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Chaplain (Captain) Emil J. Kapaun

Born: April 20, 1916 - Died: May 23, 1951

What makes a Servant of God and national hero?  It starts with an ordinary person in a place not too distant, in a time not so long ago, motivated by the love of God.

Elizabeth Hajek Kapaun and her husband of one year, Enos, moved the bed into the warm kitchen of the remote farmhouse in preparation for the birth of their first child.  At 11:00 a.m. on April 20, 1916 – Holy Thursday – their son Emil Joseph was born.  Father John Sklenar, surely the most towering and influential person in the area, baptized the boy on May 9 at the newly-built St. John Nepomucene Church in Pilsen, Kansas, three miles from the Kapauns’ 160 acre farm.  Emil was christened for a life in the pious, hard-working enclave of Bohemian settlers just 40 miles south of the central Kansas town of Abilene, the boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Little did Enos and Bessie know that 35 years later their son would be lauded as a hero by men returning from a prisoner of war camp in North Korea.  Although Chaplain (Captain) Emil J. Kapaun was the victim of malnutrition and pneumonia after spending only seven months in the camp, like his Savior, he freely parted with his life for the sake of his “boys”.  “No one has greater love, than this” St. John tells us, “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Father Kapaun’s story is that of a saintly hero dedicated to living a life of Christian virtue and service to his fellow man under the most difficult and despicable conditions imaginable.  Father Kapaun’s heroism in the prison camp wasn’t an isolated event, however: his lifelong dedication to Christ and to His Church placed him on the path of priestly service that culminated in his ultimate sacrifice in North Korea at only 35 years old.

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For more information about Fr. Emil Kapaun visit:

Click here to read article by Elaine Robison - Quest Summer 2021

Veteran Recognition Mass & Memorial Wall Dedication for Fr. Kapaun 2021
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