Sunday’s paper told us that today President Obama is awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to Father Emil Capaun, a Kansas priest killed in the Korean War. I never knew him or anyone who did know him, but in September 1953 I took part in the dedication of a chapel erected in honor of Father Capaun and four other priest chaplains killed in that war. I was a seminary classmate of Father Ted Brunnert, who was the brother of one of the five.
As well, as a Columban Father, I had met six missionary priests killed by the Commies. Then, two of our priests who were with our GIs on a notorious death march were sent back through Siberia after three winters in a prison camp. One of them, Msgr. Tom Quinlan was my bishop for eleven years; while the other, the Aussie priest, Phil Crosbie, was my neighboring pastor for those eleven years. I heard from Phil much of what Father Capaun must have gone through as a prisoner.
Phil was building a chapel twenty-five miles over the mountains west of me, and one night I found Phil on my doorstep, trying to pull his boots off. He had walked over to show the people that a five mile walk was no excuse for missing Mass.