Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Heart speaks to heart!

Graven in the hearts of men

by John Fencik, for the Inland Register

(From the May 19, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

John Fencik Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. – Pericles of Athens (495-430 BC)

One of the most solemn days we celebrate at our diocesan cemeteries, where nearly 3,000 veterans are buried, is Memorial Day. As a nation we remember over one million military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom. We also pray for all those buried in our Catholic cemeteries, that they may be with the Lord and enjoy the peace and joy of heaven forever.

Many Catholics are unaware that five Catholic military chaplains have been awarded the Medal of Honor: Jesuit Father Joseph O’Callahan (World War II), Father Charles J. Watters (Vietnam), Father Angelo Liteky (Vietnam), Father Emil Kapaun (Korea), and Maryknoll Father Vincent Capodanno (Vietnam). The last two have Causes for Canonization in process.

Father Kapaun was involved in the Battle of Unsan in November 1950. His battalion was outmanned and surrounded by the Chinese Communists. Without concern for his own safety, he calmly crawled from foxhole to foxhole to reassure and to provide medical assistance. In no man’s land he pulled many of the wounded to safety. At one point during hand to hand combat, he pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sgt. Herbert Miller – thus saving the sergeant’s life. As the enemy broke through the defenses, he could have escaped, but continued his care for the wounded. He was eventually captured and taken to a prison of war camp.

During his captivity, he continually defied his captors by assisting the wounded and inspiring the other captives not to lose hope and to maintain their faith. He was often punished for his compassionate work. He would die alone in a dismal hospital on May 23, 1951 – asking God’s forgiveness for the enemy guards. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2013.

He was named a Servant of God by Pope St. John Paul II in 1993 – the first step toward possible canonization. There are now two possible miracles being examined and attributed to his intercession.

Father Capodanno was born on Staten Island. Ordained for Maryknoll in 1958, he worked in Taiwan and Hong Kong. As a Naval Chaplain (Lieutenant), he went to Vietnam in 1966.

He was serving with the Marines in the early hours of Sept. 4, 1967 during Operation Swift in the Que Son Valley. A Marine company found themselves surrounded by over 2,500 North Vietnamese troops. Within five hours, 26 Marines had been killed. Despite heavy fire, Father Capodanno left a command post and sought out the wounded to provide medical aid and to administer the last rites to the dying. He was wounded in the face and hand, yet continued to minister to the wounded. Attempting to assist a wounded corpsman, he was killed by machine gun fire. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1969.

In Virginia’s Semper Fidelis Memorial Chapel the plain glass window etched with the word “sacrifice” is dedicated to Father Vincent Capodanno.

His biographer, Father Daniel L. Mode, wrote that “he lived as a Grunt Marine. Wherever they went, he went. Whatever burdens they had to carry he shared the load. In a short time, the Grunt Marines recognized Father Vincent’s determination to be with them and one of them. They respectfully and affectionately dubbed him, The Grunt Padre.”

In 2002 his cause for canonization was opened, and he is now referred to as a Servant of God.

(Note: Please see page 32 of this issue for times and places of Memorial Day Masses at Spokane Catholic cemeteries.)

(John Fencik is director of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services of Spokane.)

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