Considering the beatification of the Servant of God Fr. Emil Kapaun, a Vatican investigation has found enough evidence of a miracle in the unexplained recovery of a young man who broke his skull in a near-fatal athletic accident. The man’s mother and her family had prayed for the intercession of the heroic U.S. Army chaplain.
Andrea Ambrosi, a lawyer and investigator for the Vatican, on Friday visited family members and the doctors of two Wichita-area families who believe the survival of their children during near-lethal medical crises should qualify as miracles.
One meeting involved Chase Kear, a 20-year-old athlete from Colwich severely injured in an October pole-vaulting accident, the Wichita Eagle reports.
Fr. John Hotze, judicial vicar for the Diocese of Wichita and also episcopal delegate for Fr. Kapaun’s cause, was not allowed to say who or what families are being alleged for miracles, but he did report there was another “alleged miracle” in the Wichita area which Ambrosi examined in his time there.
Ambrosi met with the doctors involved and studied medical reports and X-rays.
"Afterward, the Vatican investigator said that in years of investigating miracles, he had never seen doctors who made such a compelling case for miracles occurring," Fr. Hotze said.
Chase Kear’s pole-vaulting accident fractured his skull from ear to ear and caused some bleeding on his brain. Doctors told his parents Paul and Paula Kear that they “didn’t have a lot of hope” for their son, stating he would likely die either in surgery to remove the damaged piece of his skull or from a post-surgery infection.
Family and friends joined in petitions to Fr. Kapaun. Chase survived the surgery and walked out of the hospital only a few weeks out of the accident. Doctors were unable to explain the recovery, which many believed to be miraculous.
Paula Kear, Chase's mom, told the Wichita Eagle about Ambrosi’s visit, saying “He had a nice long talk with Chase, and I didn't get the feeling that he thought this was all a lot of malarkey.”
The investigator also met with Chase Kear’s doctors, including neurosurgeon Raymond Grundmeyer, who also considers Kear’s survival a miracle.
Speaking with CNA in a Thursday phone interview, Fr. Hotze said the diocesan phase of the investigation was still underway but had advanced to the point that a postulator could come to investigate.
The relevant doctors gave “favorable responses” to the investigation, were “eager to cooperate” and expressed their belief the investigation was worth pursuing.
“There was no medical reason for those that were healed the way that they were,” Fr. Hotze added.
The investigation will continue to gather medical data and will have its contents transcribed and translated into Italian to prepare for its submission to the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints.
“The evidence will need to be reviewed again, with doctors not connected the case both here and in Rome before going before the Congregation,” Fr. Hotze told CNA.
Final approval of the miracle will advance Fr. Kapaun’s cause for beatification and canonization.
Fr. Emil Kapaun was a Wichita priest and Army chaplain born 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, Kapaun was moved to a hospital but was denied medical assistance. He died in May 1951, two years before the end of the war.
Fr. Hotze explained to CNA that Fr. Kapaun had been admired ever since the Korean War.
“Immediately after the war was over, those in the prison camp with Fr. Kapaun started to put him forward for honors to be granted through both the Church and the military and for him to receive awards they thought was due.”
Surviving soldiers praised Fr. Kapaun for his courage and faith and a Wichita high school was named after him. Devotion to Fr. Kapaun is strong in the Diocese of Wichita, whose website includes information about his cause for canonization.
The Diocese of Wichita became involved in Fr. Kapaun’s cause about seven or eight years ago when then-Bishop of Wichita Thomas Olmsted asked Fr. Hotze to investigate whether his canonization should be pursued.
“We’ve been investigating it ever since,” he said, saying the cause was opened on June 29, 2008 and will continue to be pursued.