Rosemary Neuwirth of Lincolnville will travel to the Vatican next week with about 100 others from the U.S. to present a “positio” on Father Emil Kapaun to the College of Saints. Bishop Carl A. Kemme of the Wichita Catholic Diocese, two Wichita Eagle reporters, and a filmmaker from California will accompany the group.
After having surgery in May, Neuwirth was not certain she would be able to go.
“I didn’t let myself get excited about it until a couple of weeks ago, when I finally decided I was actually going,” she said.
The 73-year-old Neuwirth has been involved in Kapaun’s cause from the beginning. She was a teacher of religion at St. John Nepomucene Church in Pilsen when she became aware that children were not learning Kapaun‘s story. She said when Mgr. Arthur Tonne was there, parents relied on him to teach their children about the priest. His departure left a gap in their education.
With the help of the Wichita Diocese, each family was given a book about Kapaun written by Tonne in the 1950s. Then the congregation came up with the idea of commissioning the now-famous bronze statue of Kapaun helping a wounded soldier. Neuwirth was put in charge of the project.
She said the dedication of the statue really got the ball rolling for Kapaun‘s sainthood. More than 2,100 people from 25 states attended the June 3, 2001 dedication, and stories about it were published in newspapers across the country.
Since then, thousands of people have traveled to Pilsen to see where Kapaun was raised, ordained, and served as a priest and to view memorabilia related to him.
Neuwirth will be with the group that will present the compilation of personal stories from POWs and other people who knew Kapaun, four books written about him, and all documentaries made about him. The book includes Kapaun’s record of service in the Wichita Diocese and as a military chaplain.
Documentation of “alleged miracles” accredited to Kapaun’s intercession also will be presented.
The presentation in Rome is the final step in the effort to secure Kapaun’s canonization. Neuwirth said the College of Saints will determine if Kapaun is worthy of being declared a saint. She doesn’t know how long it will take the college to make a decision.