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

Father Emil Kapaun holds out a broken pipe.
Father Emil Kapaun holds out a broken pipe.

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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. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language, racial slurs or consistent name calling will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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