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Walkers drawn to Kapaun pilgrimage out of honor

Walkers drawn to Kapaun pilgrimage out of honor

Staff writer

Some came out of Wichita. Some came out of Florida, Maryland, Arizona, California, Nebraska, and other states — but all came out of reverence for Father Emil Kapaun.

This year’s Father Kapaun Pilgrimage drew between 300 and 325 walkers who began the trip in Wichita and spent nights along the way at Whitewater, Peabody, and Marion before proceeding into Pilsen for Mass on Sunday.

James Cobb of Phoenix made this year’s pilgrimage for the first time.

He read an article about the pilgrimage several years ago. An Army veteran of 23 years, he and a friend from California came to Kansas this year to participate in the walk.

Optometrist John Crotty came from Auburn, Nebraska for his 10th year.

“It started with five people,” Crotty said.

Crotty walked the first five years he participated. Since then he’s been a helper, encourager, and cheerleader.

He stood at the end of a driveway Saturday at the Alvin and Barbara Kroupa farm, where the pilgrims spent the night, to greet the walkers before their final push to Pilsen.

“If you are really tired, if somebody’s cheering you, it helps,” he said. “You go on. You can keep going.”

As walkers turned into the Kroupas’ driveway, they were met by handfuls of people giving them high fives and congratulating them.

Crotty was inspired to participate in the pilgrimage after a pilgrimage to Fatima. He and his companions were asked to pray for “Dr. Bruce.” He saw firsthand the improvement Bruce made.

When pilgrims arrived, they looked for their bags and tents, which had been brought from Peabody in vans. Then they sat, sweaty and tired, to talk.

Andrea Roggenkamp, a registered nurse from Topeka, has walked in the pilgrimage eight years.

“I’ve been very inspired by the Father Kapaun story, and the people here become like family,” she said. “They help us along the highway.”

Donald Poudrier and friends have come from Maryland for four years to be in the pilgrimage.

They make a two-day drive to reach Wichita.

“We first heard about Father Kapaun on a K-State podcast,” Poudrier said.

He and his friends started following the Kapaun story.

“We really got engaged,” he said.

He is inspired by what Kapaun meant.

“The Catholic community here is so strong,” Poudrier said.

The walk itself is painful, but reaching Pilsen makes everything worthwhile, Poudrier said.

Tu Ngoc Vu, born in Vietnam, immigrated to the U.S. in 1977.

He lived in Wichita for years and started making the pilgrimage years ago. He now lives in southern Florida, where he bought a house.

He flew back from Florida this year to go on the pilgrimage again.

At 70, and with the trip to Wichita now being a long one, he’s not sure how many more years he will be able to be part of the pilgrimage, but he prepared himself for the hardship of the lengthy walk.

“I love Father Kapaun because I was in the Army and he was in the Army,” Vu said. “He’s Catholic, and I’m Catholic. I love him. I love him very much.”

Last modified June 5, 2024

 

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