A Historic Father Kapaun Pilgrimage
Those taking part in this year’s Father Kapaun Pilgrimage were able to relate to the miserable conditions he and his fellow captured soldiers endured in their trek to a North Korean prisoner of war camp.
“It was the the biggest year as far as participants,” Scott Carter said last week after his recovery. “It was the longest year as far as miles, and it was probably the wettest year, too. It was challenging, but great.”
Muddy walk to Pilsen
About 275 pilgrims began a 67-mile – sometimes muddy – walk Thursday, June 2, from the Church of the Resurrection. Their prayers were answered when they arrived, Sunday, June 5, to St. John Nepomucene Church in Pilsen, Fr. Kapaun’s home church.
Carter, coordinator of Office for the Beatification of Father Emil Kapaun, estimates that about 350 people of all ages took part during the weekend with about 250 walking the entire route. In addition to Kansas, participants came from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Wyoming, California, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii.
Camaraderie brings joy
Despite the challenges of vexatious weather and blistered feet, Carter said pilgrims are drawn by the joy that results from the camaraderie of walking and talking for hours on end. “You feel like you’re a part of something bigger. And there’s the draw of Fr. Kapaun. There’s an interest in wanting to learn more about him.”
Walking for hours together leads to friendships, he said. “You’re walking next to people and the conversation goes to deeper things. People share why they’re there. It’s an intimate exchange. You have enough time to slow down and get to know people which is a beautiful thing.”
Many pilgrims are walking with a special intention in mind, Carter said, adding that one family from out of State walked in memory of a 20-year-old son who died last year from leukemia.
The trek was challenging
“This year was definitely a challenge. As always, many people had blisters, but we also had a storm hit us on Saturday night, and many tents got wet. Some of us spent the second half of the night under a porch. It makes you grateful for shelter!”
The pilgrims walked through about a mile and a half of pure mud on one leg of their trek. But the difficult conditions led to expressions of love, he said.
“Pilgrims were walking through mud and helping each other. There were families with us and some of the pilgrims helped carry strollers that couldn’t be pushed through the mud,” Carter said. “It gives you a small idea of what the soldiers and prisoners of war went through. It makes you grateful that we didn’t have to dive into ditches to dodge bullets.”
Next year’s pilgrimage is planned for June 1-4, 2023. Registration will open in March. Visit www.frkapaun.org/pilgrimage/ for more information.