive the prison camp were present.

The case for Fr. Kapaun’s canonization is currently open. He has been given the title Servant of God, and continues to move forward to being canonized.

For more information on Fr. Kapaun visit the following links:

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