Fr. Weldon at vespers: Give your life as Fr. Kapaun did
Fr. Eric Weldon, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in South Hutchinson, talked about the feast days that surround the funeral day of Fr. Kapaun at a vespers with the clergy of the Diocese of Wichita Monday, Sept. 27, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
“These liturgical moments guide us in the moment as priests because we are the ones who are responsible for the liturgy – to guide people through the life of Christ with the holy ones who’ve gone before us, which is what Emil has done for us. He’s gone before us,” he said before his brother priests who filled the front pews.
Fr. Weldon said he was a graduate of Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School and added that graduates of Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School walked past Fr. Kapaun’s memorabilia every day of school.
They see in those objects strength, direction, and purpose, he said. “Every morning entering school I would stop there and look at that. This man did this.”
Today the church in Wichita is experiencing a Renaissance with Fr. Kapaun, he said, adding that the chaplain-hero’s story is now widely known.
Fr. Kapaun became a chaplain in a time of crisis for the world. Quoting Italian Cardinal Amleto Giovanni Cicognani’s 1938 speech, Father said: “With the sense of moral responsibility taken from the conscience of man, with charity torn from the human heart, with everything reduced to a crude and perverse materialism, there remains only the weapon of terrorism to impose any kind of discipline at all. And not even that is able to halt the dissolution of society. This condition is the characteristic of atheism as charity is the characteristic of Christianity.”
That is what Fr. Kapaun brought to the prisoner of war camp, Fr. Weldon said.
“It’s what he brought to those men in the field where he risked everything because he knew when he laid down on that sanctuary floor at St. John Chapel in what was then Sacred College, now Newman University, when he laid down on that floor, he knew he died. And he knew he must serve.”
Because death has no power and Christ has the victory, Fr. Weldon said, Fr. Kapaun was able to crawl on his belly to reach men to give them the anointing, to reach out to dying men.
After recounting the heroism of Fr. Kapaun’s service to his fellow soldiers in the POW camp, Fr. Weldon related that to the work of his brother priests.
He said he doesn’t feel worthy of the call but that God does call. “He calls us to offer ourselves as Emil did in what was hell on earth, an atheistic communism that destroyed the dignity of the human person, and watched in amazement. I’m sure that they could not believe that this man would give of himself in such a way, and in his giving in such a way, the other men learned to give, and they gave themselves, and they eventually carried him around and cared for him.”
Fr. Weldon urged those listening to embrace the holiness of the week, to understand what Fr. Kapaun did for his brother priests, “and how we are called to walk in his footsteps, though we are so unworthy.”
The world struggles today between the banality of socialism and the godlessness of materialism, he said.
“We are in the middle of that and we must bring Christ to them. May Emil intercede for us.”