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This week’s edition!

Enough is Enough: Chaplains reflect the work of the Catholic Church

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

When I became mayor, I made a promise that I would address the welfare fraud being committed by the out-of-town transients that blow weekly into Lewiston. I have worked with Lewiston’s welfare director, Sue Charron, developing legislation and finding legislative sponsors to introduce bills aimed at eliminating fraud and abuse.

I am happy to report that we are on the verge of achieving our goal.

In the next few weeks, this column will present detailed plans designed to improve the livability and marketability of our town. In order to achieve these goals, you, the reader, will be asked to perform a simple task.

It’s a task that will take you no more than three minutes. A task that can be performed at home or work. A task that will allow you to look with pride at our city knowing that those three minutes of your time proved a catalyst to Lewiston’s success.

In two weeks, I will ask the readers of this column to step up to the plate and help make Lewiston a livable city. No risk will be involved—just three minutes of your time. Stay tuned.

Being Catholic, I find it annoying when pseudo-intellectual eggheads launch into a vitriol rant condemning church doctrine because it offends them. Well, boo hoo.

In this week’s column, I will highlight the actions of two Catholic priests, Father Emil Joseph Kapaun and Father Vincent Capodanno. They, like you, were ordinary citizens. When confronted with situations that hopefully none of us will find ourselves in, these men reached down and summonsed their inner courage in order to make a difference.

There are very few comforts in war. Being a Catholic provides one of them, a military chaplain. In the din of battle, confusion reigning, soldiers wounded and dying, a Catholic chaplain will always be present to comfort, protect and provide spiritual strength for those engaged in battle.

During the Korean War, Marine General Lewis “Chesty” Puller was approached by a chaplain who complained that most of his own flock were attending another chaplain’s Catholic Mass on Sunday. He requested that Puller issue an order instructing these men to attend their denominational services. Puller’s reply to the request was to suggest to this chaplain that if he followed the lead of the Catholic chaplains by accompanying the men into battle, they might return to his Sunday service.

Last week President Barack Obama posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Catholic chaplain Capt. Emil Joseph Kapuan for his service in Korea. During the Battle of Unsan, November 1-2, 1950, American forces were surrounded, outnumbered and receiving heavy fire from enemy positions. Father Kapuan exposed himself to the enemy’s fire, dragging the wounded to safety and providing comfort and assurance to those in his unit.

Upon being captured, he prevented a Chinese soldier from executing one of his wounded flock, who had been shot in the leg and could not walk. To prevent the man’s death, Father Kapuan carried the man on his back during a forced march to their eventual prison camp.

While a prisoner, Father Kapuan risked his life foraging for food, caring for the sick and providing hope and spiritual needs for his men. Finally the physical toll of captivity caught up to him, and on May 23, 1951 he died. His courage showed that there is much more to war than simply killing the enemy.

The Roman Catholic Church has declared him a Servant of God and he is a candidate for Sainthood.

A second Catholic chaplain who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor was Father Vincent Capodanno. He was a Navy chaplain assigned to the First Marine Division, Fifth Marine Regiment. Like Father Kapuan, he preferred to be with “his boys” in battle rather than the safety of the rear encampments. On September 4, 1967, Father Capodanno, while shielding a Navy corpsman, died after taking 27 rounds to his body.

These priests reflect the Catholic Church I know and belong to. While sprinkled with a few bad apples, the overwhelming number of priests and nuns do God’s work daily, many at the risk of their personal safety.

Lastly, I again had the pleasure of hosting National Days of Remembrance at the Lewiston Public Library. I further had the pleasure of meeting Holocaust survivor Max Slabotsky. What struck me most about him, besides his impeccably tailored suit, was his demeanor. It appeared that at some point in his life he had put this dark chapter behind him and he went on to lead a productive life.

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