Ray Kapaun give thanks after Fr. Kapaun’s funeral

Ray Kapaun spoke after Fr. Kapaun’s funeral Sept. 29 at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas. (Advance photo)

“It has been a very emotional week,” Ray Kapaun said as a warning before he delivered comments after Fr. Kapaun’s funeral.

After thanking the bishops and priests attending, he credited Bishop Kemme with making their return to Kansas from Hawaii the most blessed and sacred event he could have hoped for.

“Thank you very much,” he said directing his comments to the bishop, “although I do have to say I think you would look great in a Hawaiian shirt – I’m just saying.”

Ray said he could talk for hours in an attempt to thank those who planned and executed everything regarding the return of Fr. Kapaun’s remains.

Fr. Kapaun’s impact

“I look out on this crowd, and see all of you people here, and I realize that the lives that Father Emil touched – this is just a fraction of the lives that he touched, and it’s just amazing.”

He thanked the Diocese of Wichita and the people of Pilsen for keeping Fr. Kapaun’s name alive, at a time when few knew his name, to make sure that every generation would know what Fr. Kapaun stood for.

Ray joked that he and his wife, Lee, had been traveling back and forth to Pilsen so many times that they ought to look for a house to buy.

He paused and then quoted Fr. Kapaun: “I’m going someplace where I’ve always wanted to be. And when I get there, I’ll say a prayer for you.”

“Uncle Emil,” he said, “Welcome home. Home at last.”

Why he loves POWs

Ray stated that he frequently talks about POWs. “They’ve become my friends and almost my second fathers.”

The POWs came out of a death camp and told the story of Father Kapaun to anybody who would listen and told it to anybody who wouldn’t listen, he said. “I truly, truly believe that we probably would not be having this amazing event if it wasn’t for these guys.”

He and his wife were blessed to be able to spend the last four days with two of the POWs, he said, adding that the love and devotion they had for him was evident. “Still to this day they would lay down their lives for him.”

Ray then explained why the last song that would be sung at the funeral would be American the Beautiful.

Fr. Kapaun at the end of his life, after a religious service had concluded, chose that song because he knew no matter what faith a soldier had they would all stand behind that song.

“And with one voice he began singing that song. As soon as that happened, another voice picked it up, and another soldier picked it up, and another soldier picked it up, and pretty soon all across the entire camp, up and down that valley, everyone was singing America the Beautiful.”

That is a perfect example of how Fr. Emil lived his life and a perfect example of how one person can make a difference, how one person made a difference, and how one person is still making a difference, Ray said.

“We all need to be singing as loudly as we can because we’ve got to carry on his work. We’ve got to carry on his passion.

We’ve got to keep that name and that word out there to continue to grow, like a wildfire burning across a Kansas plain and across this country to make sure nobody forgets what this moment is right now.”