May 26, 2024

Dear Parish Family:

Happy Memorial Day! Memorial Day is our nation’s solemn reminder that freedom is never free. It is a moment for us to reflect on the noble sacrifices of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service in defense of our nation. Let us remember them with great devotion and honor this weekend. Let us pray for the happy repose of their souls, the consolation of their families, the protection of all our service men and women, and for true and lasting peace in our world. 

Since Memorial Day Weekend falls one week after Pentecost this year, let me tell you about a soldier who was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Father Emil Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas, on Holy Thursday, April 20, 1916. He came from humble beginnings growing up on his family’s farm during the Dust Bowl years. He was ordained a priest on June 9, 1940 and entered the U.S. Army as a Chaplain in 1944. He spent time in India and Burma and earned the rank of Captain. Called back to his home diocese, his bishop sent him to the Catholic University of America to earn a master’s degree in education, using the GI Bill. Having completed his studies, Kapaun asked to return to the military. Permission was granted and in1948 he reported to the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Corps at Fort Bliss, Texas. 

In July 1950, his unit was sent to assist the South Koreans in the Korean War. He was well-known for facing danger in order to comfort a soldier, retrieve wounded soldiers amid gunfire, or enter no-man’s-land to provide a dying soldier with last rites.

On November 2, 1950, his unit was captured by Communist soldiers. In the prison camp, Kapaun cared for his fellow soldiers. He would fashion scraps of metal into small bowls so he could boil water to make sure it was clean for the men to avoid dysentery. He would wash the prisoners’ clothes and pick lice from their bodies. He would sneak out, when possible, to find food to bring back to the POWs. He also supported them emotionally and spiritually, leading them in prayer, celebrating Mass with them, or simply reminding them that they could survive this. 

Father Emil came down with pneumonia and developed a blood clot in his leg. When the guards came to take Father Emil to the medical tent, also known as the death house, he said to his fellow POWs: “Don’t worry about me. I’m going where I always wanted to go, and when I get there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you.” He then blessed his captors, forgiving them for their actions. Two days later, on May 23, 1951, Father Emil died—alone and only 35 years old.  His cause for canonization has been introduced.

Father Emil Kapaun is a humble example of the Holy Spirit’s gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Right Judgement, Courage, Peity, and Fear of the Lord.

Love and prayers,

Father Neil Sullivan