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Vatican official to be in Kan. for sainthood nod

Published on -9/23/2013, 2:13 PM

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HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) -- A Vatican official is expected in Kansas to complete a length investigation into a possible miracle that could help elevate a Kansas priest to sainthood.

Italian lawyer Andrea Ambrosi returns to Kansas on Saturday to finalize the investigation into whether the Rev. Emil Kapaun, a Kansas priest who died in 1951 in a North Korean prisoner-of-war camp, will become a saint.

The recovery of Avery Gerleman, a student at Hutchinson Community College, is one of the possible miracles being investigated by the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, The Hutchinson News reported (http://bit.ly/16BRojM).

Gerleman believes Kapaun saved her life back in 2006, just as he saved soldiers in the prisoner-of-war camp.

In 2006, came down with an auto-immune disorder that began destroying her lungs and kidneys. A respirator and dialysis were keeping her alive. There was oxygen building behind her heart, and surgery was necessary to relieve the pressure. She lost 30 pounds and eventually had to learn to walk again.

"I am supposed to be a vegetable on oxygen," Avery said. "It's crazy. But I know I am a miracle."

The Gerlemans, their parish priest, congregation, friends, and even area soccer clubs and people around the globe began praying to God and asking Kapaun's intercession for a miraculous healing for Avery. She has since recovered.

Ambrosi, the Vatican postulator, came to Kansas earlier to interview many people, including Avery Gerleman. The final visit from Ambrosi will be Saturday and Sunday, said Amy Pavlacka, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. Then the case will be handed over to the Vatican, but it still could be a long while before any decision is made.

"First he must be named a servant of God, and beatified," Pavlacka said. The initial designation, "servant of God," was conferred on Kapaun in 1993.

If one miracle is confirmed, he will be given the title of blessed. And then if there is proof of a second miracle, he would be canonized as a saint. But if the search determines Kapaun is a martyr, he will automatically be beautified, requiring only one miracle for sainthood.

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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