By Michelle Powers
Our Lady of the Skies chapel has been an island of serenity in a sea of pressurized cabins and crowded terminals since 1955, when stewardesses dressed in vintage and TWA was considered the carrier to the stars.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio attended an annual luncheon held at the new TWA Hotel to make sure that the little sanctuary can keep its wings.
“Airports are busy places, and people traveling through want, sometimes, spiritual help before they take a trip,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
This year the luncheon honored people who know Our Lady of the Skies well: airline managers who have seen firsthand how the chapel responds to a range of spiritual needs, from anxieties about air travel to dealing with tragedy.
“Not only people working at the terminal and at the airport, but also the passengers have a place to reflect, have a place to relax and have a place where they can get counseling,” said Roel Hunink, president and CEO of JFK 1AT, one of this year’s honorees.
It’s “where can you go to work, and that if you feel any of the stresses and pressures — whether or not from home or from work — you can easily stop into the chapel,” added Patrick Brennan, an honoree and passenger service manager at Swissport.
John F. Kennedy International Airport can occasionally find itself in the center of turbulence, welcoming families facing global crises, like the recent influx of migrants or refugees fleeing civil war.
For some, Our Lady’s chapel is their first interaction with faith in New York City or this country.
“Sometimes it’s not the best of all circumstances. We come distressed, we come because of some sad reasons. For us, it is a call to be there for them no matter who they are, what they believe in,” said Father Chris Piasta, chaplain of Our Lady of the Skies.
For most, the chapel serves as a connection between things up in the sky and down on the ground, especially for the people who work at the airport and those who are constantly traveling like Monsignor Kieran Harrington.
“The airport becomes a family in and of itself. The chapel is really a heart of that life,” said Msgr. Harrington.
The donations raised at the luncheon help all passengers and Catholic crew stay grounded in their faith.