Jerry and Barbara Wishall of McCormick, S.C., and Jerry’s brother, Jay, of Derby were in Pilsen on Monday to tour St. John’s Nepomucene Catholic Church and the Father Emil Kapaun Museum. Father Phil Creider of Shawnee, Okla., was another visitor.
Harriet Bina was on hand to conduct the tour, one of many that have been given in the past week.
Barbara Wishall said they had been planning this trip for a year, and it happened to coincide with her husband’s 50th high school class reunion at Coffeyville.
Jerry Wishall said he was moved by what he read about Chaplain Emil Kapaun in a book he received from a friend. Having grown up in rural Kansas, he felt a kinship with Kapaun and wanted to visit his home parish.
Father Creider recently retired after 20 years as a Navy chaplain. He served with Marines in the first Gulf War. He experienced coming under fire while serving Mass, having to pocket the sacraments and fall on the ground. He said a Marine threw his body over him to protect him.
Creider first heard about Kapaun in 1995.
“He became a hero of mine,” he said. “He was tough and holy at the same time, and he gave the ultimate gift. He could give no more.”
Bina passionately explained the history and meaning behind the pieces in the museum and told the stories of those who ascribe healings to Father Kapaun’s intercession.
In the middle of one room sat a display of a newly crafted model created by Bina herself showing the type of structure in which the prisoners of war in a North Korean camp lived. As the visitors gathered around, Bina explained how Kapaun put his life at risk many times to visit the prisoners and care for them.
The visitors were visibly moved by the stories they heard, as evidenced by tears in Barbara Wishall’s eyes. They departed armed with books and souvenirs to take home.
Bina said the church is hoping Catholics as well as other churches in the communities surrounding Pilsen will acquaint themselves with the Kapaun Museum so they can answer questions about it when visitors come to the area. The number of visitors is expected to increase as the Vatican continues to consider the canonization of Kapaun as a Saint.
To set up a tour, call Rose Mary Neuwirth at (620) 924-5282 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.