Episode 44 with Fr. Eric Weldon
Father Emil Kapaun was born of Czech parents and was a Catholic chaplain who served in the Korean War.
He loved being with “his boys” and befriended men of all faiths - Christians, Jews, Muslims, and even atheists; what was amazing were their stories of his heroism.
They respected him for his courage in standing up to his North Korean captors and for being a beacon of hope in times of great suffering. He was awarded posthumously the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Pope St. John Paul II declared him a Servant of God, a step on the path to canonization.
The Early Years
Father Emil Kapaun was born on Holy Thursday in 1916 in the small town of Pilsen, Kansas. His parents taught him the value of hard work taught him how to fix and repair things; this would come in handy years later in captivity.
The Korean War and the battle of Unsan
On all Saints Day his platoon was overtaken by the rushing of thousands of Chinese soldiers.
Earlier that day he had celebrated four Masses for his men. His men told him to pull back to safer ground, but Father was seen carrying wounded and staying with the wounded and dying, administering the Last Rites to those in need.
He was captured and the men had a grueling more than sixty mile march. Herb Miller was injured and would be shot if he didn’t keep up. So, Father Kapaun carried him on his back.
Being a POW
The Korean winter nights could get as cold as thirty to even fifty below zero. Men slept side by side to keep warm, and it wasn’t unusual to wake up and find several buddies frozen to death.
The ration of food was a couple tablespoons of birdseed. Over time men became malnourished and dehydrated, and many died. But Father Kapaun would talk to them and tell them that it wouldn’t be long before they were released and home with family.
His final Days
Father eventually developed pneumonia aggravated by severe malnutrition.
Before the guards took him away to die in seclusion, he told his men, “Do not cry for me. I am going to see Jesus, and I have been working towards this all of my life.”
Canonization under Study
There have been several miracles and two are discussed in this show. His cause for beatification and then canonization is in progress.
Father Kapaun, pray for us!