Airport chaplains recognized by pope for their work
CLT Airport Chaplaincy director Deacon George Szalony among those honored
ROME — Permanent Deacon George Szalony, director of the Airport Chaplaincy team at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport and his wife Chris, along with 80 airport chaplains and chaplaincy members from 36 airports located in 15 countries around the world, received an apostolic blessing from Pope Benedict XVI as part of the XV World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation chaplains and chaplaincy members held in Rome June 11-15.
For 23 years, there has been a Catholic presence at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Today, the team consists of Father Conrad Hoover; Permanent Deacons David Riser, Kevin Williams, Patrick Devine, Martin Ricart III, Ben Wenning and Szalony; eight additional ordained ministers of different faiths; and nine pastoral volunteers and a rabbi who are vital to this interfaith ministry at the airport.
The Charlotte Douglas International Airport ranked 11th nationwide in passengers, according to its website, with a total of 39,043,708 passengers in 2011. The airport sees an average of more than 700 departures each day. The airport chaplaincy seeks to serve the spiritual needs of those passengers and visitors to Charlotte.
In Rome, the conference attendees enjoyed an audience with the pope at the Vatican as well as speeches from Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and Scalabrinian Father Gabriele Bentoglio, undersecretary for the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
In his remarks to the group, the pope challenged participants to "...reflect on new methods and new forms of evangelization in your area of ministry . . . and to always be conscious that you are called to embody in the world's airports the Church's mission of bringing God to man and leading man to encounter God ... Make sure that every person, of whatever nationality or social background, can find in you a welcoming heart."
Pope Benedict also pointed out that even in chance encounters, people are able to recognize a man of God, "and that often a small seed falling on good soil can bring forth abundant fruit."
For more about Pope Benedict's message to the airport chaplains, go to:
After returning to the conference hotel, presentations were made by Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca, undersecretary, Pontifical Council for Culture; Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president, Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization; Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president, Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue
Cardinal Veglio spoke about New Evangelization in the World of Human Mobility and Father Tony Milner, theology tutor at the Venerable English College in Rome, addressed ecumenism and the New Evangelization.
Father Louis Cameli of the Archdiocese of Chicago, shared ideas about the New Evangelization and the pastoral care of civil aviation.
The next days were filled with individual activity reports from each airport and break-out groups to discuss the thoughts presented and to attempt to identify paths of activity consistent with the varying civil environments of the chaplaincies. Cardinal Veglio expressed his desire to bring these contributions to the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.