The Newman University Theatre Department will present the world premier of the play “The Miracle of Father Kapaun.” The play will be performed at 8 p.m. on Feb. 16, 17 and 18, and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 19 in the Performance Hall inside the De Mattias Fine Arts Center on the Newman campus. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and military, $5 for students, and free for Newman students.
The play will also be presented at 10 a.m. Feb. 17.
The performance at Newman is the world premiere of the work by playwright Anne Welsbacher. The play, depicting Kapaun’s life and a miraculous 2008 incident involving student Chase Kear, is adapted from the award-winning Wichita Eagle series by Roy Wenzl. The play is directed by guest director Misty Maynard, artistic director of the Kechi Playhouse.
Fr. Emil Kapaun was a Catholic priest who served as an Army chaplain during World War II and the Korean War. While in Korea he and his unit were captured by the Chinese army and placed in a POW camp, where Kapaun worked to provide spiritual comfort and keep morale high among the troops, ministered to the sick and wounded, and even found or stole food to keep the prisoners from starving. He eventually developed a blood clot in his leg. Refused treatment by his captors, Kapaun died on May 23, 1951, and was buried in a mass grave near the Yalu River.
Kapaun was awarded the Bronze Star in 1950 and was posthumously awarded a citation for the Distinguished Service Cross. After many petitions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military service award, in 2013 for his heroism in Korea. Additionally, the Catholic Diocese of Wichita is working to have Kapaun canonized as a saint. He is currently classified as a Servant of God, the first step on the path to sainthood.
The play deals with Kapaun’s life, his candidacy for sainthood and what many believe is the miraculous recovery of Chase Kear, whose family prayed to Kapaun to intercede following a tragic accident. Kapaun’s cause for sainthood is of special interest to Newman University alumni, students, staff and faculty, as Kapaun was ordained in the university’s St. John’s Chapel on June 9, 1940. A 12 foot by a 4-foot painting of Kapaun by artist Wendy Lewis now hangs in the chapel.
The play features Newman students Trevor Farney as Kapaun and Blake Lee as Chase Kear. Other cast members are: Dominic Bacha, Matthias Brand, Lucas Farney, Emily Larkin, Megan McGehee, David Reed, Larry Shepherd, Joel Sponsel, Luke Sponsel, Ashleigh Taylor, Nicolas Tovar and Elizabeth Urban.