Kapitan assisted colleagues nationwide
Eliot Kapitan is tidying up his notoriously book-filled and paper-filled curia office as he retires after nearly 29 years of service to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
A native of South Dakota, Kapitan is a graduate of Notre Dame Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in New Orleans, and is known professionally — and affectionately — for his strict attention to liturgical accuracy and detail.
Kapitan has had several titles attached to his name since beginning at the diocese in August 1988. He retires as director of the diocesan Office for Divine Worship and the Catechumenate. His professional stops before arriving at the Springfield diocese included parish and diocesan positions in Texas, Louisiana and Indiana.
Rita Thiron passed along her congratulations to Kapitan from her post in Washington, D.C., as executive director of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions. She recalls that in 2014, the Federation established an annual award to honor one of its own members who serves in a diocesan Office of Worship or on a diocesan Liturgical Commission.
Nominees were to have “served the Federation with distinction, and generously shared his/her skills, wisdom, and resources in order to promote sound liturgical practice and to advance the liturgical renewal,” said Thiron. “There was little doubt that our 2015 awardee — Eliot Kapitan — filled those criteria abundantly!”
His handouts and bibliographies on current resources are stuff of legend and he readily shares them with colleagues and online, continued Thiron. She calls him the “consummate sharer of resources who routinely knows what should be on your bookshelves and who compiles helpful, detailed bibliographies on a wide variety of subjects.”
The Federation also notes that Kapitan is a passionate promoter of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and has coordinated a regional summer experience for RCIA team members entitled “Wading Deeper” for many years and for many years as a team member for the North American Forum on the Catechumenate.
“We have been very blessed to have him as a devoted member of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions,” Thiron said. “He has a great respect for our rich history and for the people who came before us and on whose shoulders we all stand.”
In an interview with this reporter, Kapitan added some of his own reflections on 44 years in working for the Catholic Church.
“My tendency is to pour myself into a job. I have no whether it is a big job or a little job and what I learned pretty early on was that there was so much to do, there is no way to get it all done. The other challenge was that I kept losing vacation time [pauses for laughter] … and the challenge of staying current, reading and studying to stay up with what’s happening in liturgy,” said Kapitan.
Completing almost 29 years at the Springfield diocese, I asked him what accomplishment can he sit back and savor?
“What I can do is listen well to what people are asking and respond to that rather than respond to what I think they ought to know,” he said. “The second thing I learned is that I need to know the church’s liturgy better than anybody else … but never saying everything I know when I show up at a meeting and keeping it simple enough, focused enough on prayer so that when people walk away, they’ll say ‘I’m going to come back.’”
In 2002, then Bishop George Lucas awarded Kapitan the Magnificat Award for exceptional service to the diocese. He and his wife, Jackie, are members of Little Flower Parish in Springfield.