Pilsen Supporters of sainthood for a Kansas-born Catholic priest will gather here Sunday as the Vatican officially begins collecting information required for his canonization.
Officials of the Cause for Sainthood will take their oath of office during a celebration and Mass at the St. John Nepomucene Church, where the Rev. Emil Kapaun served before heading off as a military chaplain during the Korean War.
Kapaun, 35, died in 1951 at a POW camp and apparently was buried in a mass grave near the Yalu River.
Among those attending Sunday's Mass will be the Most Rev. Michael O. Jackels, bishop of the Wichita Diocese, and Andrea Ambrosi, Roman postulator for the cause for sainthood.
Ten years ago the Catholic Church named Kapaun a servant of God, an initial step in the sainthood process. Both the Archdiocese of Military Service and the Wichita Diocese have supported the process and, in 2002, the Wichita Diocese appointed Father John Hotze to head the cause.
"There are still many hours, days, weeks and months of work ahead of us," Hotze said. "They will go over everything he has written, to see if it is doctrinally sound."
Commissioners will gather testimony from at least 50 people, including those who knew Kapaun when he was growing up in Pilsen and fellow soldiers in the POW camp.
They'll also look for evidence of two miracles performed through Kapaun's intercession after his death. If the first miracle is proven, he will be beatified, or declared blessed. A second proven miracle will result in his canonization, or declaration of his sainthood.
The miracles being investigated currently involving people being healed through Kapaun's intercession, as opposed to medical or scientific help.
When the interviews and reviews are completed, the information will be sent to the Congregation of Saints in Rome.
"Rome asks that we keep everything secret until the process is complete," Hotze said. "This is all of God. If this is meant to be, it is going to happen."
For those who knew Kapaun, the question of his sainthood isn't if but when.
Millie Vinduska, who lives across from the church, prays to and for Kapaun every day and remembers when she was 14 and the newly ordained priest returned to his home parish.
"He's a saint already," Vinduska said. "The church just hasn't recognized it yet."
While Kapaun never returned from the war, his likeness did in the form of a large bronze sculpture built near the church depicting the priest as an Army chaplain aiding a wounded soldier.
The soldier, Herbert Miller, survived and Vinduska said she remembered him visiting Pilsen for the community's first Kapaun Day six years ago.
"He was so impressed with Father Kapaun and how kind he was to everyone," she said. "He loved them, held them, washed their bodies and fed them. He could make the filthiest hovel, when he stepped in, seem like a cathedral."