Vatican official returning to Kansas to investigate sainthood for Fr. Kapaun

In this undated photo provided by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Father Emil Kapaun holds out a broken pipe. The plain-spoken, pipe-smoking chaplain is receiving the Medal of Honor posthumously for his “extraordinary heroism” while serving as an Army chaplain during the Korean War. He died in captivity in 1951 _ about six months after being taken prisoner. (AP Photo/Courtesy Catholic Diocese of Wichita)

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HUTCHINSON, Kansas — Every time Avery Gerleman takes the field for the woman’s soccer team at Hutchinson Community College, many consider it a miracle worthy of elevating Father Emil Kapaun to sainthood.

When she was 12, she came down with a mysterious autoimmune disease. Doctors didn’t think she would survive.

“They said if I would’ve lived, I would’ve become like a vegetable,” said Gerleman. “I’d be on oxygen my whole life and never be able to play soccer….and I’m playing today.”

A Vatican investigator will be back in Kansas this weekend wrapping up the Catholic Church’s investigation into alleged miracles attributed to Kapaun.

Along with Gerleman’s recovery, the Vatican is also looking into the case of Chase Kear. He was an athlete at Hutchinson Community College – like Gerleman is today – when he was nearly killed in a pole vaulting accident in 2008.

Doctors told his family he wouldn’t survive and remain baffled by his recovery.

The Vatican needs to confirm two cases they believe qualify as miracles to canonize Kapaun.

But for the Gerlemans and the Kears, their minds are already made up.

“If I help him become a saint, I think that’s awesome but to be honest I think he’s already a saint in my eyes,” said Gerleman.

After this weekends visit from the Vatican, Kapaun’s case for sainthood will be handed over to a committee in Rome.

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