Pilsen remembers the fallen
Downstairs at St. John Nepomucene, Paulette Holub and other apron-clad altar society members displayed tables filled with kolaches, rohlicky, and houska — standard fare for a Czech community such as Pilsen.
Upstairs, Father Philip Creider set up a wholly different type of table — one for communion.
“Good morning, Pilsen,” Creider said, greeting worshipers at a Veterans Day Mass he celebrated Friday.
He then began piecing together the type of communion table that military chaplains like him — and Father Emil Kapaun — use in the field. Makeshift materials — a Crown Royal bag, for example — nothing fancy but plenty of faith.
“What I learned is that by using regular stuff, it brought God to them and them to God,” he said of the men and women he served in 20 years in the Navy and Marines.
A chaplain, he said, is “God’s totem pole” during war.
Faith sustained Kapaun, who died in 1951 in North Korea.
“Father Kapaun had it a thousand times harder than I did,” Creider said.
“I had a few months of war. He had years. I wasn’t a POW. He was a POW.”
Faith still sustains many of those in the military today, Creider said.
Kapaun “brought hope to everyone, and aren’t we all supposed to do that? Today is your day,” Creider said, gesturing to those in pew seats.
Guitar in hand, Ray Kapaun, the chaplain’s nephew, performed a song titled “I’ll Always Be a Pilsen Boy,” which was true for his uncle as well.
The piece essentially is a love song to Pilsen and Marion County.
Whenever Kapaun was on leave, it was to Pilsen he returned, Chaplain Kapaun Museum curator Harriet Bina said.
“This is the church he came to as a baby,” Bina said. “This is the church where he was an altar boy and where he began to pray.
People often ask Bina if she thinks Kapaun’s remains — discovered and returned in spring 2021 — should be interred in Pilsen instead of Wichita.
“This was home,” she said. “Instead, he went and became famous, so his remains are in Wichita.”
Those in pews — from young children to Kapaun’s contemporaties— chuckled. Downstairs, women of the altar society were laughing, too — joking around with each other while dishing up
the type of sustenance that eluded Kapaun and his fellow Korean War POWs.
The society started baking rohlicky on Wednesday. On Thursday, they focused on kolaches and pulled pork.
Friday morning, they turned their attention to cheesy potatoes, green beans, and corn.
“They” included altar society president Terry Klenda, Sharon Bina, Jane George, Norma Horenick, LaVada Holub, Karen Konarik, Barbara Kroupa, Marissa Makovec, Rosalie Rudolph, and Kathleen Svitak.
Last modified Nov. 16, 2022