Wichita 'miracle' causes Vatican to send investigator


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Wichita, Kan., Jun 24, 2009 / 07:15 am (CNA).- The Congregation for the Causes of Saints is preparing to investigate an alleged miracle in Wichita, Kansas, where doctors are baffled by the unexplained recovery of a young man who had suffered a severe head injury in an accident that had broken his skull.

When her 20-year-old son Chase was seriously injured in a pole-vaulting accident on October 2, Paula Kear and her family began to pray fervently for the intercession of Fr. Emil Kapaun, and asked their friends to do the same.

"It was my sister who had the presence of mind, on the night of the accident, to ask if we should put Chase on the Church prayer line to pray to Fr. Kapaun," Paula explained to CNA. The family also added Chase to the CaringBridge website and had prayer cards printed out to distribute to people at the hospital.

Chase's father, Paul Kear, told The Wichita Eagle that the family was informed "that it was really severe, and that he had fractured his skull from ear to ear, and that there was some...bleeding on his brain." The Kears were told by the doctors that they "didn't have a lot of hope" for Chase, and that he would likely die either in the necessary surgery to remove the damaged piece of his skull or from an infection after the surgery.

Asked how she first heard about Fr. Emil Kapaun, Paula said his story is commonly known in the Wichita area. "My parents were about the same age as Fr. Kapaun, so I heard his name a lot growing up," she told CNA.

"We have a prayer in our parish to Fr. Kapaun that we have prayed for several years," Paula added. She said that the prayer for Kapaun's intercession was said every day at Mass.

Friends and family of the Kears joined in praying to Fr. Kapuan. "Copies of the prayer were passed around and e-mailed," said Paula. "Everyone was praying."

Miraculously, Chase survived the surgery and walked out of the hospital only a few weeks after the accident that had broken his skull. "It was shortly after we got to the rehab hospital and I just saw these people that work there just amazed," Paula told The Wichita Eagle. The doctors were unable to explain the recovery, Chase's parents added.

To members of the Kear family, the reason is clear. "It was a miracle," Paula told CNA. "Absolutely a miracle."

Chase has made a nearly-full recovery and is currently working a summer job and planning to coach pole-vaulting.

Devotion to Fr. Kapuan is strong in the Diocese of Wichita, whose website includes information about his case for canonization.

Father Emil Kapaun was a Wichita priest and Army chaplain born in Kansas, about 60 miles north of Wichita. During the Korean War, he was assigned to the U.S. Army's Eighth Cavalry regiment, which was overrun in late 1951 by the Chinese army in North Korea.

Kapaun courageously rescued wounded soldiers from the battlefield, risking his own life to save them from execution at the hands of the Chinese. Later taken as a prisoner of war, he heroically worked to tend to the starving and sick, praying for and ministering to his fellow prisoners.

Eventually suffering from a blood clot in his leg, Kaupan was moved to a hospital but denied medical assistance. He died in May 1951, two years before the end of the war.

Surviving soldiers praised Kapaun for his courage and faith. His story has been celebrated in Wichita for years, with local parishes praying to him and a Wichita high school named after him.

Fr. John Hotze, the judicial vicar of Wichita, explained to CNA that the diocese has been working with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Fr. Kapaun's case for over a year. This coming Friday, the Congregation will begin its investigation into the alleged miracle in Wichita, moving the process for beatification forward.