Bishop seeking input regarding visitors’ center for Fr. Kapaun

As the cause for Father Emil Kapaun’s Beatification and Canonization continues to be studied by Rome, Bishop Carl A. Kemme has gathered a committee to look at what can be done to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims visiting Fr. Kapaun’s hometown of Pilsen.
The committee has been tasked with making recommendations on a possible Father Kapaun Visitor’s Center. Several parishioners from Pilsen are on the committee, as well as members of the Cause for Father Kapaun’s Canonization, and other diocesan offices.
“It will still be years before the process for Father Kapaun’s canonization is complete,” says Scott Carter, diocesan coordinator for the Father Kapaun office, “but the need for a more suitable way to welcome visitors to Pilsen is already here.”
Harriet Bina, one of the several local caretakers and tour guides of the Chaplain Kapaun Museum, sees the need all the time. “The Medal of Honor Ceremony [in 2013] brought a lot of attention to Father Kapaun’s story. Five to 10 years ago we had few visitors, and very few school groups. Today we have a lot of military men stopping in, and far more schools. It has even brought visitors from outside the country.”
Harriet says that visitors are excited to walk the same grounds that Father Kapaun walked on and to pray in St. John Nepomucene Church where he received his sacraments. The small farming community of hard-working and resourceful people hasn’t changed much in the 75 years since Father Kapaun last lived there, so it’s the perfect place to learn about what formed him into the hero he would later become.
Over 100 groups a year now visit the museum, which displays many artifacts from Chaplain Kapaun’s life and has several models to help illustrate his heroic deeds. In addition, tour guides also tell stories of potential miracles attributed to Father Kapaun’s intercession.
Unfortunately, the current buildings do not adequately meet the needs of visitors. The only handicap access to the church is by an antiquated lift which does not always function properly, and there is no handicap access to the museum. Furthermore, the size of the current buildings forces the guides to split school and other group tours up.
One group is able to spend time in the museum while another hears stories in the church basement. Often Father Kapaun’s story must be told in the main body of the church because there isn’t another space big enough for it.
A potential visitor center would help alleviate these needs. Upgrades, including a handicap ramp, would be made to the church to help welcome visitors. A new multipurpose building will be built that can host large groups for talks and meals, as well as providing adequate space for displaying Fr. Kapaun’s artifacts and telling his story.
Some preliminary work on plans has already occurred, and the building committee will continue to meet regularly to further develop the plans and report to the Bishop.
“We hope to find a way to better honor Father Kapaun and to allow visitors to be inspired by his story,” says Carter.

Father Kapaun to be honored in June
Father Emil Kapaun will be honored next month at his home church in Pilsen. A 60-mile pilgrimage from Church of the Magdalen Church in Wichita to St. John Nupomecene Church in Pilsen will be held from June 1-4. A Mass will be celebrated on the last day, Sunday, June 4, at the church. Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m., instead of 3 p.m. as in previous years, followed by lunch and tours. For more information or to register, visit www.FrKapaun.org.
The Chaplain Kapaun Museum is located at 2744 Remington Road in Pilsen. It is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Friday. To schedule a tour at another time, call Rose at Holy Family Parish, 620-382-3369.