16 June 2008

A US Army Korean War chaplain to be canonized?

During my teenage years, when I knew I wanted to be a missionary priest, I was inspired by the story of a US Army Chaplain who died in captivity during the Korean War, Fr Emil Kapaun, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. I was thinking of joining the Columbans and knew that some of them had died in the Korean War and others, including Monsignor Thomas Quinlan, later an archbishop, and Father Philip Crosbie, and Australian, were forced to take part in a notorious ‘death march, which they survived. Father Crosbie wrote about his experiences in Three Winters Cold, published in some countries as Pencilling Prisoner. His book was one of the Lord's 'signposts' for me and I read it again on a retreat here in the Philippines in 1988, and was equally inspired.

I was delighted as a to discover that Father Emil Kapaun and I shared the same birthday, 20 April, and he cancelled out, so to speak, Adolf Hitler, who was born on that date also. I was born on Tuesday of Holy Week 1943 while Father Kapaun was born on Thursday of Holy Week in 1916.

Catholic News Agency (CNA) carries a report dated 15 June, taken from Catholic Advance, the newspaper of Father Kaplaun’s diocese, stating that the cause for his canonization is to be launched officially in his home town, Pilsen, Kansas, on 29 June.

Pilsen, KS, Jun 15, 2008 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Cause for the Canonization of Father Emil Kapaun, an Army Chaplain who died while in a North Korean Prisoner of War Camp in 1951, will be officially opened on June 29. Father Emil Kapaun, a native of Pilsen, was ordained for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita on June 9, 1940. After serving as a priest in the diocese, Father Kapaun asked to be allowed to serve as a U.S. Army chaplain.
Read the full story here.

There is a website dedicated to the memory and cause of Father Kapaun.

I must confess that while a teenager I saw the vocation of the military chaplain as the greatest of all. In kindergarten Sister Margaret Stanislaus of the Irish Sisters of Charity, who prepared us for First Holy Communion, often spoke of Father Willie Doyle SJ, from Dalkey, County Dublin. He was a member of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and died in the Third Battle of Ypres (Ieper), Belgium, on 17 August 1917. The battle lasted from June to November. My maternal grandmother's brother, Corporal Lawrence Dowd, from near Tara, County Meath, died in the same battle eleven days earlier. Maybe Father Doyle had ministered to him. I located Uncle Larry's grave in Ieper in 2001 with the help of a Belgian/Filipino couple whose marriage I officiated at. I was the first relative ever to visit his grave.

Fr Willie Doyle SJ

Father Emil J. Kapaun


Lord Jesus,
in the midst of the folly of war,
your servant, Chaplain Emil Kapaun
spent himself in total service to you
on the battlefields and in the prison camps of Korea,
until his death at the hands of his captors.

We now ask you, Lord Jesus,
if it be your will,
to make known to all the world
the holiness of Chaplain Kapaun and the
glory of his complete sacrifice for you by
signs of miracles and peace.

In your name, Lord, we ask,
for you are the source of peace,
the strength of our service to others,and our final hope. Amen
Chaplain Kapaun, pray for us.


cactusml said...

I am helping my 1st grader do a scrap book on a country. He came home with having chose Korea. My father was a Marine radar operator in F7f's and F3D's. So I was delighted with his choice. We found a picture of a preist saying Mass for the soldiers and decided to add it to our scrapbook since he attends Catholic schools. In continuing my research for him I found this article. Thank you so much for posting it

Unknown said...

I have only been a Catholic for one year -- to this day to be exact. I read about Father Kapaun in the news and then found your site dedicated to him. He is especially important to me because our youngest son, Malachi, is on his way to Afghanistan for his second tour of duty. I have been looking for a saint to pray for my son, and now I have found him. Even though Father Kapaun isn't a saint yet, he is the godly priest whose intercession I am going to ask for.

Thank you for your blog on him.

Jenna Pope