A Catholic church official traveled from the warmer temperatures of New Orleans to the chilly clime of Pilsen on Oct. 22 with a single purpose in mind.

Philip M. Hannan, retired archbishop, was in the tiny Marion County community to film part of a television documentary about the life of Father Emil J. Kapaun.

Kapaun grew up on a farm three miles southwest of Pilsen and died as a beloved chaplain in a North Korean POW camp in 1951.

But beneath the surface of cameras, testimonies and video tape, Hannan’s mission goes much deeper than just a story about a great man’s life.

“It will be submitted as part of the testimony needed for the canonization process,” Hannan said. “And we hope, in the not too distant future, we will all be able to say not simply “Father Emil Kapaun,’ but ‘Saint Emil Kapaun.'”

He only knew Kapaun for a brief time, but their short acquaintance had a lasting impact on the church official, Hannan said.

The two knew each other when they were both students at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in the late ’40s.

“I recognized immediately-you only had to know Emil a little bit to know that he was a totally dedicated chaplain,” Hannan said. “There’s no doubt about it that he had a special calling, it seemed to me, to be a chaplain.”

Hannan is responsible for spearheading the documentary being produced through his company-Focus Worldwide Television Network-outside of New Orleans.

He arranged for his cameraman and editor, Jason Vowell, to bring two cameras to capture a conversation with four men who knew Kapaun well-Herbert Miller, Michael Dowe Jr., Romain Menarski and Eugene Kapaun.

As the wind and chill of a fall day blasted a crowd of about 35 people gathered to watch the taping, Hannan stood on a platform in front of a new sculpture erected in front of St. John Nepomucene Church in Pilsen.

The life-size bronze statue, dedicated June 3, depicts Kapaun carrying a wounded soldier in the field of battle.

Herbert Miller, the inspiration for the wounded soldier in the statue, and an ex POW, flew from his home in Pulaski, N.Y., to be part of the documentary. He was also on hand for the unveiling of the statue of himself and Kapaun in June.

Preparing to join the two men in front of the statue was Michael Dowe Jr. from San Diego. Also an ex POW, Dowe chronicled his life with Kapaun in prison camp during the Korean War, which was published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1954.

Standing in the crowd, and later scheduled to be interviewed, was Kapaun’s younger brother Eugene Kapaun, from St. Marks, a town near Wichita.

Also on hand for the filming was Romain Menarski from Grafton, Wis. Menarski was a medic who knew Kapaun and served as his altar boy before Kapaun was captured by Chinese Communists and taken to prison camp in 1950.

As the cameras were being readied, Miller, dressed only in a light-weight sport coat, trembled from the cold.

Does this taping have special meaning to the man who vividly remembers the day his life was saved by Kapaun?

“Yes, but it’s hard,” Miller said, with tears in his eyes, as he once again recounted his story.

“I was wounded with a broken ankle, and the North Koreans were going to shoot me. (Kapaun) brushed them aside, reached down and picked me up, and carried me. How he found the strength, I’ll never know. He was the bravest man I ever saw.”

Kapaun carried Miller piggy back for about four days.

“And then I’d hobble along and lean on him.”

Cameraman Vowell scurried back and forth between two JVC digital cameras positioned to capture the conversation between Hannan, Miller and Dowe in front of the statue.

One camera was stationary on Hannan, and the other was used to go back and forth between the other men interviewed.

As the cameras rolled, Hannan stood between Miller and Dowe. Using measured words of reverence, he talked about Kapaun and asked the men about their memories of the chaplain.

“His presence could take a lice-ridden hut and turn it into a cathedral,” Dowe said during the taping.

Hannan, who had a previous opportunity to gather information about Kapaun from former military personnel at a POW reunion, told of the man who pardoned his captors as he was near death from dysentery, pneumonia and infections.

As he was being carried out, he asked their forgiveness for anything he did that may have harmed them, Hannan said.

Kapaun was dropped in a death hut, and nobody was allowed to help him nor could they even bring him water or food.

Dowe said these actions showed him that the enemy was afraid of Kapaun.

“They feared the symbol that he represented-the indomitable spirit of free men-with their last debt only to their God,” Dowe said.

“But what he stood for will always live.”

This story prompted Hannan to quote the following scripture as the cameras rolled: “Greater love than this, no man hath. That he lay down his life for his friend.”

There were only a handful of second takes as the three men talked in front of the cameras and the audience.

Following that segment, Menarski stood with Hannan in front of the statue and talked about his experiences with Kapaun.

Menarski served as altar boy whenever Kapaun said Mass.

Kapaun was “always doing something for somebody, even the enemy,” Menarski said.

“He’d find an enemy soldier that was dead, and he’d find somebody to help him bury them.”

Hannan stepped down after the taping to talk to reporters from the Hillsboro Free Press and the Wichita Eagle.

Hannan was asked what steps were being taken to declare Kapaun a saint.

“The diocese of Wichita has begun to initiate the process of canonization here,” Hannan said.

“That means that we’re all asked to pray for the success of his canonization eventually one day.”

He asked that prayers be offered to aide the process.

“And at this time, when the nation is talking about the possibility of war, we want to remind the people of how heroic a lot of the chaplains were,” Hannan said.

“And to assure the people that no matter whether we are in war or not, that the chaplains do their duty, and they will take care of everybody in the service.”

Three steps must be completed to prove Kapaun is “worthy of canonization,” Hannan said.

The first step is to gather information to determine that he is venerable.

“You don’t try to hurry that process,” he said. “What you try to do is build up a case.

“And then the second step is about being blessed.”

It has to be verified that there has been evidence of supernatural intercession.

“They have to prove there has been a constant series of prayers by people asking for his intercession for various favors-sickness, cures and so forth,” Hannan said.

The third step is canonization.

“For canonization, you have to have proof of miracles,” he said.

In hoping to further the cause of canonization, Hannan explained the work involved in filming the documentary.

The Sunday Visitor Institute provided most of the financial backing for the video.

Hannan said he hoped the film would be ready for distribution in four to five weeks, but Vowell later said it could realistically take as long as six months.

Focus Worldwide Television Network is part of the Public Broadcasting System.

“And we produce things for about 12 different large dioceses,” Hannan said. “So this will certainly be shown not only in New Orleans, it will be shown in places like New York, Boston, Detroit and Baltimore.”

He said it could “very well be” picked up on national television and Christian television stations, too.

And for those who are interested in eventually having a copy of the documentary, Hannan said they could inquire at the following address: Focus Worldwide Television Network, 106 Metairie Lawn Dr., Metairie, LA 70001. The telephone number is 504-840-9898.

Before leaving to warm himself in the church, Hannan closed the interview by saying “Father Kapaun loved the men-he loved them all.

“And if any man had heroic virtue, this man did things that were beyond. How in the world could he carry wounded prisoners-with very, very little food-carry them on the litters for 300 miles?”

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