Wichita, not Pilsen, to get Kapaun remains
The Wichita Diocese was notified last week that the family of the late Father Emil Kapaun has decided to have his body interred in Wichita.
Harriet Bina, director of the Kapaun Museum at Pilsen, said she was informed of the decision the day before Easter but didn’t tell her tour guides, Kelli Krch and Melissa Stuchlik, until Easter evening.
“I was heartbroken, and I didn’t want to spoil their Easter celebrations,” she said.
“We’re still happy that his remains were identified. We looked forward to him coming home. He’s not here yet, but whatever decision the family made, we will abide by.”
Bina said Kapaun’s nephew, Raymond Kapaun, told her the interment in Wichita was temporary. He said security was the biggest issue, with Pilsen being a small town and a long way for law enforcement to come if there was trouble at the gravesite.
“We know it wasn’t an easy decision for the family, but we understand their concern about security,” Bina said. “They wanted to do what was best for Father Kapaun.”
Scott Carter, coordinator of the Cause for Sainthood for Father Kapaun, said military veterans would have preferred Kapaun be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, District of Columbia, but the Wichita Diocese is happy that Father Kapaun’s body is coming back to Kansas.
Kapaun’s remains will be initially interned in a crypt or vault in The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. If he is recognized as a saint in the future, his remains will be relocated inside a dedicated shrine to commemorate his legacy.
Scott said the Kapaun family considered Pilsen as the burial site, but keeping in mind Kapaun’s possible sainthood, decided on Wichita for security and safety reasons.
“I’m happy he’s coming back to Kansas,” Carter said. “I love Pilsen. It has one of the most beautiful churches in the diocese. The Kapaun story is a beautiful story. I hope that visitors to his tomb in Wichita will be directed to visit Pilsen.”
Scott thinks the family will bring the casket to Pilsen to give church and community members a chance to honor Kapaun’s life before it is taken to Wichita for interment.
Scott said the memorial service in Wichita probably would be held in a large venue to accommodate the thousands that would be expected to attend.
Kapaun’s intact remains were identified last month, almost 70 years after his death. A military chaplain, Kapaun became a POW in North Korea in 1950 and died in May 1951 after ministering selflessly to fellow inmates in inhumane conditions. He was declared a Servant of God in 1993.
Bina said no memorial date has been set but likely would not be until the COVID 19 pandemic is past.
“He’s not home yet, but, like his mama said, we’ll keep on praying,” Bina concluded.