CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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The challenges of the airport chaplaincy

HONG KONG (SE): An international three-day seminar themed, Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Pastoral Agents at the Service of Integral Human Development, organised by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development was held in Rome from June 10 to 13. 
 
There were around 80 participants from around the world, most of them representing United States and Europe. Only two of the Asian countries, Hong Kong and South Korea, had representatives in the seminar. Divine Word Missionary Father Mullackal Manoj, together with Deacon John Lam and his wife, Mable, represented the airport chaplaincy of Hong Kong.
 
Peter Cardinal Turkson, the prefect of the dicastery facilitated the deliberations of the seminar. One of the heart touching moments was a private audience with Pope Francis during which the Hong Kong delegates presented him with an album containing hundreds of prayer intentions and well wishes collected by members of the airport Catholic community, in particular, the Legion of Mary in their outreach to passengers and airport workers.
 
Most people are not aware that the Church has a chaplaincy at airports to serve staff, flight crew and passengers. As Pope Francis noted, millions of people of different nationalities, cultures, religions and languages cross paths with one another daily. 
 
People pass through airports as tourists, as job seekers, as settlers in a new and unknown country, refugees, and so on. Each has his or her own story, known only to God, with its joys and sorrows, its hopes and troubles. 
 
Here lies the importance of the airport chaplaincy. There is a need for Catholics to present themselves as the good shepherd. They have a mission to make the merciful face of Jesus visible to these people; to help people to sense God’s presence.
 
Although has been no formal airport chaplaincy in Hong Kong for the last five years, there have been priests who cared for the pastoral needs of flight crew in the past. 
 
Father Manoj and Deacon Lam regularly provide sacramental services at Terminal One and Cathay City, and the diocese has appointed them to study the needs of the chaplaincy in Hong Kong. 
 
However, chaplaincy is more than just sacraments, as there are just a limited number of people attending. There are still a large number of people passing through the airport who do not receive pastoral care. Passengers, flight crew and the staff go through a lot of pressures in life and need someone with whom they can find some kind of consolation, especially spiritual help.
 
There are a few challenges in the Hong Kong airport chaplaincy, like in other countries. The prayer rooms are shared by different religions and denominations, there is no full-time airport chaplain, nor full time pastoral care workers. 
 
With prayers and trust in God’s blessings, and help from more volunteers, the chaplaincy hopes to reach out to people at the airport who need God’s presence in their life. The first step will be getting in touch with all the Catholic staff working at the airport. 
 
May God continue to bless the work of Hong Kong airport chaplaincy.

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