South Koreans visit diocese on tour of Servant of God Emil Kapaun sites

By Scott Carter
Three representatives from a school in South Korea with ties to Father Emil Kapaun visited sites in the Diocese of Wichita, including Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School, Fr. Kapaun’s namesake, Nov. 26-28.
The trio were in the diocese to learn more about the life and legacy of Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun. Father Michael Chang, Gabriel Kim, and Raphael Choi, who used their Americanized first names, traveled over 6,600 miles from Gwangju, located in the southwest corner of South Korea, to visit the home diocese of Father Kapaun.
Father Chang is the principal of Salesian Middle and High School, which was started in Father Kapaun’s honor in 1956. Kim and Choi are teachers. In addition to learning more about Father Kapaun, they hoped to make connections to help bolster the identity of their school and inspire their students.
Salesian was built during reconstruction that followed the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with a cease-fire. As stories of Father Kapaun’s heroism spread, several U.S. Army Catholic chaplains serving in South Korea organized an effort to memorialize him. The chaplains collected money for the school at Masses they celebrated with soldiers in Korea. Donations also came from the Holy See and the Armed Forces Aid to Korea program.
To oversee the school, the bishop of the Archdiocese of Gwangju invited the Salesian Fathers, whose patron is St. John Bosco, and who specialize in educating youth. Over 500 students are enrolled in the seventh through ninth grades, and over 700 in the 10th through 12th grades.
The three visitors were able to travel to Father Kapaun’s hometown of Pilsen, where Father Michael concelebrated Mass at St. John Nupomucene Church with the pastor, Father Darrin May. Afterward they toured the Chaplain Kapaun Museum and heard stories of Father Kapaun’s life from Rose Mary Neuwirth and Harriet Bina, two of the local Father Kapaun guides. They also met with Father Kapaun’s nephews, Ray and David Kapaun. Although the visitors enjoyed trying our American food, they were excited to treat Ray to some authentic Korean food – or at least the closest thing they could find in Wichita.
Their tour included Kapaun-Mt. Carmel High School in Wichita. In 1956, Bishop Mark K. Carroll dedicated the all-boys Chaplain Kapaun Memorial High School using seed money raised by several of Father Kapaun’s fellow Prisoners of War. The school later merged with Mount Carmel Academy to become Kapaun-Mt. Carmel, but it still carries Father Kapaun’s legacy. The visitors toured the school, and with President Rob Knapp discussed the possibilities of the two schools becoming sister schools dedicated to Father Kapaun’s honor.
Before leaving, the South Koreans talked about the work of the Holy Spirit as Father Kapaun’s story continues to spread throughout the world. As Father May put it at the end of Mass at Pilsen, “It is amazing to think of all the good that has come simply from one person following God’s will.”