Wednesday, April 14, 2010

As seen in Kansas: Fr. Kapaun Memorial

Catholic leadership has been taking a lot of heat recently, and rightfully so. You can't give tacit (or even blatant) approval to pedophilia without getting some pretty serious backlash.

People just aren't going to put up with it. Nobody should.

I'm not Catholic, and I'm not going to make any excuses for any of that stuff. But I do think it's important to point out that there are a lot of people, Catholic and otherwise, that have contributed a lot of good to the world.

One person in particular was Father Emil Kapaun, a Korean War hero from the tiny Kansas hamlet of Pilsen.

Kapaun was the son of Czech immigrants, grew up on a small Kansas farm and graduated from Conception Abbey seminary college north of Kansas City.

He was serving as an Army chaplain in Korea when his army unit was overrun by a Chinese invasion force. Rather than retreating with the main Army force, he stayed behind with his battalion, ministering to wounded and giving medical aide.

Eventually, Kapaun and about 40 soldiers found themselves huddled in a trench surrounded by hundreds of Chinese. To the soldiers, who had heard rumors of the Chinese "take no prisoners" policy, surrender was suicide. But with the mortar rounds falling, Kapaun worked with a captured Chines officer to negotiate a surrender. He risked being shot in the back to stop the execution of wounded American soldiers at the hands of the Chinese.

Soldiers who survived the Chinese attack say Kapaun's negotiation and bravery is responsible for saving the lives of 40 men that day.

In the North Korean POW camp, Kapaun made it his duty to ministered to the other prisoners and keep up their morale. There are many accounts of him giving up his food rations and other personal items to fellow prisoners.

He died of exhaustion and pneumonia in the POW camp at the age of 35.

The Army awarded Kapaun the Distinguished Service Cross, and there is currently a bill in Congress to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government.

The Catholic Church declared Kapaun a Servant of God, and he has become a candidate for sainthood. If his canonization is approved, he will be only the third Catholic saint to be born in the United States.

In his hometown of Pilson, Kapaun is memorialized in a bronze statue depicting him helping a wounded soldier off the battlefield. There are also many schools, Army bases and chapels and other sites named in his honor throughout the state, country and even the world.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. I'm not Catholic either, but you're correct to acknowledge that good and bad exist among all segments of society.


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