WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The vigil for Father Emil Kapaun took place Tuesday at Hartman Arena.
Kapaun died in 1951 after he was taken as a prisoner in the Korean War and fell sick. His remains were not found until earlier this year. Kapaun was flown in from Hawaii and taken to his hometown of Pilsen over the weekend before being brought back to Wichita.
Tuesday’s vigil was the first of two memorial services being held for the late war hero and sainthood candidate.
“We welcome you and thank you for joining us in this vigil of prayer and holy rosary for Father Emil Kapaun,” said Father David Lies, vicar-general.
Thousands were able to pay their respects to Kapaun.
“The human being that he was and the things that he did. I served in the military too, and I’ve read the book on him,” said Ray Vail, who attended the vigil.
The Catholic Diocese of Wichita has been planning the vigil for months.
“It’s been a lot of work and a lot of planning, and it just goes to show we have a solid army of Catholic faithful that are able to help us and willing to help pitch in on different things,” said Matt Vainer, Catholic Diocese of Wichita.
A major part of the vigil and other events for Kapaun is the hope that he will eventually be accepted into sainthood.
“We’re still a long ways away, but we’re certain that he’s looking down on heaven, and this is just part of the process,” said Vainer.
But for some, he has already made an impact.
“I feel like I’m in the presence of a saint because he saved my son and he saved my daughter. I have an overwhelming sense of calm and happiness and awe for everything he has done for our world and our country,” said Terri Norgren who attended the vigil.
WATCH THE VIGIL BELOW
On Wednesday, Kapaun’s funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m.
After the Mass at Hartman Arena, there will be an event for those who could not make it to the service. Kapaun’s remains will be carried in a horse-drawn caisson procession from Veterans Memorial Park, 339 Veterans Memorial Parkway, to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Central and Broadway. It is expected to start at 1:30 and last until 3 p.m.
From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Central Avenue will be closed from Veterans Parkway to Topeka for the burial and military processions. Westbound traffic from Riverview and 2nd will be closed, but all eastbound traffic will be open to 2nd Street. The Wichita Police Department and other coordinating agencies will be present to provide an escort and assist with traffic control.
Kapaun will be laid to rest in a 5,400-pound tomb inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.