The weather was perfect on July 9 as nearly three dozen members of the National Association of Priest Pilots headed to Medina for the group’s annual convention July 9-12.
Father Allen Corrigan, pastor of St. Victor Parish in Richfield and a licensed pilot, hosted this year’s convention. He said it’s been nine years since the 55-year-old organization gathered here. Father Corrigan, who also is secretary and a past president of the group, said NAPP is recognized by the Vatican.
NAPP promotes the use of private aircraft “as a practical, safe and efficient tool of the apostolic work of a priest,” according to the group’s website. It also cooperates whenever possible with other aviation and ecclesiastical groups in order to promote aviation in the cause of the Church and to further the use of aircraft in the missions.
“I’ve been a pilot for 20 years,” said Father Corrigan, who is instrument certified and has 800-plus hours of flying time. “I love to fly on weekends and days off — when I can,” he said. Father and several others co-own a small plane and he often flies from Medina Municipal Airport, where many of the NAPP members landed when arriving for the convention.
He said 11 private planes were parked at the Medina airport. Some convention attendees drove to town while others traveled by commercial airlines. A few attendees are charter members of NAPP.
“This is the biggest group we’ve had at the convention in a while,” he added.
Attendees came from several states, including Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida. One even traveled from Jamaica. Members include priests and deacons in active ministry, some who are retired and some who are or were military chaplains. One deacon from Erie, Pennsylvania is a retired commercial airlines pilot.
July 10 events included a visit and tour to the United Airlines maintenance facility at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport; a quick tour of downtown Cleveland on a chartered bus en route to lunch in Little Italy with Bishop Nelson Perez; a social, Arabian equine demonstration and barbecue dinner hosted by some of Father Corrigan’s parishioners in Richfield.
The annual NAPP business meeting, annual NAPP concelebrated liturgy at St. Victor Church and the banquet were the big events planned for July 11. At the banquet, Father Corrigan said NAPP members would hear a presentation from the Catholic Medical Mission Board.
“We are trying to establish a relationship with the Catholic Medical Mission Board,” he said, explaining that the organization uses planes to fly to mission sites in Sudan. “Every year NAPP tries to give a donation to an organization that uses aviation in its mission work,” he said.
Father Corrigan said private planes can be very helpful in ministering to people in sparsely populated areas or in places where one priest is responsible for the pastoral care in several remote locations. There are priest pilots in places like Alaska to enable them to regularly celebrate Mass and stay in touch with parishioners. One of the priest pilots at the convention said he used to fly his bishop around Iowa.
During the tour of the United Airlines hangar, members peeked into the engines of a plane undergoing maintenance, checked out the first-class seating and visited the cockpit where they chatted with a United pilot/flight instructor about aviation topics and technology.
The group engaged in banter with Bishop Perez, sharing stories about their aviation experiences. They also compared notes about different clergy members they knew and quizzed the bishop about his experiences as a scuba diver while enjoying lunch at Nido Italia restaurant in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood.
After lunch, there was time for a visit to Holy Rosary Church across the street or a stop at one of the nearby Italian bakeries.
Father Corrigan said the convention schedule also includes some free time in case any visitors want to fly somewhere to visit or for lunch. Suggested locations included Carroll County, the MAPS Air Museum at Akron-Canton Regional Airport and the Lake Erie islands.
For more information on NAPP, visit priestpilots.org.