As part of the annual Father Kapaun Day Celebration in Pilsen, a surprise gift was presented at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church during Sunday?s mass.
Inspired by a drawing, Mark Chavez, a retired Albuquerque firefighter, using a chainsaw carved a full-length figure of Father Kapaun smoking a pipe in his military uniform.
John Moore of Gallup, N.M., who is a friend of Chavez, transported the 5-foot-tall statue made from a Redwood tree to Pilsen three days before the June 3 celebration.
Rose Mary Neuwirth, one of the Father Kapaun Celebration organizers, said she didn?t know about this recent gift until five days ago.
Chavez, she said, was inspired to do another wood carving after seeing a photograph of Father Kapaun smiling, in Army uniform and with a pipe in his left hand.
Neuwirth said Chavez was here last November after carving a wooden crucifix in honor of Christ, Father Kapaun and the community of Pilsen.
Moore was also involved in bringing the crucifix to Pilsen, she said, by agreeing to walk from New Mexico to Pilsen carrying the crucifix on his back.
When he arrived in Pilsen for the Father Kapaun Pilgrimage on Veteran?s Day, Moore said it was his own personal pilgrimage to help spread the word about this great priest and Army chaplain.
The most recent gift, Moore said, was too heavy to be carried, but after delivering the statue, he joined with others from Wichita walking to Pilsen for Sunday?s celebration.
Although no one knew exactly how heavy the statue was, Neuwirth said it took three people to carry it up the steps and into the church.
?There is also a book of photographs, starting with a chunk of wood,? she said, which details the work until it was completed.
Moore said the project took Chavez about two months to finish, but he worked on it off and on during that time.
?We wanted this to be a surprise (for the celebration),? he said.
Moore, who owns an RV dealership in New Mexico, said he plans to return to Pilsen next Veteran?s Day.
?I will be back,? he said.
Neuwirth said the first Sunday in June is designated as Father Kapaun Day Celebration.
?It started out as a parish celebration,? she said, ?but for the last five or six years it has been Father Kapaun Day.?