Kapaun museum plans security improvements

News editor

Eugene Kapaun was always adamant that if his brother, Father Emil Kapaun, was ever awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the Korean War, the medal should go to Pilsen, Kapaun tour guide Rose Mary Neuwirth said.

Eugene didn’t live to see the day, but on Thursday, the president will present the highest military award for valor to Ray Kapaun, Father Kapaun’s nephew. Neuwirth said the family agrees with Eugene’s belief that the medal should go to Pilsen, where Father Kapaun grew up and served as a priest.

However, the room in St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church’s rectory that serves as a mini-museum in Kapaun’s honor is insufficient in size and security to be the permanent home to such an important historical artifact, Neuwirth said.

The rectory is too small for some of the crowds volunteers have given tours to already. Neuwirth has taken as many as 50 people through at a time, and last October volunteers gave tours to more than 700 people, which doesn’t account for the people who only stopped to visit the statue of Kapaun outside.

Neuwirth expects the crowds to swell with Kapaun’s latest honor. If Kapaun is canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in the future, volunteer tour guides Neuwirth, Carol Makovec, Harriet Bina, and Carole Sklenar could be inundated with pilgrims.

The volunteers have spoken with Sheriff Rob Craft for ideas about improving security at the rectory while they continue to pursue a long-term solution.

“The long-range plan is that we would love to have a center,” she said.

A proper museum and visitor center would make it easier for volunteers to give tours to visitors who don’t arrange a tour in advance — like Tom Butt of Lawrence, an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, who made the trip to Pilsen on Monday after reading about Kapaun over the weekend.

Neuwirth said a visitor center with space for children could allow young stay-at-home mothers to volunteer, making the hours more regular. There is already land that could be used for construction of a visitor center near the church.

The Father Kapaun Guild, which works to support Kapaun’s prospective sainthood, receives donations for that cause, but it is unable to contribute to security improvements at the rectory or any future visitor center, Neuwirth said.

Some details remain to be worked out,

Some details remainto be worked out, but the Marion County Record asked for and received permission to start a Chaplain Kapaun Legacy Fund at Tampa State Bank to provide for security improvements at the rectory and future construction of a visitor center. The fund will be used exclusively for improvements in Pilsen. To kick it off, the newspaper will donate $1,000 in hope of spurring other donations.

Bishop’s transfer is hiccup for sainthood

Michael Jackels, bishop of the Wichita Diocese, was announced Monday as the next archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, a move that could delay the movement for Kapaun’s canonization.

The local bishop plays an important role in the canonization process, Neuwirth said. She hopes a new bishop can be appointed for Wichita soon.

Even if things continue moving forward, there is no timeline for the Vatican to consider Kapaun’s possible sainthood.

When the Father Kapaun Guild formed, Father John Hotze, judicial vicar for the Wichita Diocese, said there was no chance Kapaun would be canonized during the organizers’ lifetimes, Neuwirth recounted, but more recently, he has said it is possible.

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