AIRPORT CHAPLAIN RECOGNIZED AT PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
PITTSBURGH, PA - For the last 15 years, Fr. Jack Fitzgerald has been the airport chaplain. His last day at Pittsburgh International Airport is July 1 when he will report Our Lady of Peace in Conway where he will be Pastor.
The Airport Authority hosted a farewell reception for Fr. Jack in the Airport Chapel at today, Friday, June 26, 2009. Airport Authority Executive Director Bradley D. Penrod thanked him for his years of service, presented a proclamation from Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and presented him with a FlyPittsburgh.com model airplane. “It was a chance to say goodbye to a great airport friend and wish him Godspeed,” Penrod said.
Farewell to Father Jack
Inside Pittsburgh International Airport, there is a chapel. And inside that chapel is a priest. For the past fifteen years, Father Jack Fitzgerald has been the chaplain at that chapel. “It is an oasis of quiet in a noisy environment,” as he likes to call it.
Father Jack's reign as airport chaplain, however is coming to an end. On July 1, he reports to Our Lady of Peace in Conway where he will be Pastor.
“It has truly been an incredible experience," he said of his time here. "It has never felt like work. If you love what you are doing, you will never work a day in your life.”
Ordained in 1974, Father Jack came to the airport in November 1994, when the airport realized the need for a chaplain. He was assigned by Bishop Donald Wuerl of the Pittsburgh Diocese. A chaplain for the Air National Guard for 23 years, Father Jack combined several techniques into his ministry here.
“I took the military model of being chaplain and brought it over here to do it civilian-wise. Military chaplains are also concerned for the morale of the people. You are encouraging people to do what they do to live out their vocation. You are actually helping them to achieve what God is calling them to do," he said.
Working at the airport has come with many responsibilities and excitement. Being a pilot for over 30 years, Father Jack got to bring together the two things he loves the most.
“For the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to combine my vocation with my avocation – flying. I combine passion with profession. I am truly blessed to have been able to combine both and not to have to make a choice between my interest in aviation and my calling from God.”
A good friend, Wally Bohl, reflected on Father Jack’s time here.
“I met Father Jack when he first came here. What I really liked about him was that he was more than just a priest; he was a champion of aviation. He is the quintessential airport priest. He has a great devotion to God, but an enthusiasm for aviation that went with it. He is a genuine individual who really cares and spreads the good wealth of the industry. I am going to miss him,” Bohl said.
When it comes time to leave, Father Jack will miss the thrill, anticipation and diversity that the airport has brought him over the years.
“I will miss the excitement and the incredible variety of people that make up the traveling public. You never know who will walk in that door or what their concerns will be. It is a place where people, both workers and travelers, come when they are stressed. People are not always traveling on vacation or business. Sometimes there are very important changes in their lives.”
“The most rewarding aspect has been the trust in me by my diocese, professionals and passengers that has allowed me to be a part of their lives and a part of the airport’s history.”