COLWICH, Kan. (KSNW) — Father Emil Kapaun is known as a servant of God and a national hero. He was an Army chaplain in World War II and the Korean War. He was taken as a prisoner of war in 1950 and died a year later at the age of 35.
Although Kapaun died decades ago, no one identified his remains until this year. He is a candidate for sainthood. Only three American-born people have ever been canonized.
The Congregation for Causes of Saints in Rome is still going over documentation. To become a saint, the church has to declare two miracles.
One of two possible miracles hails from Kansas as well.
Kansan Chase Kear is the man who says he owes his life to Father Emil Kapaun.
In 2008, he was pole vaulting in high school and while messing around with a buddy, things went terribly wrong.
Kear said he grabbed the wrong pole and while making the leap, he launched more than 14 feet in the air. He landed on his head, and it cracked his skull from ear to ear and broke his lower back.
Kear said he was not expected to survive.
“I was on my deathbed, with next to zero chance of living,” said Kear.
Doctors removed a third of Chase Kear’s skull and he said it was the prayers that helped save his life.
“My aunt called my mom and asked, ‘Do you want a Father Kapaun prayer?’ My mom said, ‘Yeah,’ so people basically immediately were praying for his intercession on my behalf.”
After being in the hospital for a month and 19 days, he’s now known as “The Miracle Man.” Kear said it is thanks to Father Kapaun.
“The top doctors in the world can’t really explain why I am the way I am today,” he said.
He is now living what many would call a normal life.
“I get up every morning, and I sit in a chair in that corner and put my boots on and say some prayers. You know, I woke up this morning, thank you,” said Kear.
Kear credits Kapaun for his survival and recovery and as the remains finally come home, Kear said his emotions are high.
“My heart is beating 1,000 miles a minute, you know, popping out of my chest,” said Kear. “The man who helped save my life, to be able to meet him in a sense, to be able to thank him, it’s an honor.”
Kear said the return will bring closure to POWs, the community of Pilsen and hundreds more. He also is hopeful it will remind people that they can make it through the hard times.
“God bless and welcome home,” said Kear.
Kear said many blessings have come his way this year, from buying a home and getting a job promotion to starting a family and getting married the week after Kapaun’s return.
He said the timing couldn’t be better aligned.